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The Most Outrageous Watches of Only Watch 2023

Grönefeld 1941 Principia Mandala Only Watch 2023

We’ve already taken an in depth look at the Only Watch 2023 highlights including the Tudor, Audemars Piguet, Tag Heuer and Baltic but considering that the charity auction consists of over 60 watches, there are more to be discovered. Specifically, we’re going to focus on my favourite kind of Only Watch entries: the ones where a brand has said ‘screw it, we’re only making one of these, let’s go wild!’ Without further ado, here are the most outrageous watches from Only Watch 2023.

Bell & Ross BR 03 Cyber Rainbow

Bell & Ross BR 03 Cyber Rainbow Only Watch 2023

For the 2023 edition of Only Watch the theme is embracing all the colours of previous editions. The result is that there are plenty of watchmakers who have taken a colour first approach to their entries this year, one of whom is Bell & Ross. The BR03 Cyber Rainbow is a fusion of B&R’s BR03 and Cyber concepts, creating a hybrid that’s part technical instrument and part futuristic experiment.

In terms of colour, well, it’s had the entire colour wheel thrown at it. There are varnished decorations across the DLC titanium case and movement creating a mosaic of brightly coloured fractals. It’s incredibly striking and I like how the eye glides across it easily, moving in sync with the ebb and flow of the gradient shifts across the piece.

Bell & Ross BR 03 Cyber Rainbow Only Watch 2023
Bell & Ross BR 03 Cyber Rainbow Only Watch 2023

It’s not all about the visuals though because the BR03 Cyber Rainbow also sports some technical innovation in the form of a specially designed manufacture movement. It’s the BR-Cal.383 with a 48-hour power reserve (if only the regular BR03 had a power reserve like this). Although, it’s perhaps not quite right to say that the movement is disconnected from the visual impact of the watch since it’s skeletonised.

Price & Specs

  • Ref: BR03-CYOW-TC/SRB|
  • Case/dial: 42mm width, black DLC coated titanium case adorned with coloured varnished pieces, skeletonised dial|
  • Water resistance: 50m (5 bar)|
  • Movement: Bell & Ross calibre BR-CAL.383, automatic, 25  jewels|
  • Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)|
  • Power reserve: 48h|
  • Functions: Hours, minutes|
  • Strap: Black rubber with coloured varnished pieces|
  • Price/availability: Estimated CHF 45,000 – 55,000 (£36,000 – £45,000)

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble Only Watch 2023

The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble might not strike you immediately as an outrageous watch compared with some of the brightly coloured pieces in this article, but when you take the time to really take it in, it’s pretty crazy. Off the bat, it’s based on the record breaking 2013 Octo Finissimo Tourbillon which is nuts in itself with a movement just 1.95mm thick. In honour of its 10th anniversary Bulgari are etching its achievement in stone, literally.

This piece unique edition of the watch has its titanium case adorned with Verde di Alpi marble from the Aosta valley on the Swiss-Italian border. The precision with which the stone has been cut in order to effortlessly cover the unusual shapes of the Finissimo is almost unbelievable. The octagonal dial with tourbillion cut out, the circular bezel, the facets of the case and lugs and even the many links of the bracelet are all decorated with marble.

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble Only Watch 2023

I really like the rich green of the stone and the subtle shifts and runs of colour through the material are gorgeous. Bulgari set out to celebrate the achievement of the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon and they have done just that with style and class. Plus it comes with a stay in the Bulgari Roma hotel.

Price & Specs

  • Ref: 103660|
  • Case/dial: 40mm diameter x 6.9mm thickness, DLC titanium case covered with a layer of 0.5mm Verde di Alpi green marble, 0.6mm of Verde di Alpi green marble covered dial|
  • Movement: Bulgari calibre BVL 268, manual winding, 13 jewels, 253 parts|
  • Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz)|
  • Power reserve: 52h|
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds|
  • Strap: DLC titanium bracelet covered with a layer of 0.4mm of Verde di Alpi green marble on both the edges and the top of the link|
  • Price/availability: Estimated CHF 150,000 – 250,000 (approx. £123,000 – £199,000)

Grönefeld 1941 Principia Mandala

Grönefeld 1941 Principia Mandala Only Watch 2023
Grönefeld 1941 Principia Mandala Only Watch 2023

If you take a look at Grönefeld’s existing collections, you’ll see a lot of classical silver, rose gold and salmon. What you won’t see is a vibrant rainbow mandala design like that found on this 1-of-1 1941 Principia Mandala. That contrast in style alone is enough to make this one of the most outrageous watches in the auction.

A mandala, for those unfamiliar, is a circular pattern commonly associated with spiritualism and the idealised vision of the universe. It’s commonly seen in works of tapestry and dying. The Grönefeld interpretation is relatively simple, consisting of coloured circles arranged in uniform patterns whereas they can be quite elaborate. I’m actually a fan of the more understated version here because frankly it’s already extravagant enough and anything more would be too much.

However, the mandala dial isn’t the only special thing about the Grönefeld 1941 Principia Mandala, it’s also the brand’s first watch to feature a hinged hunter caseback. A hunter caseback can be opened to reveal the movement and for this special edition, the inside has been engraved with a family portrait of the Grönefeld founders and their father.

Price & Specs

  • Case/dial: 39.5mm diameter x 11.5mm thickness, stainless steel case with hunter caseback engraved with unique images of Bart, Tim and their father Sjef, mandala design inspired by the colourful logo of the 10th anniversary of Only Watch dial|
  • Movement: Grönefeld G-06, automatic, 31 jewels, 226 parts|
  • Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz)|
  • Power reserve: 56h|
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds|
  • Strap: Salmon in two colours matching the dial and Only Watch 2023 logo with stainless steel Grönefeld 1941 Principia buckle|
  • Price/availability: Estimated CHF 55,000 – 65,000 (approx. £45,000 – £52,000)

Louis Vuitton Tambour Einstein Automata

Louis Vuitton Tambour Einstein Automata Only Watch 2023

I don’t think I need to explain why the Louis Vuitton Tambour Einstein Automata qualifies for his article, just look at it. It features a depiction of Einstein in his well-known tongue sticking out pose rendered in a combination of grisaille enamel and engraved steel. The facial features are enamel while his hair and moustache are steel – in tribute to his famously uncontrolled hair it actually bursts out from the dial to the exterior of the case.

Elsewhere on the dial, the time is told through a number of different functions that are disguised amid Einstein’s equations. There’s a retrograde minute scale at the bottom left and there are also jumping hour and power reserve indicators. Speaking of power reserve, the calibre LV 525 has an impressive 100-hours. Which is particularly nice because it’s a manual wind piece.

This watch truly is outrageous in almost every way. I don’t know why it exists, I don’t particularly want it to exist but it does exist so let’s just accept the unhinged craziness of it. At the very least, it’s pretty fun.

Price & Specs

  • Ref: Q1EN4Y|
  • Case/dial: 46.8mm diameter x 14.4mm thickness, stainless steel case, stainless steel crown and push-piece hand engraved by Dick Steenman, enamel dial using miniature and grisaille handmade technics|
  • Water resistance: 100m (10 bar)|
  • Movement: Louis Vuitton calibre LV 525, manual winding, 50 jewels, 426 parts|
  • Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz)|
  • Power reserve: 100h|
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, power reserve indicator|
  • Strap: Black alligator strap|
  • Price/availability: Estimated CHF 340,000 – 440,000 (approx. £298,000 – £375,000)

Ressence TYPE 12

Ressence TYPE 1 Only Watch 2023
Ressence TYPE 1 Only Watch 2023

The Ressence Type 12 is another watch that doesn’t immediately strike you as overtly outlandish. It only becomes impressive when you realise how Ressence watches operate, which is through their signature orbital system. The entire display rotates to tell the time and each of the subdials present rotate too, meaning the entire display shifts completely hour by hour and minute by minute.

Normally Ressences have uniform displays so the shifting is relatively subtle. However, for the Type 12 they’ve emblazoned the dial with a large blue X that will shatter and reassemble itself as the dials rotate. The X is representative of a chain of DNA and the destruction and recreation symbolises the fight against genetic diseases and disorders, which is something the Only Watch auction is closely associated with.

The watch itself is made from titanium with a 41mm diameter and houses the patented ROCS 1.3 movement. ROCS stands for Ressence Orbital Convex System, which relates to the motion of hours, minutes, seconds and days dials.

Price & Specs

  • Case/dial: 41mm diameter x 11mm thickness, titanium case, convex German silver dial with 3 eccentric biaxial satellites, hand painted|
  • Movement: Patented calibre ROCS 1.3, automatic, 40 jewels|
  • Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)|
  • Power reserve: 36h|
  • Functions: Hours, seconds, date|
  • Strap: Blue calf leather strap with red lining and green or light blue edging|
  • Price/availability: Estimated CHF 20,000 – 30,000 (approx. £17,500 – £26,000)

Jaquet Droz The Rolling Stones Automaton

Jaquet Droz The Rolling Stones Automaton Only Watch 2023

The Jaquet Droz Rolling Stones Automaton is a pretty outrageous watch in and of itself and combining it with a psychedelic spiral of colour only makes it even madder. It features an off-centre dial that’s been styled to look like a vinyl LP on a turntable below which are the accoutrement and equipment made famous by the Stones.

While I may describe the bright colours as psychedelic, it’s supposed to evoke a child’s nightlight, which is why the central tongue motif is luminescent as well. However, once you press the pusher and the lower disc of the dial starts to spin, describing it as anything but trippy would be a disservice.

Jaquet Droz The Rolling Stones Automaton

It’s powered by the Jaquet Droz 2653AT2, an automatic movement with a 68-hour power reserve sporting a silicon hairspring and a double barrel system. Plus, of course, the spinning automaton function. It really is the perfect candidate for Only Watch because it embraces the idea of going above and beyond purely because it can.

Price & Specs

  • Ref: J0328340241|
  • Case/dial: 43mm diameter x 16.96mm thickness, 18k white gold case, hand painted black onyx dial with hand painted fluorescent mouth and fluorescent logo, the Stones’ instruments, hand-crafted from blocks of gold, sit beneath the offset hours and minutes display on a disc coloured to resemble a vinyl LP. The scene is surrounded by a second disc that rotates when the pusher is activated, while the iconic Stones tongue rises, falls, and moves from left to right.|
  • Water Resistance: 30m (3 bar)|
  • Movement: Jaquet Droz calibre 2653AT2, automatic, 56 jewels|
  • Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)|
  • Power reserve: 68h|
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, power reserve indicator|
  • Strap: Fabric with rubber printed pattern, 18k white gold folding clasp|
  • Price/availability: Estimated CHF 250,000 – 300,000 (approx. £199,000 – £250,000)

Biver Catharsis

Biver Catharsis Only Watch 2023

Biver Watches as a brand is very young in watch industry terms but the man behind it, Jean-Claude Biver, is arguably the father of the modern industry as we know it. As such, while it takes most brands a while to earn a place in Only Watch, Biver have made their first appearance in their debut year.

That’s impressive in itself but even more interesting is the watch itself, called simply Catharsis. It has no visible timekeeping devices, instead having a metiers d’art display showing a sunset over a rough sea. It’s produced using a multitude of artisanal skills including guilloché, marquetry and invisible gem-setting.

Biver Catharsis Only Watch 2023

The watch’s secret is that you can actually use it to tell the time because there’s an hour hand on the reverse side visible through the exhibition caseback. On top of that, the model is a minute repeater so it can chime the time, meaning while there’s no visual time keeping on the dial side, you can still know the time without having to take the watch off and flip it over.

Price & Specs

  • Ref: JCB 002-A|
  • Case/dial: 42mm diameter x 13.9mm thickness, titanium case, lowe dial represents an agitated sea made of sapphires, upper dial is a sunset representing a starry sky made of meteorite, silver obsidian and opal|
  • Water resistance: 50m (5 bar)|
  • Movement: Automatic minute repeater carillon, 374 parts|
  • Power reserve: 72h|
  • Functions: Hours, minute repeater, tourbillon|
  • Strap: Leather|
  • Price/availability: Estimated CHF 500,000 – 700,000 (approx. £405,000 – £570,000)

Urwerk Time-Space Blade

Urwerk Time-Space Blade Only Watch 2023

While Only Watch tends to focus on wristwatches, it’s not uncommon for watchmakers to submit clocks or other timekeeping devices for auction instead – Patek Philippe made a desk clock last year. This year Urwerk have created the Time-Space Blade, a 1.67m tall clock with hour, minute, second and Earth rotation display. The time is displayed with lights in a Nixie clock style housed inside a glass tube that was created by Dalibor Farny. The base is styled like the handle of a legally distinct laser sword that is most definitely not a lightsabre. Star Wars would be very different if instead of the power of kyber crystals you could stab someone with 12 o’clock.

It’s one of the coolest horological objects being sold at Only Watch 2023, although I’m not sure where I’d put a giant tube clock shaped like a sword in my apartment. Not that that’s a realistic problem considering that it’s a piece unique with an auction estimate of CHF 45,000 at the low end.

Price & Specs

  • Dimension: 167cm x 20cm glass capsule set on a bronze pedestal|
  • Movement: Urwerk concept
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds|
  • Price/availability: Estimated CHF 45,000 – 80,000 (approx. £39,500 – £70,300)

Louis Moinet Art-Tech

Louis Moinet Art-Tech Only Watch 2023

Still pictures don’t do the Louis Moinet Art-Tech justice. In a static image it simply looks like a multi-coloured array of squares as if it’s some weird form of sci-fi skyscraper, but that’s not the reality. The dial is made from a microelectronic silicon wafer which allows the dial to completely change colours based on the angle from which it’s viewed. It’s cutting edge technology that’s being used in a variety of advancements in areas such as medicine. And now horology too.

The watch itself is 40.7mm in diameter and is made from titanium with long, straight lugs and a large crown. It’s very understated, letting the extraordinary dial and tourbillon at 6 o’clock shine. The tourbillon is worth taking a closer look at as it’s a flying tourbillon supplied with power from twin barrel springs in volte-face position, which means they are upside down in series and release their power simultaneously. They provide a power reserve of 96-hours.

While the name Art-Tech sounds like an obscure faculty within MIT, it’s a good name for the watch and captures the duality of its visual impact and the technology that enables it.

Price & Specs

  • Ref: LM-135.20.OW|
  • Case/dial: 40.7mm diameter x 15.12mm thickness, titanium case, unique dial cut from a microelectronic silicon wafer which creates multicoloured dynamic reflections|
  • Movement: Manual winding movement, 26 jewels|
  • Power reserve: 96h|
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, tourbillon|
  • Strap: Preformed rubber with triple blade folding clasp|
  • Price/availability: Estimated CHF 80,000 – 120,000 (approx. £659,000 – £98,000)

Richard Mille Talisman Origine Only Watch 2023

Richard Mille Talisman Origine Only Watch 2023

The Richard Mille Talisman Origine RM S14 is a slightly odd one to include in this article because so far only the concept drawings has been showcased so we don’t actually know what the final piece looks like. However, if the actual piece looks like anything like the concept, it’s most definitely one of the most outrageous watches at Only Watch 2023. It takes the form of a necklace, hence the name Talisman, with a tonneau RM as the main pendant.

It’s been designed as if it were an ancient relic discovered from a bygone but technologically advanced civilisation. As such, it’s made from rose gold to give it the quality of treasure and presented on a beaded necklace consisting of wood, marble and rhodonite. Although, when it comes to the illusion of it being a relic, wooden beads is a slight misstep because organic material rarely survives from ancient civilisations unless carefully preserved. Focussing on the watch part of the piece, it’s surprisingly large at 46.77mm x 77.25mm (good thing it’s supported by a necklace) and houses the Calibre CRMT5. It’s an automatic tourbillon movement with hour and minute complications.

Price & Specs

  • Ref: RM S14|
  • Case/dial: 46.77 x 77.25 x 13.10mm, titanium caseband, red gold bezel and caseback, stainless steel case, skeletonised dial|
  • Movement: Calibre CRMT5, automatic, 23 jewels|
  • Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)|
  • Power reserve: 50h|
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, tourbillon|
  • Strap: Necklace made of swiss grapevine wood, marble and rhodonite|
  • Price/availability: Estimated CHF 600,000 – 800,000 (approx. £527,000 – £710,000)

Ulysse Nardin Freak S Only Watch

Ulysse Nardin Freak S Only Watch

De facto, the fact there’s a Freak in the Only Watch line up means it deserves to be included in an article about the most outrageous watches at Only Watch. It’s based on the Freak S from last year with an updated colourway in rainbow colours. It’s not quite so bright as some of the other watches here and looks more like a rainbow you’d see in an oil slick rather than one that leads to a leprechaun’s pot of gold.

The Freak operates with a carrousel system that means the calibre itself rotates within the case, which would qualify it as an insane bit of horology by itself. On top of that, the Freak S has double oscillators that look like futuristic engines, giving the entire piece the aesthetic of a spaceship hurtling through the void. A very colourful spaceship in a very colourful void.

Ulysse Nardin Freak S Only Watch

In terms of specs, the watch is 45mm in diameter and is made from a combination of ceramic and DLC titanium. The movement is the Calibre UN-251 with 72-hour power reserve and manual winding. If you want to learn more about the Freak, we recently interviewed the model’s original designer Ludwig Oechslin.

Price & Specs

  • Ref: 2513-500LE-2B-OW/3A|
  • Case/dial: 45mm diameter x 13.66mm thickness, black ceramic upper case, black DLC titanium case, bezel side plates and locker, hour disc engraved with black sunray pattern|
  • Water resistance: 30m (3 bar)|
  • Movement: Ulysse Nardin calibre UN-251, automatic, 373 parts|
  • Frequency: 18,000 vph (2.5 Hz)|
  • Functions: Hours, minutes|
  • Strap: Blue ballistic rubber with additional black alligator with rainbow coloured stitching with black ceramic and black DLC titanium self deploying buckle|
  • Price/availability: Estimated CHF 160,000 – 200,000 (approx. £140,500 – £175,000)

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About the author

Michael Sonsino

As Digital Editor for Oracle Time, Michael needs an eye for detail, which makes it a good thing that his twin joys in life are miniatures and watches. He's a lifelong fan of fine timepieces, especially those of a more historic nature - if it has a twist of Art Deco, all the better. Recent purchase: Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-Interpretation. Grail watch: Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921.