Athletes, rappers, movie stars and celebrities have a lot of money and, more often than not, love to spend it on flashy and excessive items. Mansions, Italian sports cars, yachts and planes – these are all things the rich love to spend their money on. Sometimes it’s a practical purchase – after all, everyone needs a Maybach to drive the family around, but much of the time these celebrities buy things with a ‘look-at-me’ factor. In this instance, jewellery often fits the bill. More specifically, high-end watches are the order of the day thanks to their practicality and high visibility to onlookers.
The watch means so many things to different people. It can be just a piece to tell time, a fashion accessory, status symbol or collectible. They can have mechanical or electronic movements and analog or digital displays. Watches can be solar powered, battery powered or spring powered. They can also come with numerous functions and displays, called ‘complications’ which can tell us not only the time, but the date, altitude, time-zone, moon-phase and compass direction – to name but a few features. Today, there are numerous watch manufacturers offering countless varieties of watches which have many functions and styles at a range of prices. From a $50 Timex Ironman to a $10,000 Rolex Oyster Perpetual, there is a watch for everyone’s tastes and needs.
The following list looks at 10 of the most expensive watches to be sold or auctioned. What makes these watches so expensive? It depends on the maker and the direction they wanted to take their creation when they started building. Some are pricey solely for the fact they are built with extremely expensive materials. Others have a high price tag because of the time it took to finish the watch or the complexity of the design and movement. Some of these time-pieces date back to the 18th century while some are a bit more modern. In any event you can be sure that the usual suspects most are familiar with will not be appearing here. Rolex need not apply, this list is far too rich for your blood.
10 Piaget, Emperador Temple - $3.3 Million
A Swiss luxury watchmaker, Piaget was founded in 1874 by George Piaget. Initially only concerned with the production of watch movements, Piaget began developing its own watches in the 20th century. To date, the most expensive Piaget watch is the Emperador Temple. This watch is actually a two-in-one with two faces hidden under each other, covered and surrounded in diamonds. One face is hidden behind 481 brilliant-cut, 207 baguette-cut and a single emerald-cut diamond. The other face has 162 brilliant-cut and 11 baguette-cut diamonds highlighting a Mother-of-Pearl dial and a tourbillon. The watch’s bracelet has a further 350 baguette-cut diamonds. Unsurprisingly, this one-of-a-kind watch sold quickly soon after it came onto the market.
9 Patek Philippe, 1928 Single-Button Chronograph - $3.6 Million
Founded in 1851, Patek Philippe & Co. was started when Polish watchmaker Antoni Patek teamed up with French watchmaker Adrien Philippe. Since then, the company has been known for producing time pieces of the highest quality. Looking at this 1928 watch, you may wonder why such a ‘normal’ looking watch can fetch such a high price. First, it’s a Patek Philippe which automatically ensures its build quality. Second, this particular cushion-shaped watch is the only surviving white gold version known to exist from Patek Philippe. Additionally, it has Breguet numerals and vertically positioned registers. Records show the watch was created especially for an anonymous buyer just one year before the Great Depression struck.
8 Patek Philippe, 1939 Platinum World Time - $4 Million
Get used to seeing this manufacturer a few more times. Patek Philippe aren’t just famous today for their high-end watches, they were famous almost as soon as they started making time pieces in the mid-19th century. Famous customers include Queen Victoria, Pope Pius IX as well as many other famous (and infamous) world leaders. The Patek Philippe Platinum World Time sold in 2002 for a then-record price of $4 million. While at first glance it doesn’t look like an overly complicated watch, the Platinum World Time had 41 cities, regions and countries stamped on a rotating bezel. The Platinum finish only adds to the quality and price.
7 Louis Moinet, Meteoris - $4.6 Million
Louis Moinet is one of the greats in clock making history. The inventor of the chronograph, Moinet learned much from working closely with another French clockmaker, Abraham-Louis Breguet. Famous customers of Moinet include Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and Napoleon Bonaparte. The Meteoris is one of the more fascinating watches to be created. Technically, the Meteoris is a set of four tourbillon watches with each one being very distinct from the others. Fragments of meteors from Mars, the Moon, Mercury and an asteroid are all integrated into their own watch providing each with a unique look. As an added bonus, the four watch set comes with a mechanical solar system which also acts as a display for the four timepieces.
6 Breguet & Fils, No.2667 Precision Stop-Watch - $4.6 Million
Since the 18th century, the watches of Abraham-Louis Breguet have attracted crowds whenever they come up for auction. Breguet’s watchmaking skill was second to none and the quality of his products attracted the biggest names of his time. Notable customers and patrons of Breguet included Louis XVI, Napoleon Bonaparte, Tsar Alexander I, King George III, Arthur Wellesley and Queen Victoria. Helping Breguet to claim spot number six on this list is a two movement stop-watch. The 18 karat gold and platinum piece is, understandably, built to the highest standards. Sold in 1814 for a mere 5,000 francs (about $18,000 in today’s terms), this stopwatch commands a price of $4.6 million.
5 Hublot Big Bang - $5 Million
If Piaget showed us anything it’s that if you want to increase the value of a watch you should stick a lot of diamonds on it. This is a formula Hublot has followed to a tee. The Swiss-based maker took one of their ‘standard’ Big Bang watches as a template and went about finding the right sized diamonds to design and make a very high-end version. The result – a watch with 1282 precision cut and fitted diamonds, more than 100 carats of baguette diamonds and six emerald cut diamonds weighing more than 3 carats each. The final price was a whopping $5 million. Too much for most of us, but not Beyonce Knowles. The singer bought one for husband, Jay-Z, for his 43rd birthday.
4 Patek Philippe, ‘Calibre 89’ - $6 Million
Most of the other Patek Philippe watches on this list are relatively old creations. Not this one. In 1989, the Swiss luxury watchmaker decided to celebrate its 150th anniversary with what the company has called the most complicated watch in the world. It has 18 complications (features) and is two-sided. In addition to all the usual abilities you’d expect in a watch, this one includes such features as a star-chart, thermometer, sunrise and sunset indicator, chronometer, moon-phase indicator and full calendar with days, months and years. From start to finish it took 9 years worth of research, development and manufacturing to produce four of these watches.
3 Patek Philippe, Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication Pocket Watch - $11 Million
In 1925 watch aficionado and banker Henry Graves Jr. commissioned Patek Philippe to create a unique pocket watch. The task was born out of a competition between Graves and automobile manufacturer James Ward Packard over who could get the most complicated watch made – a strange competition indeed. Eight years later the watch was complete. What Patek Philippe had created for Graves was the most complicated hand-made watch ever. Defined as ultra-complicated, the watch has 24 functions, including a perpetual calendar, the night sky of New York City, moon phases, a power reserve and sunrise and sunset indicators. Do you like it? If so, it’s due up on the auction block this November and experts say it will fetch at least $15 million this time around.
2 Chopard 201-Carat - $25 Million
Runner-up on today’s list is a watch – and I do use that term loosely- which looks as though it was created by a child with left over jewels, beads, glitter and a bunch of glue. That said, this creation by Swiss luxury watch maker Chopard isn’t really about the watch itself, but the 201 carats worth of diamonds covering it. In total there are 874 diamonds ranging in size and color with the largest being a 15 carat pink diamond. The three largest heart-shaped diamonds are linked to a spring-loaded mechanism which ‘opens’ them like petals on a flower to reveal the watch face. We’re sure the watch itself is of the highest quality. It’s just a bit hard to see past all of those glittering diamonds.
1 Breguet Grande Complication, Marie Antoinette - $30 Million
Before Abraham-Louis Breguet founded his watch-making business in 1775 he had made a number of connections with high society thanks to his apprenticeship and time as a math scholar. The highest of these social connections was surely the French Royal Family and, most notably, Marie Antoinette. The Queen was reportedly fascinated with Breguet watches and, depending on who you believe, it was either her or her lover, Count Hans Axel von Fersen, who commissioned Breguet to make a watch which contained all known functions at that time. Breguet began work on the project in 1782/83 and it was completed by his son in 1827. By this time, Marie Antoinette, Count von Fersen and Breguet were all dead. Watch-makers from Breguet were commissioned to make a copy of the Marie-Antoinette in 2005. Instead of the original 45 years, this one only took three.