It’s no secret that luxury watches are expensive. But in some cases, a sought-after timepiece’s resale price can far exceed its initial RRP. From (very) limited editions to grand complications that celebrate quality craftsmanship, the world’s most expensive watches could set you back more than what you’d cough up for a yacht. Or a Chelsea townhouse.
The oft rolled out ‘quality means cost’ mantra may seem like standard marketing spiel, but these watches – the most expensive ever sold at auction – are cold hard proof.
10. Piaget Emperador Temple
Sold For: $3.3m
Fancy making a mugger’s day? Consider the Emperador Temple the perfect watch to do it. With 481 brilliant-cut diamonds (and that’s just the case), it’s fully iced – with a price tag to match.
The inner chamber contains an additional tourbillon with a Polynesian mother-of-pearl dial, set with another 162 diamonds. Two for the price of one? Bargain. (Sort of.)
9. 1949 Patek Philippe Steel Perpetual Calendar
Sold For: $4.1m
Most men would be honoured to receive their dad’s old watch, but it’s unlikely to be as old (and as well crafted) as this 1949 edition from Patek Philippe.
The hand-painted dial in itself is a costly feature, but its vintage and quality mechanics saw it fetch an unprecedented price at Christie’s in 2008.
8. Louis Moinet Meteoris
Sold For: $4.6m
Swiss watch prices are, generally speaking, out of this world – something that prompted Louis Moinet to literally blast off into the stratosphere.
The Meteoris boasts a fragment of rare Dhofar 459 moon rock, and only four were ever made. (A Virgin spaceflight’s still cheaper, though.)
7. Breguet 1814 Fils Chronograph Pocket Watch
Sold For: $4.7m
Marie Antoinette wasn’t known for her modesty – expensive tastes put her on the chopping block. But she did leave behind a legacy in watchmaking.
Breguet, a Swiss manufacture much patronised by Her Majesty, produced this dual movement pocket watch over 200 years ago. Pair a long lifespan with a storied brand, and you’re looking at some serious cashback.
6. Hublot Diamond Big Bang
Sold For: $5m
Unlike so many manufactures, Hublot sticks two fingers up to tradition. And considering its penchant for ostentation, this diamond-encrusted wrist trophy should come as little surprise.
It took over a year to source the 1,280 diamonds needed, and then another three years for a jeweller to hand-cut each stone to ensure a common signature throughout. Time is money.
5. Patek Philippe Yellow Gold Calibre 89
Sold For: $5.2m
As one of the most celebrated watchmakers in the world, it comes as no surprise that Patek has secured a few entries on this list.
Pieces like the Calibre 89 cement that prestige. The pocket watch was made to celebrate the brand’s 150th anniversary and was the self-declared ‘most complicated watch in the world’ of its time – 24 hands, 1,728 components, star chart function and a thermometer, all mounted on 18ct gold. (It wasn’t kidding.)
4. Patek Philippe Ref. 1518
Sold For: $11.1m
Just this year, Patek Philippe scored a record-breaking auction thanks to the Ref. 1518 – a 1940s wristwatch, only four of which exist.
And while other entries boast diamonds aplenty, the 1518’s stainless steel modesty is what makes it so rare for a Patek watch. And rarity, needless to say, bags the rubles.
3. Henry Graves By Patek Philippe Supercomplication
Sold For: $24m
November 2014 saw Sotheby’s biggest watch haul – Patek’s Henry Graves Supercomplication.
The legendary pocket watch took over eight years to make and was the result of a collector’s rivalry: Graves wanted something that would outshine the Grande Complication of auto manufacturer James Ward Packard, so he commissioned Patek to do the dirty work. As you do.
2. 201-Carat Chopard
Sold For: $25m
Just in case there weren’t enough diamonds from Hublot or Piaget, Chopard really pushed the stone out with this 201ct monstrosity.
There’s yellow diamonds, blue diamonds, white gold and yellow gold, and pretty much nothing of the brand’s usual finesse. For $25m, you too could own a watch that would feed a small country for a decade.
1. Breguet Grande Complication Marie-Antoinette
Sold For: $30m
We’ve mentioned Breguet’s service to the Dauphine of France, but this is the pocket watch that started it all (and ended all other records).
The Grande Complication was allegedly commissioned by one of the queen’s lovers and took two generations of the Breguet family to build. Unfortunately for Marie, it was completed 34 years after her execution.