Only Watch is a great place to see (and bid on!) unique pieces by some of the most talented artisans and watchmakers in the world. Some brands and watchmakers submit low-key special editions for the biennial watch auction, but others really shoot for the stars. I love the incredible mechanics and creativity that come with trying to make a splash for a good cause, but don’t think for a second that I’m not enamored by the métiers d’art (artistic crafts) on display at each auction.
Watch brands often choose Only Watch – founded by Luc Pettavino, this auction supports the fight against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy – as a showcase for new ways their watches can be configured that may not make sense as a part of the regular catalogue, but are amazing in the context of a few dozen unique pieces brought together for a good cause.
The 2021 edition of Only Watch, which takes place on November 6, 2021, in Geneva has many spectacular examples of these types of unique watches, and here I’d like to highlight five that show the range of styles found among the watches offered at the one-of-a-kind auction.
Bovet Miss Audrey Sweet Fairy Only Watch: something sweet
The creativity displayed by Bovet with its new Miss Audrey Sweet Art dials made from carefully prepared and colored sugar crystals is second to none. Not only did the brand think so laterally that it could include a food item in a precious dial, but it made it look and feel just like a jewel-encrusted dial (until you look closer). The Sweet Fairy edition for Only Watch takes this incredible and new artistic craft and combines it with miniature painting and Super-LumiNova for a truly stunning result.
A magical being reminiscent of the Disney fairies has been painted in the center of the dial, and the addition of luminous pigment makes it glow in the dark. This is already pretty cool, but around the outside of the fairy is the unique sugar art of the Sweet Art technique, this time in a vibrant orange (to match the Only Watch color scheme for this year). What’s more, that sugar art held in place with translucent lacquer is also infused with orange Super-LumiNova to glow in the dark, making the presentation a feast for the eyes in both the shining sun and quiet dark of midnight.
The Miss Audrey Sweet Fairy comes on an orange leather strap to match. And since this is Bovet, the watch features the ability to transform from a wristwatch to a pendant or a table clock thanks to the convertible system hidden in the case and crown bow. The unique Miss Audrey Sweet Fairy is an incredible start to the artistic experiments we can enjoy at Only Watch 2021 where serious brands have really come to play.
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/bovet-1822
Quick Facts Bovet Miss Audrey Sweet Fairy Only Watch
Case: 36 x 11 mm, convertible Amadeo case in stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber 11BA15, 42-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: unique piece
Auction estimate: 45,000 – 70,000 Swiss francs
Jaquet Droz Grande Skelet-One Tourbillon Only Watch: something see-through
While we might focus on the skeletonized movement and tourbillon at 12 o’clock, the highlight of the Only Watch edition of the Jaquet Droz Grande Skelet-One Tourbillon is indeed the dial. While it thematically could be related to the Bovet Miss Audrey Sweet Fairy since it looks like a dial made of candy, it is in fact plique-à-jour enamel. Long considered one of the most difficult enamel techniques, plique-à-jour enamel requires extreme patience and care to create thin, translucent sections of enamel within a white gold frame.
The plique-à-jour enamel is also not just a single color in each little panel, but a gradient of color apparently flowing between frame panels and showcasing the skill of the artisans at Jaquet Droz to carry an enamel gradient (already difficult to achieve cleanly) through to disconnected areas of enamel.
The abstract yet geometric design of the frame and enamel are already mind-boggling, and when put over a similarly geometric skeletonized movement the result is a masterpiece.
When it comes to pure beauty, the Jaquet Droz Grande Skelet-One Tourbillon Only Watch might be my favorite artistic piece in the auction this year. It is a fantastic submission from Jaquet Droz.
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/jaquet-droz
Quick Facts Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One Tourbillon Only Watch
Case: 41 x 13.36 mm, red gold
Dial: plique-à-jour enamel
Movement: automatic Caliber JD 2625SQ with 60-second flying tourbillon, seven-day power reserve, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Limitation: unique piece
Auction estimate: 160,000 – 200,000 Swiss francs
Charles Girardier 1809 Tribute to Jackson Pollock Only Watch: something strange
Charles Girardier is a relative newcomer to the industry inspired by the work of historical watchmaker Charles Girardier and launching in 2019. The Charles Girardier 1809 arrived with a bang: in 2020 it won the Ladies Complication category of the Grand Prix de l’Horlogerie de Genève.
Now the new brand lends its support to Only Watch with a unique variation of the watch that launched it. The 1809 Tribute to Jackson Pollock is a fun take on the abstract expressionist painter via grand feu and abstract paillonné enamel.
The cosmic-looking grand feu enamel has touches of blue, green, and a lot of black tones, making it feel like looking into a distant nebula. Sprinkled across the dial are random and irregularly shaped pieces of gold leaf, seemingly tiny stars and star clusters seen through a telescope. The gold leaf reminds me of paillonné enamel, a technique in which tiny shaped pieces of gold foil are laid down in enamel to provide a layer of depth. While this isn’t that exact technique, it is clearly inspired by the process.
This is a watch for someone who loves art and watchmaking but enjoys the unstructured disorder of life and the universe. It perfectly captures the chaos seen in Jackson Pollock’s work and provides a 100-percent unique dial that could never be recreated, making it truly a one-off piece.
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/charles-girardier
Quick Facts Charles Girardier 1809 Tribute to Jackson Pollock
Case: 41 x 12.2 mm, pink gold
Dial: oven-fired “fusion enamel”
Movement: automatic Caliber CG1809 (Timeless manufacture) with one-minute flying tourbillon and peripheral rotor, 46-hour power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; rotating disks with logo
Limitation: unique piece
Auction estimate: 75,000 – 90,000 Swiss francs
Andersen Genéve x Edward Sexton Quotidiana Only Watch: something sartorial
The Andersen Genéve x Edward Sexton Quotidiana Only Watch is a rare collaboration that one might expect to see more often in the watch industry: a watchmaker and a tailor. Given that to the wider world watches are fashion accessories first, it would make sense for watchmakers to meet up with world renowned tailors to design a watch with sartorial flair. Alas, it is a rare sight. The Andersen Genéve x Edward Sexton Quotidiana is however just that: a watch that goes hand in hand with a world-class bespoke suit.
The guilloche of the dial reminds one of geometric fabric patterns. It is combined with a subtle blue on the date disk that feels like the fine silk lining inside a jacket. The Edward Sexton signature is at the top, a classic needle and thread completing the presentation with a new kind of style. The date disk is unique in that it uses multiple languages for each day of the week namely French, German, English, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, and Hebrew.
At the bottom of the dial is a date disk, making this a truly functional timepiece to go with the fashion-inspired style. The Edward Sexton Quotidiana is subtle yet intricate and lives up to the legacy of the various artistic pieces that have emerged from Andersen Genéve’s workshop over the years.
To top it off, the winning bidder will also receive a handmade bespoke suit from Edward Sexton, so this collaboration definitely measures up.
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/andersen-geneve
Quick Facts Andersen Genève x Edward Sexton Quotidiana Only Watch
Case: red and white gold, 40 x 9 mm
Movement: automatic modified Frédéric Piguet Caliber 11.50 with twin spring barrels, power reserve 72 hours, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; day, date
Limitation: unique piece
Auction estimate: 60,000 – 70,000 Swiss francs
Remark: this lot comes with a made-to-measure suit by Edward Sexton
Krayon Anywhere Only Watch: something sun inspired
The Krayon Anywhere Only Watch is my favorite artistic piece in the auction because it is a watch with loads of artistic style yet could totally be worn anywhere (hence the name). The moniker comes from the fact it can be set to display the sunrise and sunset times anywhere in the world the buyer should choose. I really like the dual meanings one may assign to the name.
The incredible dial is inspired by the Claude Monet painting Impression, Sunrise, which is perfect to inspire a watch that shows the times of sunrise and sunset.
The dial comprises of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of tiny lacquer-filled cells of varying colors and irregular shapes. The colors provide an abstract idea of what a sunrise would look like if it were to be put through a color filter similar to autotune. Combined, the clean colors create gradients that dazzle the eyes. It is hard to comprehend the patience it must have taken to mix the various colors and painstakingly paint a few little cells before moving on to the next color.
All of that is on top of Rémi Maillat’s ingenious Caliber C030, which is a work of art in itself. I’ve loved the Krayon idea since it first launched, and given that Maillat had some instruction on finishing from the legend Philippe Dufour, it is no surprise that Krayon movements are among the very best. This may be my favorite piece ever made by Krayon and I would wear it every day – from sunrise to sunset – and still never get enough of it.
For more information, please visit www.onlywatch.com/krayon
Quick Facts Krayon Anywhere
Case: 39 x 9.5 mm, stainless steel
Movement: manually wound Caliber C030 with 432 components, 86-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; sunset and sunrise times, month, date, 24-hour indication
Limitation: unique piece
Auction estimate: 95,000 – 120,000 Swiss francs