Auctions are one of two things: a chance to get a good break on a vintage watch and the rare opportunity to grab something utterly unique. You can often find us at London auctions in search of the former – I myself have placed a couple of bids at the latest Fellows watch sale – but every now and then something headline-grabbing comes along.
If you’ve been living under a rock you may have missed the precise sale we’re alluding to here: the Rolex Daytona owned by the legend that is Paul Newman. So, in light of the record-breaking auction of the Paul Newman Rolex, here are the most expensive watches ever to go under the hammer. If you’re expecting a list of Patek Philippes… well done.
Oh, and couple of ground rules: no pocket watches and no jewellery watches. Otherwise things get far too blingy for our taste.
1. Rolex Daytona Paul Newman
Sold on the 26th at the Phillips inaugural watch auction in New York, everyone pretty much guessed that this would be a record-breaker. After all, the Paul Newman Daytona is one of the most sought-after references in watchmaking, even if the man himself came nowhere near. The one he actually wore? Well, the $17,752,500 (roughly 13 and a half million sterling) it finally sold for should go some way to showing just how exceptional a find it was. Not we’re just waiting for Buzz Aldrin’s Speedmaster…
2. Patek Philippe 1518
This 1940s model is a rarity even among the already rarified ranks of Patek Philippe, with only four known to still exist in the world. The fact that it’s in steel – unusual for the watchmaker – just adds to its collectors’ appeal and evidently more than one Patek fan was waiting in the wings of the Geneva Watch Auction to swoop in and grab it. Still, it seems a little insane that a steel watch would go for $11 million, Patek or not. It’s not a patch on the $24 million Henry Graves Jr. supercomplication of course, but then we are talking about wristwatches here.
3. Patek Philippe Ref. 5016
There are a few examples of Patek’s 5016 super complication; the house produced them until 2011. A handful a year of course, but they’re more common than some watches. This however is the only one ever made in steel. If you’re seeing a theme here, yes, steel Pateks seem to be worth far more than their weight in gold. This particular piece was created for the Only Watch charity auction in 2015 – making it the newest on this list – and raised $7.6 million to aid research into muscular dystrophy.
4. Patek Philippe 18k Yellow Gold Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
Finally, a Patek with some intrinsic material value! Another one-of-a-kind piece, it set the record for most expensive yellow gold watch ever sold at auction back in 2010 at Christie’s Geneva sale. The 1943 timepiece is relatively simple by Patek auction standards with a moon phase, but the Tonneau case saw it smash it’s estimate when the hammer came down at $5.7 million.
5. Louis Moinet Meteoris
To round off the list, a rare entry that isn’t Patek. With only four ever made, the Louis Moinet Meteoris started life as a rarity, with moon rock used for the dial. Even without that it’s a beautiful watch and, while they might not be as collectible as Patek or Rolex, the Louis Moinet name had more than enough heft to propel the Meteoris to auction success for $4.6 million.