Events and limited edition announcements take place all year in the watch industry, but there's nothing like the annual Only Watch auction: Benefiting muscular dystrophy research, it's become a platform for dozens of watchmakers to produce something special and unique.
Each watch entered has to be one-of-a-kind, and while some companies might only offer an otherwise unavailable color, many watchmakers bring some of their most interesting and creative work to the challenge each year. Not only is it a chance for the brands to be a bit experimental and get some media attention, but new or unusual features that show up in these one-off watches sometimes signal future collections that will be more widely available. Anyone interested in watches has a lot to explore at each Only Watch installment, even if they're not bidding themselves.
This year, the auction is taking place on November 6 in Geneva, but most of the 54 participating brands have already announced their contributions. Below are some of the standout examples from 2021 Only Watch, but from Hublot's mostly sapphire crystal Big Bang watch (pictured above) to Konstantin Chaykin's mind-blowing Martian watch, there are indeed many more fascinating works of horological art to check out on the auction website.
Tudor always offers something notable to Only Watch. This year, it's a version of their Black Bay GMT with a steel case that's been treated to look aged like a tool that's been living in a garage for 30 years. (It's also reminiscent of, say, G-Shock's worn-in-looking Full Metal watch.) How did Tudor achieve this effect? It's a "secret," and it's so cool that many fans liekly hope for a similar production model.
Joining Only Watch for the first time, Baltic stands out among this year's participants as a microbrand among mostly high-end independents and well established watch companies. One of our favorite value-focused watchmakers, the French company has created a vintage-styled watch featuring a pulsometer scale and a restored vintage Venus 150 chronograph movement from the 1940s.
Why is there a blue gauntlet on the front of this watch? Does it even tell the time? Francis Ford Coppola? What's going on? That's right, this watch was conceived by the wine- and filmmaker and executed by independent watchmaker F.P. Journe, who's always a star of Only Watch. This is a watch hand like you've never seen — the fingers extend and retract to indicate the time thanks to some extremely complicated clockwork inside.
You've seen "panda dial" watches before, but not like this. MB&F's usual approach of creating horological wrist sculptures inspired by themes like animals here appears to take the form of some type of cyborg panda bear. It's based on the brand's HM10, which was meant to look like a bulldog, but here is tweaked with panda colors and even cute little ears. The large "eyes" are domed discs that display the hours and minutes, respectively. And, yes, you can actually strap it to your wrist.
Girard-Perregaux made funky LED quartz watches like this back in the '70s, but it's somewhat unexpected for the high-end brand otherwise primarily focused on mechanical watchmaking today to bring them back — much less in a form that doubles down on its existing funkiness. The result of a partnership with Bamford Watch Department, the Casquette further stands out thanks to a case produced in carbon fiber and titanium.