Watches can be extremely valuable items. In this era, where technology has evolved incredibly in ways that are almost unbelievable to grasp, we’d think that classic timepieces would eventually fade with the changing times. Yet even with the snazziest, highly advanced digital watches that have emerged in this modern age, they stand incomparable to the extraordinary artistry of classic timepieces and may never come close to the exceptional craftsmanship that brought them to life.
While it’s no secret that the cost of these rare timepieces could reach unimaginable numbers, they’re genuinely priceless items in the eyes of watch enthusiasts and collectors.
Here, we’ve rounded up five luxury watches that are so rare that most of us may only be able to behold them through the screens of our gadgets. If you’re wondering why these wristwatches are immensely desired and why a single watch would ever cost a fortune and a half, scroll ahead to have all your questions answered!
Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010
Introducing the one and only Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010, a stainless-steel timepiece launched in 2014 as one of the seven pieces to honour the brand’s 175th anniversary. As one might expect, it’s no ordinary watch. The Grandmaster Chime is popularly known for being the most complicated wristwatch Patek Philippe has ever produced, boasting 20 complications, including Grande and Petite Sonnerie, a minute repeater, a calendar complete with a four-digit year display, a second time zone, a reversible case, and the list goes on—all compressed into a single 47.7mm x 16.07mm watch.
With such complexity, you could only imagine the amount of time spent bringing the Grandmaster Chime to life. I’ll save you the Google search: a whopping 100,000 hours. That’s 4166 days and 16 hours, totalling up to over 11 years. So it’s no surprise that only seven pieces were made. The Ref. 6300A-010, however, is especially unique amongst the seven for being a one-off piece, and it was sold at the 2019 Only Watch charity auction in Geneva for a staggering 31 million USD (RM146.8 million), breaking the record for the most expensive watch ever sold. What a way to commemorate the jubilee.
Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in Stainless Steel
Up next, we have yet another rare Patek Philippe piece, and it’s none other than the very iconic Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in Stainless Steel. Famed for being one of the most revolutionary watches ever made, the Ref. 1518 is the world’s first Perpetual Calendar Chronograph wristwatch to be manufactured, dating back to 1925, when it was introduced. From the steel bands to the classic minimalist details, the watch exudes a discreet, timeless elegance that has no need for ostentatious embellishments to speak for its legendary reputation. The Ref. 1518 is so iconic that it would be a crime not to include in this list. Even rarer than the Grandmaster Chime, Ref. 1518 in steel is limited to only four pieces and was made exclusively for the Italian market. Originally valued at three million USD, the piece was auctioned off for 11.1 million USD (52.7 million MYR) in 1943 and currently takes fourth place for the most expensive watches ever sold at an auction.
Looking at the Cartier Crash, you might’ve already guessed that it’s highly sought-after and, of course, rare—which would be an accurate guess. A popular favourite amongst celebrities, the unmistakable Cartier Crash was a collaborative design by Jean-Jacques Cartier and Rupert Emmerson in the late 1960s. Renowned for its unique distorted silhouette, the watch unintentionally resembles the famous surrealist melting clocks from the well-known The Persistence of Memory painting by Salvador Dali.
Although it has always been a remarkable piece since its inception, its demand especially skyrocketed over the recent years after it was spotted on the wrists of the most influential personalities, including Tyler The Creator, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and Jay-Z. With such big names flaunting the iconic watch, everyone—and I mean everyone—wanted to get their hands on the Cartier Crash. And so, Cartier reissued the piece with a modern twist in a limited batch of just 67 pieces starting at $36,000 thousand per piece. A vintage Cartier Crash, however, is worth seven figures. Earlier this year, an 18-karat yellow gold vintage piece was auctioned off for 1.65 million USD (RM7.8 million).
Vacheron Constantin Chronometre Royal Ref. 4907
The Vacheron Constantin Chronometre Royal Ref. 4907 is famous for being one of, if not the rarest, vintage timepieces the market has ever seen. To give you an idea of just how extremely rare the piece is, only One (1) has ever been seen at an auction, and it’s unknown how many were actually made, or if there are even others that exist. However, its extreme rarity is not the only factor that gained the piece such significant regard. Initially launched in the early 1900s, the Chronometre Royal collection is understood to be one of the first attempts at serial production of a precision timepiece and amongst the most refined timepieces ever made. Designed with 18k white gold with crocodile leather straps and a diameter spanning 35mm, although simple and uncomplicated, it’s truly unlike any other. In 2016, a very lucky collector was able to snag the timepiece at an auction for a good CHF 125,000 (RM593,000).
Alongside the beloved Cartier Crash, the Cartier Cheich is perhaps one of the coolest watches ever made. Although, unlike the iconic distorted piece, it’s believed that the Cartier Cheich is limited to only four pieces made in total, and its origins is certainly unlike most others. Designed in resemblance to the cloth worn by desert explorers to shield themselves from the sun, the Cheich was created as a winning prize for the impossible Cartier Challenge.
In the 1980s, Cartier’s then-CEO Alain Dominique Perrin and founder of the Paris-Dakar Rally, Thierry Sabine, came up with the legendary Cartier Challenge, dubbed one of the most difficult races in the world. Participants raced 9,978 kilometres across the Sahara Desert, starting from Paris, within three weeks before reaching the finish line in the Senegalese capital. If that wasn’t already gruelling enough, the reward was only given to the twice-in-a-row winner who used the same class of vehicle in both rounds.
In 1985, BMX motorcyclist Gaston Rahier made the impossible possible, earning him the well-deserved unique timepiece. One of the four was gifted to Sabine, which is believed to be lost for good, and the other two were never awarded and kept securely in the Cartier archive, never to be sold.
Since then, the Cartier Chiech had slipped away from the world for nearly four decades—until May of 2022 that is. The piece won by the late Rahier, who only wore it once, was featured on the market for the first time ever at the Fine Watches online auction in Paris and was sold for $1.1 million (RM5.2 million).
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