Despite the watch market’s current fluctuations, auction houses continue to set records for watch sales. In 2017 alone, recent sales have shattered many previous auction records.
One particular brand has dominated the auction blocks for the past decade: Patek Philippe. No surprise, given Patek has produced some of the most impressive and complicated timepieces on the market for over a century. But the record holder for the most expensive watch ever sold might throw you for a loop.
5. Patek Philippe 18k Yellow Gold Perpetual Calendar Chronograph
When this one-of-a-kind wristwatch sold in May 2010 at Christie’s sale of Important Watches in Geneva, it set the world record for the most expensive yellow-gold watch ever auctioned. This unique 1943 Patek features a moonphase complication and a tonneau-shaped case. The final selling price was $5.7 million, more than double its pre-auction estimate.
4. Patek Philippe Ref. 5016
When this stainless steel grand complication with blue enamel dial hit the auction blocks in November 2015, it was a novelty. Patek Philippe produced the Ref. 5016 from 1993 to 2011, and, at the time, it was the most complicated wristwatch Patek had ever produced. This particular model ultimately sold for $7.6 million at the Only Watch charity auction, and it became the highest priced wristwatch auctioned to date.
3. Patek Philippe Ref. 1518
The third most expensive watch ever sold at auction is the Patek Philippe Ref. 1518. When this stainless steel perpetual calendar chronograph sold in November 2016 at Phillips in Geneva for $11 million, it set a new world record for any Patek wristwatch ever sold at auction. It’s also only one of four known examples ever produced, making it highly sought-after among the collector set.
2. Patek Philippe Henry Graves Jr. “Supercomplication”
The second most expensive watch and most expensive Patek Philippe ever sold at auction is the Henry Graves Jr. “Supercomplication.” This important pocket watch sold for a mind blowing $24 million in November 2014, shattering all previous records. Its original owner was a banking powerhouse and had a close relationship with Patek Philippe. He commissioned a number of watches from the brand, including this particularly special “Supercomplication,” featuring 24 complications in total. (Read more about Henry Graves, Jr. and the “Supercomplication”.)
1. 201 Karat Chopard
The most expensive watch ever sold at auction may surprise you. In fact, it’s a 201 Karat Chopard watch sold all the way back in 2000 for $25 million. This over-the-top timepiece features 201 karats of diamonds. Three sizable heart-shaped diamonds surround the dial—a 15k pink diamond, a 12k blue diamond, and an 11k white diamond. Plus, 163 karats of white and yellow diamonds surround the bracelet. This colorful and glitzy timepiece may not appeal to the average watch collector, but it’s hard to deny its fashionable allure.
Have watch auctions hit their peak? With all these new records, it’s not likely. As we keep an eye on the auction blocks, there’s no way of knowing which timepiece might set a new world record. Will any watch knock out the 201 Karat Chopard from its long reign at the top? Only time will tell.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on December 4, 2012. We have updated it with more recent information.
Image Credits: Header; . 1; Christie’s. 2; Patek Philippe. 3; Phillips. 4; Sotheby’s. 5; Chopard.
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