There’s a fascination that watch collectors tend to have with the cost of a watch. There’s the obvious practical reality of how much you want or are willing to spend on a timepiece. But after being involved in watch collecting for so many years now I’ve noticed there’s another type of fascination in regards to price tags: How high can you go – what are the most expensive watches out there?
Most Expensive Watches From Auction
Most Expensive Watches From Retail
There’s an odd curiosity and almost an strong urge to push the envelope not necessarily with how much you as an individual can spend, but rather how high a price tag can go simply for the sake of knowing. That’s something I wanted to explore and showcase in this piece. Below you’ll find the most expensive watches out there in two categories: watches from auction and watches that can be purchased (or ordered) by retail. As we jump in, it’s important to understand that generally, it’s these three criteria that inform how expensive a watch can be:
- Simple enough, the less examples of a watch that exist, generally the higher the price tag. Rarity and exclusivity tends to be a very large drive in the most expensive watches you’ll see from auction.
- Whether it’s precious metals or alternative case materials like sapphire or even silicon parts, the materials that go into a watch generally have an impact on the cost of that watch. While there are generally some auction examples of this, more often than not you’ll see retail watches driving higher price tags from material usage (especially if it’s a timepiece that features precious gems)
- Skill To Craft:
- Skilled labor and craftmanship deserves to be compensated properly. As such you’ll generally see a correlation between more technical and complicated pieces also being some of the most expensive watches on this list. You’ll see this across both auction and retail pieces.
- This is something that tends to be a bit more difficult to predict or quantify – and it’s really something that’s only a consideration for expensive watches from auctions. But the story that is attached to a timepiece can have an incredible impact on its price. The legacy or story behind a watch or the watch owner can make the difference between simply owning another timepiece and potentially owning a piece of history.
Most Expensive Watches From Auctions (From Least To Most)
Below please find a breakdown of the most expensive watches recorded from auction. You’ll find the watch name/reference along with the auction house listed and any relevant notes in regards to the watches story as well as any relevant complications.
Patek Philippe Titanium Ref. 5208T-010 | Price: $6,739,000
|Auction House / Year / City:||Christie’s / 2017 / Geneva|
This model was created specifically for the Only Watches 2017 auction. It also features a very uncommon usage of titanium, which isn’t a traditional metal for Patek Philippe to use.
Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711/1A-018 Tiffany & Co. | Price: $6,500,000
|Auction House / Year / City:||Phillips / 2021 / New York|
This is the first time a Patek Philippe Nautilus featured a lacquered dial in Tiffany Blue.
Patek Philippe Stainless Steel Ref. 5016A-010 | Price: $7,259,000
|Auction House / Year / City:||Phillips / 2015 / Geneva|
This model was originally produced from 1993 – 2011 but this one of a kind piece was created in stainless steel for the Only Watches 2015 auction.
Patek Philippe Two-Crown World Time Ref. 2523 Eurasia | Price: $7,650,000
|Auction House / Year / City:||Phillips / 2017 / Geneva|
|Material:||18K Yellow Gold|
One of only 3 Patek Philippe Worldtime 2523 “Euroasia” models in yellow gold to exist.
Patek Philippe Gobbi Milan “Heures Universelles” Ref. 2523 | Price: $8,967,000
|Auction House / Year / City:||Christie’s / 2019 / Hong Kong|
|Material:||18K Pink Gold|
One of only 7 World Time 2523 movements to exist in 18K pink gold and it is the only known model to feature both Patek Philippe’s branding and that of Gobbi Milan (a retailer).
Patek Philippe Prince Mohammed Tewfik A. Toussou Pink Gold Ref. 1518 | Price: $9,500,000
|Auction House / Year / City:||Sotheby’s / 2021 / New York|
|Material:||18K Pink Gold|
The personal wrist watch of Prince Mohammed Tewfik A. Toussou of Egypt. The watch was discovered forgotten in a safety deposit box, which contributed to it’s remarkably preserved condition. The 1518 reference is the first standard production perpetual calendar from the brand and it is one of only 13 instances of the pink dial in the pink gold case.
Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in Stainless Steel | Price: $11,137,000
|Auction House / Year / City:||Phillips / 2016 / Geneva|
This particular 1518 reference is so rare due to the fact that it was produced in stainless steel. Stainless steel 1518 references are so rare that Patek doesn’t even have one included in their museum.
Newman Rolex Daytona Ref. 6230 | Price: $17,753,000
|Auction House / Year / City:||Phillips / 2017 / New York|
The original Paul Newman Daytona worn by the actor and race car driver – it is seen most prominently on his wrist in many well known-media appearances. The watch was a gift from Joanne Woodward and the caseback features the inscription “Drive Carefully Me.”
Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication | Price: $23,983,000
|Auction House / Year / City:||Sotheby’s / 2014 / Geneva|
Commissioned by Henry Graves Jr. in 1925 and completed in 1933, the watch featured the most complications of any timepiece in existence until the Caliber 89 was released by Patek Philippe in 1989.
Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010 | Price: $31,200,000
|Auction House / Year / City:||Christie’s / 2019 / Geneva|
One of a kind, this is the only Grandmaster Chime in stainless steel and was made specifically for the 2019 Only Watch Auction
Most Expensive Watches From Retail (From Least to Most)
There are some interesting nuances to keep in mind as we discuss the most expensive watches from retail. For my own personal take on the topic, I focused on timepieces that were generally expensive due to material innovation, craftsmanship, and complications. I generally avoided anything with a high price tag simply because it was covered in precious gemstones. The other piece to keep in mind is that most of the time many of these brands don’t officially release the pricing for watches in these price ranges. The prices I’ve shared below are the product of research and a deep dive on empirical projections that I’ve collected. As such, it’s possible for these prices to change over time in which case if that happens we’ll do our best to update these items below.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Grande Complication (26571OR.OO.A002CA.01) | Price: $900,000
|Material:||18K Pink Gold (but other Royal Oak Offshore models do feature different materials)|
While the Royal Oak Offshore line from AP is noticeably larger than the traditional Royal Oak catalog, the Offshore line also tends to encompass some of the more expensive offerings from the iconic Swiss brand.
More often than not this higher price tag is generally driven by the use of non-traditional materials (like ceramic), precious metals, and caliber complications. As such, generally the most expensive Royal Oak Offshore models are included in the Grande Complication category and are generally priced anywhere from $700,000 USD to $900,000 USD.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel 5253420 | Price: $900,000
This particular JLC Gyrotourbillon is one of the latest installments in a long line of timepieces in the brand’s Master Grande linage – it’s also the most expensive at approximately $900,000 USD.
The higher price tag is undoubtedly driven by the nuanced and very skilled craftmanship that contributed to the movement. Featuring a perpetual calendar, gyrotourbillon, and a minute repeater, this JLC Gyrotourbillon isn’t easily forgotten. That’s also chiefly facilitated by the fact that the minute repeater uses 4 sets of hammers and gongs to create the iconic Westminster chime. The JLC Master Grande Grande Gyrotourbillon is also cased in white gold.
Jacob and Co Astronomia Tourbillon Baguette | Price: $1,000,000
Jacob and Co is an American-based watch and jewelry manufacturer founded by Jacob Arbos. The brand specializes in very detailed, finely crafted, and extremely expensive luxury goods. But when you look past the precious metals and the diamonds, there is some incredibly intriguing horology at work here – such is the case with the Jacob and Co Astronomia Tourbillon Baguette line.
Featuring many different variations, the Astronomia line is one of the most recognizable timepieces from the American brand – the spinning tourbillon mechanism tends to be mesmerizing and seeing it once basically means you’re not going to forget it. Depending on the model you’re looking at, the Astronomia line can range anywhere from a few hundred thousand dollars (USD) to one million dollars (USD).
Jacob and Co Astronomia Flawless Imperial Dragon (AT125.80.DR.UA.B) | Price: $1,500,000
Jacob and Co’s Flawless Imperial Dragon strives to combine intricate fine art with unique watchmaking finesse. The Manhattan-based watch brand claims that the dragoon sculpture which sits at the heart of the timepiece takes precisely 3 full months to complete – having to be worked on initially by the sculptor and hen completed by the painter.
The entire case and crystal are made from sapphire which allows you to see the detailed dragon and unique Jacob and Co. caliber from nearly all angles. Clearly not really the best watch to tell time on, but certainly an interesting conversation starter at $1,500,000.
Richard Mille RM 56-02 Sapphire | Price: $2,000,000
|Materials:||Sapphire and Titanium|
The Richard Mille RM 56 line was first introduced in 2011 and it represented a new milestone for the brand with the use of clear sapphire for the watch case. Over the years the RM 56 line has evolved further until the model we’re focusing on was created – the RM 56-02.
The 56-02 continues the brand’s innovative use of Sapphire but it also takes the movement suspension technology from the RM 27-01 Rafael Nadal and applies it to the sapphire case. As such what we get is the striking clarity of a totally clear sapphire case along with the robust reliability of an iconic cable suspended movement to reduce shocks from sudden impacts and movements.
A. Lange & Sohne Grand Complication (912.032) | Price: $2,500,000
|Material:||18K Pink Gold|
First introduced in 2013, the A. Lange & Sohne Grand Complication (ref. 912.032) is acknowledged as the most complicated wrist watch from this iconic German brand. The inspiration for the 912.032 Grand Complication was the No. 42500 pocket watch from 1902, which is why the overall presentation of the dial as well as some lines of the case shape are slightly evocative of an antique pocket watch.
While being inspired may have its pros, there are also some cons – like the fact that the watch is 20mm thick and 50mm in diameter width. But, at approximately $2,500,000, no one would argue that this watch was both one of the most expensive watches on earth but also totally due it’s praise and an accomplishment in modern watchmaking.
Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4 | Price: $2,700,000
|Material:||18K White Gold|
Dubbed the most complicated wristwatch currently on the market, the Frank Muller Aeternitas Mega 4 features 36 complications ranging from a moon phase to the ever-obscure Equation of Time complication. The mastermind behind this incredible Franck Muller innovation is Pierre-Michel Golay. Golay, an horology veteran with experience working at Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and with designer Gérald Genta.
In 2002 Golay left retirement behind to pursue the Aeternitas Mega 4 project with Franck Muller – most notably, Golay did not use any digital assisted design or computer graphics software to design this watch. Instead he opted for what he was comfortable using, which was sheets of A3 paper, a pencil, and ruler, and a compass – impressive considering he designed the most complicated wristwatch on earth with these humble tools.
Patek Philippe Grand Complications Sky-Moon Tourbillon (6002R) | Price: $8,000,000
The intricately crafted and dual sided Patek Philippe Grande Complications Sky-Moon Tourbillion is one of the most recognizable pieces amongst the brand’s offerings. The detailing of the main front dial is accentuated by the Feu chamlevé and cloisonné enameling technique, which is then itself complimented by the applied gold Roman numerals. The back of the timepiece shows the night sky from the point of view of the Northern Hemisphere, which is where the astronomical complications of the watch are featured.
The near entirety of the rose gold case features a finely detailed baroque style engraving – even the hands feature this distinctive engraving detail. The engraving alone is said to take approximately 100 hours of dedicated work, which is sure adding to the $8,000,000 price tag of the watch on top of all the complications.
Vacheron Constantin 57260 “Tivoli” | Price: $10,000,000 – $20,000,000
|Complications P1: Time Telling|
|Complications P2: Alarm Function|
|Complications P3: Westminster Carillon Striking Chimes|
|Complications P4: Hebrew Perpetual Calendar|
|Complication P5: Gregorian Perpetual Calendar|
Boasting a staggering 57 complications, the Vacheron Constantin 57260 “Tivoli” is currently the most complicated timepiece in the world. At 98mm in diameter and 50mm thick, this timepiece is incredibly large and it’s essentially fashioned as a pocket watch (that probably won’t fit in your pocket any time soon). But the everyday wearing- and carrying-comfort of the watch was of little concern. The original Ref. 57260 was commissioned to JLC by an anonymous client who had one single demand: to have the world’s most complicated watch made just for him – Vacheron Constantin did not disappoint.
Planning, designing, and crafting the watch took about 8 years. The timepiece itself features over 2800 individual parts and pieces and both dials have a combined 31 hands. Also, in case you actually made it through the entire list of complications above, that’s not even everything that’s included in the watch. The pricing here is also interesting – while no official price has ever been released, it’s speculated that the Vacheron Constantin 57260 could cost between $10,000,000 and $20,000,000.
Kaz has been collecting watches since 2015, but he’s been fascinated by product design, the Collector’s psychology, and brand marketing his whole life. While sharing the same strong fondness for all things horologically-affordable as Mike (his TBWS partner in crime), Kaz’s collection niche is also focused on vintage Soviet watches as well as watches that feature a unique, but well-designed quirk or visual hook.