Watches that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars might seem expensive to many of us, but they can promise years of satisfaction and utility. Watches that cost five or even eight figures, however, exist for a quite different purpose and audience. They can be canvases for art and horological experimentation, or just showcases of pure excess. Some watches are made to basically flip off the world, and (with apologies to your eyes) here are some standout models from 2020.
Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Chrono
Bulgari's 2020 releases include a watch that claims the very specific title of the thinnest watch in the world to combine a tourbillon and monopusher chronograph. With automatic winding on top of it all, that's a lot to cram into a movement that's only 3.5mm thick — and a sandlbasted, titanium case that's only 7.4mm thick — so this took some serious engineering. Those features alone might not yield a startlingly expensive watch, but skeletonizing the dial and movement only add cost and complexity to the whole operation.
Case Material: Titanium
Patek Philippe Grand Complication 5303R
A lot of Patek Philippe watches remain simple and understated in appearance despite highly complicated inner workings — but the new 5303R puts much of its meticulously finished mechanics on display. Incorporating some of the most sophisticated complications, it combines a minute repeater and a tourbillon — not to mention skeletonization and decoration. You can watch the chimes strike from the front of the watch, but the tourbillon is only visible from the back.
Case Material: 18k Rose Gold
Price: On Request
Urwerk UR-100 Gold
The UR-100 in steel is, in fact, the Swiss brand's entry-level model, but its latest iteration is rendered in 18k gold. It might not be as big, complicated or expensive as some of the Urwerk's other offerings, but it features the brand's utterly original aesthetic and its signature complication: wandering hours, in which the hour is indicated by a disk on the minute hand itself.
Case Material: 18k Gold
Purnell Escape II
The little known watchmaker Purnell introduced a watch which it calls "the world's fastest double spherion," a type of spherical tourbillon. "Regular" tourbillons are immensely complex, require highly specialized skill to produce and cost a fortune — but triple-axis tourbillons like Purnell's compound the complexity — and here, there are two of them. The tourbillon cages rotate on their axes at different speeds — add to that the bright highlights of the dial and forged carbon cases (available in other materials too) and the effect is just bonkers, as is the price.
Case Material: Forged Carbon
Stylistically neither pure sport watch nor pure dress watch, the Rolex Sky-Dweller is most certainly swanky — it's not even offered in steel-only models. This new version for 2020 comes in the brand's proprietary rose gold alloy it calls Everose: the case includes 42mm of the metal, plus a full gold bracelet to boot. It features a uniquely offbeat dial and a complicated movement for the otherwise conservative brand: It's got a 24-hour display via the off-center ring on the dial, a discrete second time zone and an annual calendar, as well as the brand's Ring Command bezel, used for setting the functions.
Case Material: 18k Everose Gold
Bovet Récital 26 Brainstorm Chapter Two
Bovet's creation might appear to be more of a miniature world inside a wrist-mounted terrarium than a watch (though it does indeed tell the time). A slanted sapphire crystal case allows the user to see the intricate mechanics of this complicated mechanism from every angle. Equipped with a world-time function, moon phase display and flying tourbillon, every element has a three-dimensional depth and domed displays, amounting to a dazzling effect. Look even closer, and you'll see the movement itself is hand-engraved.
Case Material: Sapphire Crystal
Konstantin Chaykin Mars Conquerer Mark 3
While Russian watchmaker Konstantin Chaykin's Mars Conquerer might not be the among most expensive watches released this year, it must be conceptually one of the most out-there. Working from a common ETA movement, this possibly mad genius created a watch that can display an earthly time zone alongside the time on Mars. Of course , Mars days (sols) are of a different length than earth days, so the project required significant research, development and calculations. Conceived as a Martian pilot's watch, the titanium case itself seems to evoke some kind of imagined space craft or related equipment.
Case Material: Titanium
Greubel Forsey Balancier S
Greubel Forsey is a watchmaker's watchmaker, regularly tackling the most difficult and complicated technical challenges and known for some of the best and most meticulous finishing in the business. The brand's aesthetic often seems to follow the features of the mechanics, and with its Balancier S that means a curved case and a tilted balance wheel visible on the dial's inclined plane, as well as a curved titanium case. The oddest part about the Balancier S is that it's billed as a sport watch despite its intricate mechanical nature, highly refined details and six-figure price tag.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Flying Tourbillon GMT
Audemar Piguet's Royal Oak Concept line barely seems related to the iconic "sports-chic" watch Gerald Genta designed in the 1970s. Produced only in small batches, it serves as the canvas for experimentation and each new model features avant-garde styling that looks like nothing else. The new model has a characteristically angular and aggressive case, but here it's relatively muted in appearance thanks to its sandblasted titanium execution. Its movement includes a flying tourbillon and GMT (the H/N/R on the dial indicates the crown's current function, in French).
Case Material: Titanium
Jacob & Co. Billionaire III
And the winner for the most totally over-the-top watch of 2020 is....Jacob & Co. (Of course.) Multiple watches from the company are easily among the most outrageous and expensive of the year — because that's what the brand does best. Their Billionaire III looks almost as if it's entirely constructed of its 714 diamonds (129.61 carats), right down to the movement's bridges. In fact, there's an 18K white gold case underneath it all, and a skeletonized movement and tourbillon to complete the ostentatious display. Who wears this type of thing? Champion boxer Floyd Mayweather, for one, who reportedly paid $18m for an earlier version.
Case Material: 18k White Gold