Sold For: $31 million
In the world of record-breaking watch auctions, there’s one name that matters more than any other: Patek Philippe. There are a bunch of reasons for this, from their watches’ notoriously stable resale value to Patek’s undisputed mastery of high-end complications like perpetual calendars and minute-repeaters. All of this makes any Patek watch collectible to some degree, and the rarer a particular model is, the more valuable it is. So when the Geneva-based brand announced a one-of-one version of its Grandmaster Chime, the most complicated Patek Philippe wristwatch ever made, in stainless steel, the watch world justifiably lost their shit. With no fewer than 20 complications jammed into its reversible case (a feat that according to Patek took 100,000 hours from start to finish), there was no shortage of bidders, but the result was a surprise, even for Patek. When the hammer fell on the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime 6300A-010, it became the most valuable watch ever sold at auction, beating Paul Newman’s Daytona (the previous record-holder) by more than $10 million.
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TAG Heuer Monaco Steve McQueen
Sold For: $2.2 million
Paul Newman wasn’t the only 1960s movie star to become synonymous with a watch. In the case of Steve McQueen, it was the TAG Heuer Monaco, a highly-advanced (for the era) chronograph released in 1969 and famously worn onscreen in 1971’s Le Mans. Designed for timing motorsports events and named after the grand-daddy of them all, the Monaco Grand Prix, it wasn’t just the world’s first waterproof automatic chronograph, it was also the first with a square case. While Le Mans came and went without much fanfare, the image of McQueen squinting trackside in his Monaco stuck. When that watch (which he later gave to his stuntman on the film) hit the block at Phillips in 2020, it fetched $2.2 million, becoming the most valuable TAG Heuer ever.
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Omega Speedmaster Ref. 2915-1
Sold For: $3.4 million
In addition to being owned by a celebrity and being part of a major historical event, there’s another important factor that drives up vintage watch prices: patina. Unlike, say, cars or paintings, where scratches, discoloration and other signs of wear are considered a bad thing, watch lovers will pay top-dollar for them. This Omega, which is one of the first Speedmasters ever made (and the first watch of any kind to come with a tachymeter bezel), would have sold for a big sum regardless of its condition, but having a dial that aged from white to the color of milk chocolate definitely helped push the final bid to $3.1 million when it sold at auction last November.
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