I had someone ask me the other day on a sunset boat cruise why Chanel bags are so expensive. I found myself explaining the virtues of the brand’s quality of materials, impeccable craftsmanship, incredibly rich heritage and classic yet cutting-edge design. The next day, I found myself wearing a very expensive watch that I was borrowing to review and photograph. Someone asked me about it and when I said it was a $120,000 watch, his eyes grew two sizes larger. He asked why and I found myself repeating the Chanel handbag story, but in much greater detail.
You see, watches that cost $100,000 and more are all about the heritage and knowledge passed down from generation to generation. They are all about top-quality materials, not just for the cases and bracelets, but for the movement components as well. The same is true of the classic but cutting-edge designs – where some of the finest watchmakers in the world are constantly reinventing the proverbial wheel and developing new, space-age-looking mechanics that boggle the mind with their performance and precision.
All watches are not created equal and those that retail for oodles of money are a cut above the rest. Sure, some of them are dripping in diamonds or gemstones and that makes them incredibly high priced, but others are all about what’s inside the watch. These are the ones that watch collectors dream about, and often are the ones the richest people in the world who love watches snap up as soon as they become available on the market. This may mean being on a waiting list, or it may mean being one of the “chosen” ones when it comes to a one-of-a-kind or extremely limited edition. Make friends with the right brand, buy a lot of its watches over the course of several years and you never know – one day you might be that uber-rich person buying that incredibly expensive masterpiece for the wrist.
Here we take a look at five watches new this year that the wealthiest watch lovers in the world hope to get their hands on.
Independent Swiss watch brand MB&F is on every collector’s radar. The brand is always releasing incredible new three-dimensional timepieces in space-age-like shapes or in cases that resemble owls, dogs, frogs, and other animals. The mechanics inside these Horological Machines are equally as outrageous. This year’s Horological Machine No. 9 (HM9) Sapphire Vision watch boasts a sapphire case that allows for viewing of the complicated movement, complete with two balances, from any angle. The cylindrical tube at the front of the watch displays the hours and minutes. Building a sapphire case of such complexity takes hundreds of hours of milling with diamond tools.
Price: USD 440,000
Hublot Big Bang MP -11 Blue Sapphire
Another brand that is all about research and development is Hublot. This year, the Swiss brand unveils the Big Bang MP -11 Blue Sapphire watch with a case made entirely in-house in the brand’s research laboratory. Creating new colors of sapphire is no easy feat, but Hublot has accomplished this beautifully. In fact, this year it also released orange sapphire. The Big Bang MP-11 with transparent pale blue sapphire case houses a high-tech movement, also made in-house, that allows for 14 days of power reserve.
This year, Swiss watch brand Jaeger-LeCoultre celebrates 90 years of the famed Reverso watch that boasts a case that swivels in a cradle to reveal a second dial. To celebrate the watch that was originally made in 1931 for polo players, Jaeger-LeCoultre released the world’s first watch with four faces on a double-faced case and a double-faced cradle. Called the Reverso Hybris Mechanica Caliber 185 Quadriptyque, the watch incorporates 11 complications including a minute repeater, perpetual calendar, and complex celestial indications, and boasts 12 patents. It is the most complicated Reverso watch ever built by the brand. It also offers three lunar displays (including the synodic cycle, draconic cycle, and anomalistic cycle) that have never been presented together on a wristwatch. The movement was six years in the making.
Price: USD 1,600,000
Richard Mille RM60-01 Automatic Flyback Les Voiles de St. Barth
The all-new RM60-01 Automatic Flyback Les Voiles de St. Barth Limited edition watch by Richard Mille just made its debut in June 2021. Created in honor of the regatta that the brand has sponsored for years, the new timepiece is an Automatic Flyback Chronograph, which means that when one event is done being timed, the hand automatically flies back to the start position to begin timing again without the need for human intervention. The watch is powered by the RMAC2 Caliber and offers an oversized date display as well as a calendar. More importantly, it offers the orientation of both the North and South Hemispheres. The Universal Time hand is placed pointing toward the sun and the rotating bezel, crafted in Carbon TPT®, can be set for the hand to indicate the local hour on the bezel. The 60-minute countdown timer at 9:00 offers additional nautical inspiration. Just 80 pieces will be made.
Price: USD 210,000
Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Split Second Chronograph
Vacheron Constantin unveiled a host of complicated watches this year that would make any collector’s heart thump. But it is the Traditionnelle Split Second Chronograph Ultra-Thin powered by an incredible complex caliber that stands out. Being built in a limited edition of just 15 pieces, the watch is powered by the ultra-thin self-winding movement, caliber 3500, that consists of 473 parts. The 42.5mm platinum watch offers a split-second chronograph with a 60-minute counter that allows for the timing of events that begin at the same time but have different ending times (like a horse race). This is one of the most difficult complications to build and requires hundreds of hours of hand finishing and assembly. One of the nuances of this movement, that enables the brand to achieve its ultra-thinness, is a peripheral gold rotor that wraps around the outer part of the movement instead of a traditional rotor.
Price: USD 288,000
About the Author
Roberta Naas is a veteran watch and jewelry journalist who began her career in the early 1980’s, and was the first female watch journalist in the United States. She is the editor and founder of the authoritative watch blog, ATimelyPerspective, has written six books on watches, writes for numerous consumer publications (including Forbes and Elite Traveler) – and always brings forth in her work the essence of what makes watches tick. She tirelessly travels the world in search of watch news and stories that she turns into compelling and enlightening articles.