To watch enthusiasts, these timepieces are not only an accessory but also as an engineering marvel. These watches prove that amazing things come in small packages. Some of these pieces are the most complicated watches in the world and took years to design and build. They may not be covered in diamonds, but their value most valuable watches ever is astonishing.
13. Jaeger LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica Grande Sonnerie — $2.5 Million
Antoine LeCoultre founded the Switzerland based luxury watch brand, Jaeger LeCoultre, in 1833. The Hybris Mechanica Grande Sonnerie was once the world’s most complicated timepiece. This watch contains Calibre 182 movement, 26 complications, and 1,300 parts, all contained in an 18-karat white gold case.
This timepiece took five years from the design through completion. The watch has 13 patents pending for its technical design and is valued at $2,500,000.
12. A. Lange & Sohne’s Grand Complication — $2.6 Million
This A. Lange & Sohne timepiece is so complicated that it took seven years to design. The German luxury watch brand, founded in 1845, only intends to create six of these watches, one per year beginning in 2014. In fact, it takes the watchmakers the entire year to complete just one of the 876 component Grand Complications. A. Lange & Sohne chooses to use a ‘double assembly’ technique which means that after each timepiece has been finished, it is taken apart, and reassembled to ensure each piece is working perfectly in harmony.
The timepiece features an enamel dial, solid rose gold case, gold hour and minute hands, a blued-steel second hand, and a hand-stitched crocodile leather strap. Every detail on this 50mm diameter face is hand-finished and hand-engraved.
The most complicated feature of this watch is the “sonnerie” which is a gong striking mechanism. The ‘grand strike’ occurs every hour, and the ‘small strike’ occurs every quarter-hour; both were tuned completely by hand. This is possibly one of the most complex functions for a watch ever.
The Grand Complication is valued between $2,490,000 and $2,600,000.
11. Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4 — $2.7 Million
The Aeternitas Mega 4 is the most complicated wristwatch ever made, in the entire world. This watch earned the title from its 36 distinct complications, and the 1,483 individual components. The watch also boasts a hand-sewn alligator strap and an 18-karat white gold case. The rectangular face measures 42mm wide and 61mm long.
This Frank Muller masterpiece features perpetual day, date, month, and moon calendars. The watch is so skillfully constructed that the lunar calendar has an error of only 6.8 seconds per lunar month. This type of accuracy means that there is a deviation of only one day every 1,000 years, compared to the traditional system where the error is once every four years. This detailed timepiece took over 5 years to design and create and was sold for $2,700,000 at a private event in Monaco in 2009.
10. Patek Philippe 1953 Heures Universelles Model 2523 — $2.9 Million
Patek Philippe & Co is a Swiss ultra-luxury watch brand founded in 1851. Patek Philippe is known for their incredibly engineered timepieces that are not only technical marvels but beautiful pieces of art as well.
This Patek Philippe 1953 Heures Universelles Model 2523 features an 18-karat gold case and a hand-stitched crocodile leather strap. The hour and minute hands are also 18-karat gold and float above a map of North America. The 35.5mm face features the ability to tell time in 42 different cities worldwide.
This watch was sold in 2006 for $2,899,373.
9. Patek Philippe 1895/1927 Yellow Gold Minute Repeating — $3 Million
This vintage watch was part of the Henry Graves, Jr. collection; the watch even bears the coat of arms of the Graves family. The case of this watch also dates back to 1895, while the case is from 1927. The watch features blued-steel hands on a yellow gold face. The strap is hand-stitched crocodile leather.
This Patek Philippe is the most expensive watch ever sold at a Sotheby’s auction. The watch had a reserve price of only $600,000, but was sold for $2,994,000. The winning bid was five the reserve price.
8. Blancpain Le Brassus Tourbillon Carrousel — $3.85 Million
This Le Brassus Tourbillon Carrousel is a revolutionary watch, created by the Blancpain brand, founded in 1735 and currently owned by the Swatch Group. This timepiece is the first to use a combination of the two gravity-fighting methods: Tourbillion and Carrousel, as featured in the watch’s name. Blancpain is the first watchmaker in horological history to ever combine both Tourbillon and Carrousel. The combination of these two methods allows for impressive precision, along with a seven-day power reserve.
The watch face features a flying tourbillon at 12 o’clock, a flying carrousel at 6 o’clock, as well as a date display dial at 3 o’clock. The 379 parts are enclosed within the 44.6mm, 18 karat rose gold case. The strap is made of alligator leather with an alzavel lining.
This beautiful timepiece is priced at $3,850,000.
7. Patek Philippe ref. 5004T — $4 Million
This is a one of a kind Patek Philippe watch, custom made for a charity auction. The ref. 5004 series was officially discontinued, but the watchmakers produced a special version of series to auction off at the Only Watch event in 2013.
The watch was incredibly unique with its 36.7mm titanium case and sporty design. The engineering behind the watch mirrors that of a grand complication design. The features include 12-hour split second chronograph, moon phase dial, and a perpetual calendar.
In 2013 this watch was sold for $3,985,067 at auction. The auction was the Only Watch event in Monaco, which donates 100% of its proceeds to support the Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy medical charity.
6. Patek Philippe 1939 Platinum World Time — $4 Million
This is one of the oldest Patek Philippe wristwatches in the world. The platinum face features the ability to tell the time in multiple different time zones worldwide. Besides the observable features of this vintage watch, other details remain unknown. It has been speculated that this is one of the only watches of its kind still in existence.
This timepiece did sell for $4,026,524 at Antiquorum in 2002.
5. Louis Moinet “Meteoris” Series — $4.6 Million
Louis Moinet, the French watchmaking company founded in 1806, is credited with the invention of the chronograph. Because of this technical advance, watches were able to grow more complex while still providing their basic use, telling time.
This four watch series features 47mm faces, alligator leather bands, and cases constructed from about 50 different parts. The watch faces have sapphire crystals and one-minute tourbillon manually wound movements. There is also a partially skeletonized main spring barrel that works as a 72-hour power reserve indicator. Each one of the four watches boasts detailed faces featuring a different interstellar material. The materials include a meteorite from Mars, a meteorite from Mercury, an asteroid, and a meteorite from the moon.
The Mars watch features the material from a meteorite called “Jiddat al Haraiss 479”, which was found in Oman and was verified by the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. 56 baguette-cut diamonds surround the watch face, total weight equaling 3.46 carats.
The Rosetta Stone watch features material from the Sahara 99555 stone, which was nicknamed ‘Rosetta Stone’. The material was found on earth, but is thought to have originated from Mercury upon examination by the Institute for Planetology of Munster, Germany. The material is said to be 4.5662 billion years old, making this the oldest material ever found on earth. The dial is comprised of rose gold to help accent the meteorite material.
The next watch in the series is The Asteroid. The stone material is from an asteroid named Itqiy, found in the Western Sahara desert. University of Arizona, Tucson, worked to authenticate the material and believe that the asteroid originated near the sun. The material is complemented by the 18-karat white gold case, and diamond surrounding the face. The last watch in the series is The Moon watch. This watch features material from a meteorite, Dhofar 459, found on Earth, in Oman. The material was verified by UCLA, and is believed to be from the Moon.
The rarity of these watches is evident from their interstellar materials, as well as the craftsmanship and attention to detail poured into each of these timepieces by the 200-year old watchmaking company. The price for any of the four watches in the series is between $4,600,000 and $4,900,000.
4. Breguet & Fils, Paris, No. 2667 Precision — $4.7 Million
Breguet is a Swiss luxury watchmaker founded in 1775 by Abraham-Louis Breguet, however, the company is now a part of the Swatch Group. This Paris, No. 2667 Precision pocket watch sold for 5,000 francs back in 1814. The value of this elegant timepiece has skyrocketed over the past 200 years.
The 18-karat gold pocket watch features two movements and boasts a diameter of 63.7mm. The timepiece is now worth $4,700,000.
3. Patek Philippe 1943 Watch ref. 1527 — $5.7 Million
This vintage Patek Philippe was made between 1943 and 1944. The timepiece features many design aspects that preceded similar Patek design choices by at least a decade. The watch face measures 37.6mm, which is unusually large for that time period. Another unique feature are the elongated and slightly curved lugs.
The watch features an 18-karat yellow gold case, 23 jewels, a silvered matte dial, and applied gold Arabic numerals. There is also a chronograph, a perpetual calendar, a lunar phase display and a bimetallic compensation balance.
This timepiece is considered to be the most expensive wristwatch ever sold. The piece sold at auction in 2010, in Christie’s in Geneva for $5,708,885
2. Patek Philippe Caliber 89 Pocket Watch — $6 Million
Patek Philippe broke its own record for the most complicated watch when the luxury brand created the Caliber 89 series. Fifty-six years after the company created the Graves Supercomplication (#1), Patek Philippe celebrated its 150th anniversary. To commemorate their anniversary, the company decided to create a series of four pocket watches, designed after the original Supercomplication.
The year 1989 brought the Caliber 89 series to life: four identical pocket watches, one in each yellow, pink, and white gold, as well a one in platinum. Each watch features 33 complications with 1,728 individual parts. The double dial pocket watches are 89mm in diameter, 41mm in thickness, and weigh 1,100 grams. The watches have 24 hands, which show the time, sunrise and sunset, astronomical and astrological function, as well as a perpetual calendar.
The four watch series took nine years to complete. Each of the watches was originally sold to collectors, however, one resurfaced for auction in 2009. The Antiquorum in Geneva sold the yellow gold Caliber 89 in November of 2009 for $5,120,000, although the watches are valued you $6,000,000.
1. Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication — $24.4 Million
This 1933 Patek Philippe made Supercomplication is truly one of a kind – this is the world’s most complicated watch of its time. This solid 18-karat gold timepiece contains 900 individual parts, making it the most advanced timepiece ever made without the assistance of computers.
This pocket watch took eight years to create, from its commission by banker Henry Graves in 1925, to its completion in 1933. Those eight years were spent on crafting the many dials and intricate complications. The watch not only tells the time but has the ability to measure sunrise and sunset, as well as displaying a perpetual calendar. This watch also boasts a celestial map that plots the stars in the NYC night sky just as Graves would have seen from his Fifth Avenue apartment. This is not only a very personal touch, but the celestial chart was quite the engineering feat for that time. Another unique feature of the watch is the sidereal time dial. This dial tracks the Earth’s rate of rotation, 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.1 seconds, just as astronomers would.
This double dial pocket watch was last wound in 1969, though remains in perfect working order. This watch even inspired the 1989 Caliber watches that Patek Philippe created in honor of their 150th anniversary. This magnificent timepiece was auctioned off in November of 2014 at the Sotheby’s Auction House in Switzerland. Sotheby’s valued the watch at $15.6 million, however, the piece sold for $24.4 million to an anonymous buyer.
Bonus: The Breguet Marie Antoinette — Priceless?
Marie-Antoinette was said to have been fascinated by Breguet’s watches. As a gift to the Queen, one of Marie-Antoinette’s admirers commissioned Breguet in 1783, to create a one of a kind timepiece without imposing time or financial limitations. The mysterious admirer specified that gold should be used wherever possible and that the fullest range of horological technique should be used.
Breguet himself designed the watch, though he passed four years before the project’s completion. Marie-Antoinette also passed before the completion of the watch, 34 years prior. The watch was completed in 1827; 44 years after Breguet accepted the commission. Because the watch was never in the possession of Marie-Antoinette, the timepiece took on her name.
The watch was stolen in 1983 from a museum in Jerusalem but was finally recovered in December of 2007. In the years between, Nicolas G. Hayek, CEO of the Swatch Group, challenged Breguet’s watchmakers to build an exact replica of the lost pocket watch. There were no detailed descriptions or documentation of the original watch.
Breguet’s team did not disappoint. The new version of the Marie-Antoinette watch was completed after the original had been recovered. This was quite the feat, as the watchmakers had little information to base the new version off of. The watch is self-winding, has a minute repeater, a perpetual calendar, equation of time, jumping hour, 48-hour power reserve indicator, and a bimetallic thermometer. It houses 823 pieces.
The timepiece is solid gold, with accents of wood-polished pink gold, and screw of blued and polished steel. The friction point, as well as sink and bearings, are fitted with sapphires. Breguet even carved a custom wooden display and storage box from a royal tree that Marie-Antoinette used to sit beneath. There was a presentation at the Palace of Versailles, and Breguet was award a medal for their work.
The company has received many offers in the 8-digit range; however, they refuse to sell the timeless timepiece.