I will focus on just five of the most insightful watches I have come across, based on my personal views and feelings.
Also, you are going to find some very different market values in there. I mean, watches which are worth a King’s ransom, and others which are instead affordable almost for a Baron. But hey, you have asked for “most prestigious”, right?
I will start with something you cannot buy, but it represents an awesome technical feat, and marks the state of the art of horology as a research field. And I am talking about the, presented at the SIHH 2018. As you probably know, Piaget has always been famous for its ultra-thin watches. But with this concept, it has surpassed itself: the whole watch is just 2 mm thick. Not the movement – the whole watch.
It is awe-inspiring to see this. Mindblowing. A mechanical watch so thin that Piaget had to perfect a special alloy of steel, additioned with cobalt, which is characterized by its rigidity so to avoid any king of axial torsion that would destroy the minute and absolutely precise wheel train.
By the way, a regular Piaget Altiplano 900 P series, at 38 mm, which is the closest you can get to this stunner, will cost you from 20.000 to 30.000 USD, depending on the case metal.
Now, I would like to introduce you to something really extraordinary – and let’s admit it, very difficult to wear. A watch that would really surprise everyone you meet, because it features a songbird automaton inside the watch.
And I am talking about the Jaquet Droz Charming Bird. It features a small automaton of a bird which moves, chirps and fultters its wings inside the “cage” – and its chirping can be set to mark the time. Beware it would cost you ten times the price of the Altiplano 900P I have talked about above.
The Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4 – a beast of a watch, featuring 36 complications, 25 of them visible, 1,483 components, and a 1000-year calendar, maybe is the most complicated and costly wristwatch of all the planet.
And it costs – errrr – 9 times the Jaquet Droz above – for a cool 2.7 million USD
Now, no list of amazing watches would be complete without citing the work of Richard Mille. His watches are extreme, impossible, amazing, and often so far out of normality as to become a sort of mere exercise of style in horology.
And, of course, they are absurdly expensive. But they are like having a F1 wrapped around your wrist, when you are used to drive maybe a Lexus, or even a Lambo. RMs are so out of the ordinary as to be radically different, and you can see it from their style and the technical solutions they employ. For example, this Richard Mille RM018 Boucheron features a wheel train made in semi-precious stones (which have required a research of three years to be cut in this way), that you can clearly see through the skeletonized movement. The price of this amazing watch lies over the 1 million mark, for the onyx edition studded with baguette cut diamonds, so it comes almost affordable if you consider the Franck Muller above.
I would like to close this shortpresentation by showing a true Grail watch, made by independent master watchmaker Kari Voutilainen – the Observatoire.
It is an extremely rare piece of horology, as only 50 units have been made. Voutilainen, one of the best-known independent watchmakers, crafted this gem in 2008 around a heavily modified Peseux 260 ebauche. The dial is enriched by the three different guilloche patterns, which give it a sense of depth which is almost astounding. As you can easily understand, it looks simple, almost understated – but it’s effectively almost priceless.
You can find much more about horology and its fascinating history in The Watch Manual, a thorough e-book that explains all the basics about watchmaking and its protagonists.