Only Watch is one of the things that I absolutely love about the watch industry. Fundamentally, none of us need watches, we all carry around phones which can tell us the time. But we are all in this hobby and industry because of the sheer brilliance of these little devices that we wear on our wrists. The other benefit is the ability for these little tickers to do some serious good for people and that is the premise of this article.
Only Watch is a charitable event that happens on a biannual basis. It is an auction where some of the household names of the watch industry, as well as some newcomers and independants, create one-off watches to be auctioned off in order to raise money for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. 2019 was the eighth iteration of this wonderful event and, suffice to say, there were some pretty heavy hitting watches on offer. Without even getting into detail yet, this years event raised CHF 38,593,000. That is an astonishing £30,000,000, which in one evening is pretty good going wouldn't you say? Now there are only a few brands that get mainstream coverage at this event. As a result there are brands that actually contribute watches to this auction that I was not aware of. To give you an idea this is the full list:
Arnold & Son
Artya Unique Pieces
Bell & Ross
Carl F Bucherer
Moser & Cie
Jacob & Co
Jaegar Le Coultre
That is an astonishing 40 brands of which sadly only a dozen or so of those get coverage because they are considered 'mainstream'. I am going to talk about my five favorites as well as give some coverage to the brands that most blogs don't think you would care about. Not only have I not even heard of some of these brands, but they have done some very cool stuff and I think Its about time someone talks about them!
Patek Phillipe Grand Master Chime
Ok, on the face of it this watch is ridiculous. Both good and bad ridiculous and I will now explain why. This is the first and only iteration of this watch to come in stainless steel. You may be sitting there and thinking "hang on a minute, a steel Patek Phillipe?? That sounds wearable". Well get ready to be disappointed. This behemoth comes in at 48mm and 16mm high. A completely impractical size, not to mention this watch has 20 complications, 5 of which are different chimes. Oh and did I mention it has just set the record for the most expensive watch of all time, hammering for a staggering CHF..., dethroning the infamous Paul Newman Paul Newman? So impracticality aside, you couldn't own it anyway.
The bonkers Grandmaster Chime... Photo Credit: Hodinkee
FP Journe Astronomic Bleu
I LOVE FP Journe. The Chronomtre Bleu, as I am sure it is for a lot of people, has been in my permanent top 5 grail watch list for some years now. They are not only gorgeous watches aesthetically, they are also technically innovative and not to a point where it is just innovation and bells and whistles for the sake of it. This Astronomic Bleu for Only Watch is no exception. This watch, like many of the other 2019 candidates, is a prototype. It comes in a 44mm case made out of Tantalum, which is bonkers. It features a staggering 18 complications, including Hours, minutes, seconds, second time zone, hours and minutes of sidereal time, sunrise, sunset, day and night indicator *Pauses to catch breath* moonphase, power reserve, annual calendar and equation of time. This is a staggering amount of complications, and some of you may say slightly over the top? But the fact they have got that amount of functionality into a watch without making it look busy or overcrowded is something very few watchmakers can do. So as always, hats off to FP Journe.
FP Journe with another bonkers watch... Photo Credit: Only Watch
Akriva Chronomtre Contemporain
Next up is a watch from a brand that I would consider to be a “watch nerd’s brand”. Rexhep Rexhepi started Akriva only 2 years ago but has already heralded praise from such names such as Voutilainen and no less than Mr. Dufour. Suffice to say, getting praise from the aforementioned two “gods” of watch making means you are certainly doing something right and Rexhep certainly is. His entry for Only Watch 2019 is simplicity, but also brilliance. It is a unique version of his stunning Chronometre Contemporain. This version features the same handwinding three-hand movement as the standard version, but this time features a hand hammered, grand feu enamel dial, wowzers trousers… It also features a completely in house movement nestled snuggly into a stunning 38mm case. For a 29 year old watchmaker who has been fronting his own operation for just 2 years, the end product here is just silly…
Akrivia are certainly a watchmaker to keep an eye on... Photo Credit: Akrivia
Breguet Type 20
One of the things that you can rarely say about the watches of Only Watch is that they are understated *Cough* Grandmaster Chime from Patek *Cough*. However this watch breaks that mould, and if you dive into a few of the details of this watch, you will quickly appreciate how awesome this watch is. First of all is the case… this is in general one of the most faithful re-editions that I have ever seen. The case comes in at a perfect 38.3mm size, incredibly faithful to the original from the 1950’s. The perfection of this watch does not stop there, the movement is different gravy… The movement inside is a refurbished example of one of the great mechanical movements, the Valjoux 235. This is a hand-wound, column wheel chronograph from one of THE movement makers, which is just cool. I think this is one of, if not the most beautiful watches not only from the auction, but possibly of the year. The authentic case design, traditional style cues such as the onion crown and the amazing vintage movement inside make this an incredibly cool and surprisingly under the radar offering. I am a big fan of this.
That dial... Those hands... The movement... Photo Credit: Monochrome Watches
De Bethune Urwerk Moon Satellite
Two of the heavyweights of the “Haute Horology” world are De Bethune and Urwerk. De Bethune have been producing technically innovative, but classic watches since 2002. I have been in love with them for some years now and, to give you an idea, some of my favourite watches of theirs are shown below. Urwerk are very much the same but different. They make watches that look like they have been brought back in time from the year 3000. There designs, like De Bethune, are technically innovative but are the complete antithesis of “classic”, which I think is part of what makes them so cool. This collaboration being no exception. This watch combines two key design styles from the two brands and brings them together in perfect harmony. There is a risk here that the marriage of Urwerk and De Bethune could have honestly been a car crash. But this design is so well considered and executed, they have nailed it. One of De Bethunes most genius designs is the lugs. The lugs on their watches are hinged on pins at the centre point of the case on both sides. This allows them to move and hinge, and allows the watch to properly hug your wrist. This not only vastly improves comfort, but also makes larger watches more accessible to people who could not otherwise pull off watches with large lug-to-lug measurements. This watch is made of high polished grade 5 titanium, ticking the “futuristic aesthetic” box straight away. The aforementioned floating lugs are complimented by the distinctive U-shaped aperture that is so synonymous with Urwerk. The Urwerk touches are continued, with the rotating plates for the hours, which run around the U-shaped aperture. This watch is not only a unique entry for Only Watch, but also a unique collaboration, but hopefully one that we see resurface in years to come.
Two bonkers watchmakers come together... Photo Credit: Monochrome Watches
To summarise, Only Watch is one of the things that truly makes the watch industry great. It brings together old time watch companies as well as cutting edge innovators, with the sole purpose of making the most bonkers and technologically advanced watches they can, just to raise a shed-load of cash for a truly brilliant cause.
Editor and Co-Founder
The Young Horologist