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What Are the Most Expensive Watches in the World?

September 28th, 2021

These days, luxury watches are not only about telling the time. Instead, they serve like a functional piece of jewellery that does more than only look pretty. They aid individuals to manifest their success, achievement or unique personality. Perhaps the fascinating thing you can see today is a mechanical watch; its craftsmanship, complex engineering fit inside tiny cases.

most expensive luxury watches

These timepieces constitute some of the man’s biggest achievements in a small device to fit on the wrist. It’s not surprising that the best iterations are exceedingly sought-after among collectors. Well, luxury watches are synonymous with expensive. The most exclusive and extravagant timepieces in the world are multi-million-pound creations.

In fact, while the watch market is booming right now, the rarest iterations are breaking world records at auctions. However, the most expensive watches have a class of their own. They possess unique aesthetics to capture the eyes of avid collectors, billionaires and millionaires, Hollywood A-listers and more. Now:

When talking about the most expensive watches in the world, the names that strike to mind first include Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Cartier & more. The watches made by the leading watch brands appeal to anyone with their superb styling, classic engineering and exclusivity. Moreover, many of these timepieces are limited editions or one-offs.

So are you wondering what the world’s most expensive watches are? Do you know which the most expensive Rolex watch is?

Keep reading to look at the top most expensive watches ever produced and know why they command astronomical prices.

The Most Expensive Rolex Watches

1. Rolex Paul Newman Daytona

The Paul New Newman Rolex Daytona made a record-breaking sale in 2017, fetching about £13.01 million. This is the most expensive Rolex watch ever sold and the costliest timepiece ever sold globally.

  • In 2016, a Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar Chronograph from 1943 set a record by selling for nearly £8.04 million.
  • However, Paul Newman’s Rolex watch easily beat Patek’s record.
  • The bidding for this Rolex model began at £0.73 million. Interestingly, the first bidder increased the bid to nearly £7.32 million, leaving the entire Phillips auction room awe.
  • Later, the only two bidders competed with each other for the timepiece. And the price settled at £13.01 million.

So what’s so special about Paul Newman’s Rolex? How did it become the most expensive watch of all time?

The Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona is not specifically a rare model nor embellished with very precious gems. However, it’s the unique story and association that appealed to collectors.

The story dates back to 1968 when Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward gifted a Rolex Daytona to him. While Newman began racing cars recently, her wife engraved the words’ Drive Carefully Me’ on the watch’s back. Later, this Daytona became Paul Newman’s favourite timepiece, wearing it during photo shoots, outdoors and many other places.

expensive rolex daytona

2. Rolex Bao Dai

A gold case and a black dial – this was the rarest configuration available in the Rolex’s catalogue at the time. Thus, the Rolex Bao Dai is among the unique and most instantly recognisable watches among watch enthusiasts.

Rolex initially sold this timepiece to the Nguyen dynasty’s last emperor in 1954 in Vietnam. And it was the costliest watch available in the brand’s catalogue at that time. What makes this Rolex so unique & collectable?

  • The elite Swiss watchmaker produced only three Bao Dai models.
  • The example that fetched more than £3.73 million at Phillips auction in 2017 is one of the three Bao Dai models that feature diamond on the even hour markers.

However, the watch was at auction already before. The Nguyen family sold it first in 2002 for about £171,880. Interestingly, it was the highest price paid ever for a Rolex watch at that time.

3. Rolex Daytona Unicorn

Rolex produced the Daytona Unicorn Reference 6265 between 1970 and 1988. The watch sports a 37mm steel Oyster case and the manual winding Calibre 727 movement. Interestingly, collectors had no severe interest in this watch. However, Reference 6265 was not any ordinary Rolex.

So, why Rolex 6265 is unique? The watch is crafted of white gold, hence, the nickname ‘Unicorn’. The white gold case frames a black sigma dial. Rolex delivered this watch to a German retailer in 1971. However, it is believed to be the only version of Reference 6265 crafted of white gold. Thus, the watch is genuinely unique and highly coveted.

Related: 8 Vintage Rolex Models that Can Fetch a Premium in Pre-owned Market

The Most Expensive Patek Philippe Watches

1. Patek Philippe Reference 1518

Patek Philippe Reference 1518 debuted in 1941 as the first perpetual calendar moon-phase chronograph watch. This in itself made the watch a highly coveted collector’s piece. But the timepiece did not have substantial collectors as Patek Philippe introduced the model at the peak of WWII.

The watchmaker introduced the Reference 1518 in stainless steel, yellow gold and Rose gold cases. Although all three watches are coveted, the steel edition is more desirable among collectors. Phillips Bacs & Russo sold the watch in Geneva, where the bidding started at about £2.20 million. However, the final price settled at £7.10 million, making a record for a wristwatch at that time.

most expensive patek philippe

2. Patek Philippe Stainless Steel Reference 5016A-010

This Patek Philippe Reference 5016A-010 ranks among the list of the most complicated watches ever made. The watch packs the Calibre RT 027 PSQR hand-wound movement featuring a one-minute tourbillon, perpetual calendar and minute repeater. Moreover, it is made of 506 hand-finished parts.

  • The stainless steel Reference 5016A-010 features a blue lacquered dial and an alligator hand-stitched leather strap.
  • However, the watch went up for sale at the charity auction of biannual Only Watch 2015 in Geneva.

Interestingly, the Phillips Auction house billed the timepiece as one of the greatest classics of the Patek Philippe Grand Complications. The estimated price was CHF 700,000 – 900,000. However, the watch finally hammered at a staggering £5.42 million.

3. Patek Philippe Titanium Reference 5208T-010

At the bi-annual Only Watch charity auction, the limelight was on the host of Patek Philippe watches. Following the record-breaking sale of Reference 5016A-010, the watchmaker again came up with another one-of-its-kind model.

  • The Patek Philippe Reference 5028 was indeed unique, thanks to its instantaneous perpetual calendar, minute repeater, and chronograph complication.
  • The timepiece exhibits the unrivalled artistry and expertise of the brand.
  • However, its most exclusive feature was the titanium case.

The fact is that Patek Philippe used titanium very rare. And Reference 5208 is the only titanium edition ever produced. It sold for an astronomical price of £4.61 million – the second-highest sum that bi-annual event ever achieved. However, the auctioned price went to Monaco Association that works for the degenerative muscular disorder, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.

4. Patek Philippe Gold Chronograph Reference 1527

Christie’s auction house billed this 18ct Gold Chronograph from Patek Philippe as a historically significant wristwatch. Patek Philippe introduced Reference 1527 in 1943, packing the Calibre 13 into it. And the movement controlled the date, moon phase and perpetual calendar functionality of the timepiece.

Why is this Patek Philippe Chronograph watch special? This is because the watch is the archetype of some of the most iconic watches within Patek’s catalogue. Take, for example the Reference 5270.

However, like most timepieces debuted during WWII, Patek Philippe produced Reference 1527 in low numbers. The watchmaker supposedly made only two of the Reference 1527, and this specific version is considered one of the two models. Another one is a non-chronograph watch.

Thus, when it went to auction in 2010 at Christie’s, the competition was furious. The auctioneers estimated the watch to fetch within £1.15 – £1.93 million. However, the timepiece finally sold for about £4.67 million, becoming the most expensive watch sold at auction at that time.

5. Patek Philippe Calibre 89 in Yellow Gold

The Patek Philippe Calibre 89 enjoyed the recognition of the world’s most complicated watch for over a quarter of a century. However, it lost this tag in 2015 after the release of Vacheron Constantin 57260. But the Calibre 89 is yet the most complicated timepiece in Patek Philippe’s catalogue. And thus, the watch is indeed unique.

Well, Patek Philippe released the Calibre 89 watch to commemorate the brand’s 150th anniversary. They produced only four of these models in platinum, white gold, yellow gold and pink gold, respectively. However, the model that went up for auction in 2009 is the yellow-gold edition.

A famous Japanese Ferrari and Patek Philippe collector named Yoshiho Matsuda bought the timepiece for nearly £3,739,172. He has this exclusive timepiece in his collection to date. The watch came up for auction several times, but it did not reach the price set at about £8.16 million.

Related: 5 Factors that Make Patek Philippe Watches So Expensive

The Most Expensive AP Watches

1. Audemars Piguet Royal Offshore Grande Complication

This Royal Oak Offshore Grande Complication is the descendant of the ever-first sports watches, the iconic Royal Oak. It is among the most expensive watches within AP’s catalogue and also in the world. However, the Audemars Piguet Offshore Grande Complication is a waterproof masterpiece with exclusive features. It includes –

  • A minute repeater and perpetual calendar
  • Split-seconds chronograph
  • Week indicator
  • Hour, second and minute hands
  • Fifty-two jewels and power reserve of 45 hours.

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Grande Complication features a 44mm titanium case and a ceramic bezel. However, its skeleton display allows you to see the elegant and detailed finishing that took 860 hours to complete.

Many watch collectors and fans have fallen in love with this iconic, luxurious timepiece that contributes significantly to the brand’s ultra-desirability. However, AP produced only three examples of this timepiece worldwide, making it a rare piece to collect.

most expensive ap watches

2. Jules Audemars Grande Complication

Audemars Piguet named this watch collection after one of the company’s founders. The Jules Audemars Grande Complication is available in different metals like pink gold and titanium. However, the watch measures 42mm in diameter and features a transparent case back to give you a glimpse of the mesmerising movement.

Moreover, a hand-stitched alligator leather strap boosts the elegance of this self-winding timepiece. The strap is further fitted with titanium or 950platinum or 18ct gold folding clasp. The watches of this collection cost nearly between £471,655 and £571,764.

3. Audemars Piguet Millenary CarbonTourbillon Chronograph

The third model in the list of the most expensive Audemars Piguet watches is the Millenary CarbonTourbillon Chronograph. What contributes to the astronomical price tag of the watch are the materials. The list includes blackened steel and aluminium for the bridges, forged carbon for the watch case. Moreover, AP used black ceramic for the crown, chronograph push-pieces and the bezel.

The brand’s expert craftsmen made the case by processing and moulding separate carbon wire pieces. The result is unique texture and ultra-lightweight. Moreover, the watch features a column-wheel mechanism, tourbillon and twin barrels. AP completed the model’s elegant look with a hand-stitched alligator leather strap.

It takes over two weeks to assemble the watch and is also waterproof. Pairing expert craftsmanship with cutting-edge materials, the Millenary CarbonTourbillon Chronograph cost nearly £301,712.

Also Read: 5 of the Best Audemars Piguet Watches for Avid Watch Collectors

The Most Expensive Cartier Watches

1. Cartier Ballon Bleu Tourbillon Extra Large Diamond Watch

The Cartier Ballon Blue Tourbillon Diamond watch sports a 46mm case size with 13mm thickness and an upgraded movement mechanism. However, what boosts the watch’s glamour is the Baguette diamond-set bracelet. The slate grey dial with sun satin-finished grid and transparent case back adds to the beauty of the watch.

Moreover, the Roman numeral hour markers and sword-shaped hands on the dial ensure increased legibility and beauty. You can see the tourbillon at the 6 o’clock side. The manual wound movement gives 50 hours of power reserve. How much does it cost? It is about £0.79 million.

most expensive cartier watches

2. Cartier Rotonde Tourbillon Chronograph

Cartier introduced the Rotonde Tourbillon Chronograph as a limited edition timepiece. It comes with a 45mm case diameter with a thickness of 15.7mm. Other exclusive features of this limited edition piece include a black alligator strap and a transparent case.

However, the strap builds up to a double adjustable deployant buckle that allows comfortable wearing. The signature Roman numeral markers and blue-coloured sword hands elevate the readability of the elegant grey dial. How much is the watch worth? It is about £176,749.

3. Cartier Tortue High Complication Extra Large Platinum Watch

Cartier produced the Extra Large Tortue High Complication platinum watch only in 15 pieces, making it a rare model to come across. The watch features a platinum case of 10.7mm thickness and a transparent case back. However, what further magnifies the beauty and elegance of the watch is the high-quality black alligator strap.

This Cartier Tortue High Complication Extra Large watch flaunts a silver guilloche dial with Roman numeral markers and apple-shaped blue hands. Other features include a power reserve indicator and calendar functionality. This manual winding, water-resistant watch cost nearly £367,008.

Related: How Cartier Became A Serious Watchmaker?

Other Expensive Watches

1. Jaeger LeCoultre Joaillerie 101 Machette

The elite watchmaker Jaeger Lecoultre designed the ultra-luxurious Joaillerie 101 Manchette watch to gift Queen Elizabeth on her reign’s 60th year. The watch is made of white gold and flaunts a series of diamond-set links. Moreover, the exclusive profile houses a tiny movement – Calibre 101. The timepiece is worth nearly £19.07 million.

2. Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260

The Vacheron Constantin Reference 57260 is among the most complicated timepiece in the world. It consists of 57 different complications, 242 jewels and 2826 individual elements. Interestingly, ten of these complications were new inventions in the horological industry at their manufacturing time.

The most exceptional features of Reference 57260 include a double retrograde split-seconds chronograph, a night mode and the Judaic calendar. However, the timepiece sports a simplistic case that leaves the centre stage to the unrivalled mechanics.

Vacheron Constantin is known to take nearly eight years to design and produce this watch. So you won’t be surprised to know that the timepiece fetched about £5.87 million.

3. Bell & Ross BR-X1 Tourbillon Sapphire

The BR-X1 Tourbillon Sapphire showcases the brand’s signature cockpit design. And it is the most expensive watch by far Bell & Ross has ever made, having a price tag of about £363,253. The timepiece features an all-sapphire case with transparent sides that clearly illustrate the mono-pusher chronograph tourbillon movement.

Bell & Ross offered this ultramodern watch, one of the oldest movement constructions in watchmaking. The columns raise the bridges slightly from the main plate. However, the plates have added cutaways that boost the view from the sides. This means you can admire all the functional components from several angles.

So these are some of the most expensive watches for men ever produced or sold at auction. Not everyone can afford them right now, but there is no harm in seeing and dreaming.

However, those who have a luxury watch and want an accurate valuation can contact our expert team today. The Luxury Hut buys all kinds of luxury timepieces from leading watch brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Cartier and more, vintage or modern, for competitive prices. Part-exchange against watches is also available. Fill in our online form or call on 0207 242 9160 for an instant price quote.

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