Top 5 Expensive Watches Ever Sold in The World
Top 5 Expensive Watches Ever Sold in The World

Luxury watches are some of the most sought-after and admired pieces of technology. Combining the best in craftsmanship, history, and design, price tags can soar into the millions. From a $55 million colorful diamond wristwatch to a timepiece commissioned for the French queen Marie Antoinette in the 1700s, we have put together a list of record-breaking timepieces.

Recent Surge in Prices

In total, the top five most expensive wristwatches ever sold at auction have brought in more than $100 million dollars, with Patek Philippe comfortably contributing the lion’s share. If pocket watches are also taken into consideration, the number increases by a substantial magnitude; Patek Philippe’s famed Henry Grave’s Supercomplication alone sold for $24 million in 2014.

You may be surprised to learn, however, that seven-figure watch results achieved at auction are a relatively recent phenomenon. In fact, every watch on the list, with the exception of one, was sold in just the last five years. This of course begs the question: What has led to this seemingly sudden surge in value in the luxury watch market, and is it likely to continue?

Most Expensive Watches: Attributing Value

When it comes to attributing value to luxury watches, several factors come into play, ranging from the piece’s scarcity and complexity to its historical or cultural significance, and of course its provenance. There is also the temperature of the market, which is red-hot right now and shows no signs of cooling. This has been fuelled by the fact that a number of significant pieces have all come to market at around roughly the same time (within the last decade).

Yet with so many of the world’s most desirable watches changing hands in the last few years, scholars are now scratching their heads as to what could possibly come next? It’s exciting to imagine that there could still be a few unicorns out there that perhaps only a handful of people (or less) even know the existence of.

What are the top 5 most expensive watches ever sold?

1. Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, 2019

2. Henry Graves Supercomplication, 1932

3. Paul Newman ‘Exotic’ Daytona, 1968

4. Stainless Steel Patek Philippe, 1953

5. Gobbi Milan “Heures Universelles,” 1953


Top 5 most expensive watches ever sold in the world

1. Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, 2019

Top 5 Expensive Watches Ever Sold in The World
Photo: giabaoluxury

Price realized: CHF 31,000,000 (USD 31,194,000)

Estimate: CHF 2,500,000 – 3,000,000

Auction Venue: Christie’s, Geneva, 09 November 2019, Lot 28

#1: the most expensive watch of all time. The Grandmaster Chime ref. 6300 is the most complicated watch Patek currently makes, with 20 complications including 5 chiming modes. This is the only one in stainless steel (hence the name, the ‘Only One’, which even features on the dial) – but it’s not just the case material and dial that makes this timepiece special.

The ‘Only One’ was created specifically for Only Watch: a biennial charity watch auction that supports research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The world’s top watchmakers create exotic, special, typically one-off watches for the auction in order to raise the most money for charity, and this was Patek’s 2019 entry.

$31 million on a watch is excessive, but when you consider that the bulk of that went to charity, it makes it a little easier to justify. We guess.

2. Henry Graves Supercomplication, 1932

Top 5 Expensive Watches Ever Sold in The World
Photo: monochrome-watches.

Price realized: CHF 23,237,000 (USD 23,983,000)

Auction Venue: Sotheby’s, Geneva, 11 November 2014, Lot 345

Known seller: Private collector

One of the most complicated mechanical pockets watches ever created, the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication was named after American banker Henry Graves Jr. It is said that Graves, who was determined to outdo the Grande Complication created by Vacheron Constantin for James Ward Packard, commissioned the incredible timepiece.

After almost 10 years in the making, the 18-karat gold watch was presented to in 1933, whereupon he decided to keep the purchase discreet, fearing the dangers of kidnapping and theft. Containing 920 individual parts, the watch has 24 complications, including timekeeping, calendar, chronograph, and chiming functions, such as celestial charts, alarms, and power reserves.

When the utterly unique timepiece sold at Christie’s in 2014 for over $24m, it broke all auction result records. No other watches even came close, until 2019…

3. Paul Newman ‘Exotic’ Daytona, 1968

Top 5 Expensive Watches Ever Sold in The World
Photo: chrono24

Price realized: USD 17,752,500

Estimate: USD 1,000,000 – 2,000,000

Auction Venue: Phillips, New York, 26 October 2017, Lot 8

Known seller: Watch collector, James Cox

It’s perhaps fitting that the only non-Patek in the top 5 most expensive watches of all time is a Rolex. Rolex is easily the world’s biggest watch brand as well as perhaps the world’s most valuable brand full stop. It’s a byword for luxury, success, and exclusivity… And this is the most exclusive (and famous) Rolex of all time.

Paul Newman’ Daytonas, named after the American actor, race car driver, and salad dressing mogul who popularised the watch, are unbelievably popular, but this one takes the cake: it’s one of only a few actually owned by Paul Newman, and the only only “exotic”-dialed one (i.e. the only ‘Paul Newman’ Paul Newman Rolex).

It’s even got an engraving on the back that reads “DRIVE SAFELY – ME”. Talk about a Holy Grail

4. Stainless Steel Patek Philippe, 1953

Top 5 Expensive Watches Ever Sold in The World
Photo: moneyinc

Price realized: CHF 11,002,000 (USD 11,137,000)

Auction Venue: Phillips, Geneva, 12 November 2016, Lot 38

Cased in high-grade stainless steel, 1518 is the first in a limited edition four-piece series by Patek Phillipe.

Selling at auction for $11 million, 1518 is different from most other Patek luxury watches, which are made of rose or yellow gold because it’s the only perpetual Patek calendar chronograph made of steel.

Single-button chronographs produced by Patek Philippe are exceedingly rare and are almost always cased in precious metal. Manufactured in 1927, only two examples of the Patek Philippe Ref. 130 in stainless steel are known to exist. One is on permanent display in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, Switzerland, while the other was sold by Phillips for $4,771,582 in 2015. Rarity was a major contributor to the price achieved, as was the fact that this particular watch had only changed owners twice in the last 25 years and was presented in unrestored, original condition, which cements this remarkable timepiece as the tenth most expensive watch ever sold.

5. Gobbi Milan “Heures Universelles,” 1953

Top 5 Expensive Watches Ever Sold in The World
Photo: dodalc

Price realized: HKD 70,175,000 (USD 8,967,000)

Estimate: HKD 55,000,000 – 110,000,000

Auction Venue: Christie’s, Hong Kong, 23 November 2019, Lot 2201

The bright blue dial and pink gold case make this Patek Philippe wristwatch an instant head-turner. Although it is thought that the brand made a total of three timepieces of these timepieces, there is only one other known example, making it incredibly rare.

With both Roman and Arabic numbering systems, diurnal and nocturnal hours, and a revolving ring bearing the name of 40 major cities, the watch is multi-functional without being overwhelmingly complicated.

The design, craftsmanship, and technological supremacy of this watch embody the golden age of Patek Philippe, which is widely considered to have been the 1950s. It was called “a collector’s dream come true” by Christie’s auction house, a dream that came true for one enthusiast for the monumental auction result of almost $9m.

What decides the price of a watch?

1. Brand

Perhaps beginning with the obvious, well-known brands will come with higher price tags, even second-hand watches. Rolex, Breitling, Omega, and other prominent luxury watch brands will maintain their value, partly due to the well-established brand name and partly due to the quality of their products. As a general rule, brands with their own movements or complications are not only more valuable but will also retain their value better over time.

2. Condition

How well the watch has stood the test of time, so to speak, is an important factor in determining value. A pristine condition watch will, of course, have a higher value than one in poor condition. It’s important to look for not only damage, scratches, etc but also if there are any missing decorative elements, embellishments, or parts. Are all parts original? Does the watch function properly? Even the service history can play a role in determining the condition, and the value, of your watch.

3. Rarity

Not only are watches produced in limited editions, but anything that isn’t seen much can be more valuable. Perhaps you’ve noticed that, unlike other collectibles and investments, ‘age’ isn’t included in this list. An older watch isn’t more valuable by nature than simply being old however, age can affect the rarity which therefore may add value. If a watch has survived many years in good condition and is one of just a few of its kind left, this can also add value.

4. Patina

Another factor that will be affected by age is the patina of a watch and if it shows up in the right way, patina can add value. When a watch ages naturally, the patina creates color on a dial for example, which makes the watch unique and gives it character. Collectors and watch enthusiasts appreciate this unique touch that can only come with age and therefore a proper patina will increase the value of a watch.

5. Completeness

If the accompanying box and papers are available, they will most certainly add value to a watch. A complete set will always be worth more than a watch on its own, missing the papers and/or the box.

6. Celebrity

Celebrity association also increases watch value. If a celebrity has actually worn the watch you are appraising, then the provenance will add value, but this is not the only time when a celebrity association will add value to a watch. Take for example the Steve McQueen Rolex. It’s really nothing more than a Rolex Submariner, and in the 70s, Rolex actually removed them from stores because they were not selling. After Steve McQueen was spotted sporting a Submariner in the 1971 film ‘Le Mans’, the watches began selling again for around €1,600 in today’s currency. Nowadays they are worth up to €200,000 or more, all thanks to their celebrity association.

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