Photo By timspix58 at istock
In recent years, the demand for vintage watches has increased significantly, and not just among collectors and hobbyists. Millennials, too, have been scouring thrift stores and watch repair shops in Highlands Ranch, CO, and all over the country, looking for the perfect not-new-but-new-to-them timepiece.
While this upward trend is certainly interesting, it isn’t surprising. Younger people travel more than any generation previously and independently-owned craft breweries and gastropubs are wildly popular, indicating that unique experiences hold far more importance than collecting mainstream material objects.
Watch repair shops and antique stores are excellent places to find unique and rare watches. For various reasons, shop owners sometimes find themselves in possession of a highly sought-after piece. Sometimes people bring in the broken watches and would rather sell them to the shop than invest into restoration, other times someone inherited or came across an estate and brings the entire thing into a watch repair shop, not even knowing what they may have, and occasionally a watch is brought in for repairs and inexplicably abandoned.
In any event, largely because of the trend vintage watches are enjoying, the accessories acquired by watch repair shops are often sold, frequently at auction and sometimes at jaw-dropping prices. Here’s a look at the top 10 most expensive watches ever sold.
- In 2019, Phillips sold a George Daniels Grand Complication pocket watch for $2.4 million at a watch auction in Geneva, Switzerland. Daniels, who died in 2011, is widely credited by many watch repair shops for revolutionizing mechanical watchmaking and was a self-taught watchmaker who made all of his creations entirely by hand. The Grand Complication was used personally by Daniels and was never sold in his lifetime.
- In a rather unusual move, Patek produced the Patek Philippe 5004T, the only titanium version ever made of its popular 5004 watch model specifically for auction in 2013. It was notably more colorful and more sporty than Patek’s other designs. The controversial watch sold for £2,985,000, or $3,902,630 in US dollars.
- Perhaps one of the most unique and historic watches on the list is this Patek Philippe minute repeater. The tonneau-shaped 18-karat gold watch was commissioned by avid watch collector Henry Graves, Jr. The case was manufactured in 1927 and the movement was made in 1895, and it was sold to Graves, Jr. 1928 with a custom engraving of his family’s coat-of-arms and motto. It sold for $4,607,396 at Christie’s auction house in Geneva.
- Incredibly rare, the Rolex Reference 6062 “Bao Dai” watch that sold in May 2017 for $5,060,427 is one of only three Rolexes with a black dial and diamond markers. The watch displays moon phases and a triple calendar in 18-karat gold and was commissioned specifically in 1954 by the last emperor of Vietnam. Can you imagine being a watch specialist and having this historical timepiece come into your watch repair shop?
- The Patek Philippe Reference 1527 wristwatch was ahead of its time and ultimately became the inspiration for the watchmaker’s most iconic later models. It was manufactured in 1943 and had an unusual dial layout and size. The watch also displayed moon phases, making it unique and distinct. The wristwatch sold at Christie’s auction house in Geneva in 2010 for $5,708,885.
- A unicorn is defined as “something that is highly desirable but difficult to find or obtain.” The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, commonly referred to as “The Unicorn,” is a stunning white gold chronograph watch with strap finished in bark and a contrasting black dial. The elusive and incredibly unique watch belonged to a Rolex specialist who eventually gave it up for charity. It fetched a price of $5,936,906 in May 2018 at Phillips’ auction house in Geneva.
- Renowned Hong Kong auction house Christie’s sold the unique and rare 1953-made Patek Philippe Reference 2523 wristwatch for $9,008,856 in November 2019. The watch is the only one in the world known to bear the signatures of both Patek Philippe and Italian retailer Gobbi, where the watch was exclusively sold. It is pink gold and features a striking blue enamel dial.
- Largely considered the holy grail of the watch world, the Patek Philippe 1518 in steel sold for a whopping £8.9 million, or US $11,112,020, at a 2016 Phillips auction in Geneva — the highest price ever received for a wristwatch at an auction. The watch was first introduced to the world in 1941 and was the first-ever to have both a chronograph and perpetual calendar. Watch repair shops throughout Highlands Ranch, CO are in awe of the historical significance of this almost-mythical timepiece.
- Actor Paul Newman’s 1968 Rolex Daytona, a gift from his wife Joanne, sold for an eye-popping £13,500,000 to an anonymous phone buyer in October 2017 at the Phillips auction house in New York. That’s $15.5 million in US dollars and when you tack on the buyer’s premium, the total price tag totaled $17,752,500. Engraved with the personal message, “Drive carefully, Me,” this collector’s item dethroned the Patek Philippe 1518 as the record holder for highest price ever paid at auction for a watch.
- Beating out both the Paul Newman Daytona and the Patek Philippe 1518, the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime sold for $31 million in a 2019 charity auction benefiting Muscular Dystrophy., becoming the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction — by far. A watch repair man’s dream, the wristwatch features 1,366 individual moving components, more than 20 unique functions, and two reversible dials, one on the front and one on the back.
Regardless of how avid a watch collector you are, it may be a good idea to visit local watch repair shops or antique stores in Highlands Ranch, CO next time you have the urge to go watch shopping. You never know what you may find.
Matheu’s Fine Watches & Jewelry, right here in Highlands Ranch, CO, sells high-end watches and jewelry and offers watch repair and other timepiece servicing as well. From something as simple as replacing a battery to restoring an antique pocket watch, contact Matheu’s Fine Watches for all your watch needs.