Later this year, watch collectors and philanthropists alike will have the opportunity to bid on a selection of unique timepieces from the world’s finest. And all for a worthy cause. Now in its 9th edition, Only Watch is a biennial charity auction that seeks to raise funds for research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). 54 brands will be donating unique versions of their watches, created especially for the event, to be sold under the hammer. Christie’s are serving as the auctioneer for the third edition running and will once again be performing this service.
Read on to learn more about this very worthy charity event and to discover some of our favourite entries.
The Only Watch charity auction was conceived by Luc Pettavino, co-founder of the Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies (AMM), and former CEO and shareholder of the Monaco Yacht Show. AMM was set up in 2003 to raise funds to support scientific and medical research on DMD. Pettavino’s son suffered from this genetic disorder and sadly passed away in November 2016 at the age of 21.
The first edition took place in Monaco in 2005, under the patronage of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco. Since then, Only Watch has continued to grow in size and popularity. More than 70 millions euros have been raised to date. This indicates that 99% of the approximately AUD112 million proceeds go directly to funding research projects.
Only Watch 2021 is scheduled to take place on the 6th November, in Geneva. In the weeks preceding the auction, the watches will be presented to the public, media and horological enthusiasts. Starting in Monaco, an international promotional tour will pass through Dubai, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau, before arriving at its final destination. Watches of Switzerland is proud to report that five of our partner brands are donating unique pieces. Several of which incorporate this edition’s colour code, ‘sun-kissed’.
And don’t worry if you miss out on the unique pieces (competition is bound to be tough!). We’ve also included some suggestions for similar models that are available now at Watches of Switzerland.
Blancpain Tribute to Fifty Fathoms No Rad for Only Watch
In the mid-1960s, Blancpain introduced the Fifty Fathoms RPG1, featuring luminous markings without the use of radium. (A highly radioactive element declared hazardous to health.) To set concerned wearer’s minds at rest, the dial was stamped with a “no radiations” logo. Adopted as official equipment by the combat swimmers of the German Bundesmarine, the watch became known as the “BUND No Rad”. The RPG1 retained familiar elements characteristic of the Fifty Fathoms line. However, the distinctive logo made it a standout model. These days good examples are sought-after by collectors. In 1967, the Fifty Fathoms RPGA1 was released, which added a date aperture. (For the full history of the first modern divers’ watch check out our in-depth article on the Fifty Fathoms.)
For Only Watch, Blancpain has created a unique version of the recently released limited edition Tribute to Fifty Fathoms No Rad. With orange Super-LumiNova® and bespoke logo reflecting this year’s charity auction official colour. Resemblance to 1960s models remains strong. By way of a matt black dial punctuated by the traditional dot, rectangle and diamond-shaped hour markers. As well as the graduated rotating bezel (now fitted with a sapphire insert). The steel case measures 40.3 mm, a diameter reserved for limited edition Fifty Fathoms models. An open caseback reveals the Calibre 1154 self-winding movement, supplying a four-day power reserve. Water resistant to 30 bar (approximately 300 m), the watch is presented on a “Tropic”-type rubber strap.
Breguet Type XX Only Watch 2021
In the early 1950s, the French Ministry of Defence set out specifications to equip its Air Force with chronograph wristwatches, to be known as Type 20. Drawing on its experience in aviation watches, Breguet designed a model with a flyback chronograph that gained approval in 1954. Alongside the military issue Type 20, Breguet also released a civilian version of the pilot’s watch. To differentiate the two in bookkeeping, the latter was recorded as: “Type XX”. Through the 1950s and 1960s, the Type XX chronograph evolved through three successive generations. Each with several variants that today get collectors’ pulses going. Paying tribute to these civilian editions, Breguet will present a one-of-a-kind Type XX for Only Watch 2021.
Contained within a 38.30 mm diameter, with typical curvature of the horns, the entry remains loyal to its past. Between generously-sized pushers, the straight crown distinguishes the watch as civilian issue. The bidirectional steel bezel comes with a 12-hour scale. And a luminous triangular marker inspired by the first-generation Type XX. The bronze colour of the dial is a nod to extremely rare civilian (and military) models sold with black dials that acquired a bronze hue. (A patina effect highly sought after by collectors.) To power the historic tribute piece, Breguet has restored a Valjoux 235. A hand-wound column wheel chronograph movement, with flyback function of course. (While nothing quite like this exists in Breguet’s current catalogue, you might consider the Type XXI 3815.)
Hublot Big Bang Tourbillon Only Watch
Hublot’s Only Watch entry showcases the new HUB6035 Manufacture automatic tourbillon movement launched in January. And by showcase, we mean a translucent polished sapphire case, skeleton dial and bridges – to reveal everything and hide nothing. With established expertise for working with sapphire, Hublot again added a world first to its list. To make a bezel in one of the most difficult colours to produce – orange. Resulting from the fusion of titanium and chrome, the solution-dyed sapphire has a powerful hue. (Complimented by orange highlights on the dial.) In true Hublot style, the innovative material has been fused with the brand’s iconic model – the Big Bang. With a diameter of 45 mm.
Entirely developed by Hublot, the MHUB6035 is notable for being self-winding. (Tourbillon-equipped movements are more typically manual-winding.) Hublot has also included sapphire in the calibre itself. By equipping it for the first time with three sapphire bridges – the barrel bridge, automatic watch bridge and tourbillon bridge. The unique piece comes with two interchangeable One Click structured lined rubber straps. One transparent and the other orange. If you like this watch, you’ll be pleased to know there are some similar production options available – the Big Bang Tourbillon Automatic Orange Sapphire (45 mm), and the Big Bang Integral Tourbillon Full Sapphire (43 mm).
TAG Heuer Only Watch Carbon Monaco
To support this year’s charity auction, TAG Heuer will be presenting a one-off, high-end version of its inimitable square-cased chronograph. TAG Heuer aficionados will recognise clear echoes of the mythical black-PVD-cased Heuer Monaco Reference 74033N, also known by: “Dark Lord”. Produced in limited quantities in the mid-1970s and never appearing in a catalogue or any of the company’s advertising, today it is extremely rare and collectable. The Only Watch Carbon Monaco is also a symbol of TAG Heuer’s insatiable appetite for avant-garde. Forged in black carbon fibre, using state-of-the-art manufacturing techniques. The special piece has been designed explicitly to carry the largest sapphire crystal caseback ever fitted to a Monaco. (Diameter: 39 mm.) Also novel is the strap – that looks like a metal bracelet, but which is in fact made of leather.
The watch is a collaboration with some of TAG Heuer’s long-time partners, to achieve advanced decorative aspects finished by hand. The striking skeleton dial, worked from a single piece of carbon, resembles the struts of a racing car. Making a subtle reference to TAG Heuer’s integral involvement with motor sport. Peeking through, the top-side of the movement has also been hand-finished. On the reverse, the watch’s future owner has an unimpeded view into a bespoke in-house Heuer 02 automatic chronograph. (Offering an 80-hour power reserve.) Equipped with TAG Heuer’s in-house carbon hairspring for the first time in a Monaco. 10 types of hand finishing ornate the movement, including the rare gratté technique. A unique rotor in the form of the TAG Heuer shield features a seamless gradient line from orange to yellow, astonishingly achieved by hand.
(For current Monaco models see our Heuer Heritage collection.)
Tudor Black Bay GMT One
Last on our list but certainly not least is Tudor, the surprise darling of Only Watch. Previous editions to the auction have blitzed low estimates by up to 100 times. For Only Watch 2021, the brand has created a unique execution of its Black Bay GMT using a secret stainless steel ageing technique. This unusual technique has been applied to both the 41 mm case – including the unidirectional bezel and screw-down crown – as well as the bracelet. The bezel is also fitted with an aged stainless steel 24-hour engraved disc. Matt ruthenium-plated applied markers and hands are set against a matt black, domed dial. (The beige luminescence glowing green in low light.) Powered by the MT5652 Manufacture Calibre, the Black Bay GMT One is a Master Chronometer with METAS certification. Capable of tracking time in three time zones simultaneously.
Satisfying one of the industry’s most demanding standards guaranteeing Swiss manufacturing, the movement ensures precision of a 5-second range of variation per day (0 +5). It’s also anti-magnetic to 15’000 gauss. In keeping with the ‘aged’ theme of the watch, the movement also receives an aesthetic treatment to match the case of the Black Bay GMT One. A process that required the bridges and mainplate to be coated in black before being aged by barrel tumbling. The aged stainless steel look of the Black Bay GMT One is definitely one-of-a-kind. (The production GMT from Tudor being quite bright and colourful in contrast.) To find something closer to the toned-down aesthetic, you might consider the new Black Bay Ceramic or Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925 models.
Under the hammer 6 November 2021
The 2021 Only Watch charity auction will take place at the Four Seasons Hôtel des Bergeus, Geneva, on the 6th of November. It promises to be an important date on the watch industry calendar. To have a similar experience of exclusive high-end watches – please make plans to visit your nearest Watches of Switzerland boutique, or go online to view our exclusive range of timepieces.