This is not a buying guide. When it comes to timepieces that command high six- and low seven-figure price tags, our recommendations honestly don’t mean very much. Our simple advice? Avoid anything that derives its value from jewel encrustation at all costs and settle on a collectible that is special to you. That being said, there are many timepieces out there that are extremely significant and deserve celebration. Most of us in the GP offices will only get to see these magnificent creations while escorted by armed guard. But if we had the means, any one of these watches would make for an unrivaled halo piece to sit atop our dream timepiece collection.
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie
Audemars Piguet submitted three separate patents while engineering the Royal Oak Concept Supersonnerie, all focused on the transmission of sound. The gongs it uses are hand filed for tuning to create the warm, melodic chimes; they are mounted to a soundboard, similar to any stringed instrument, created from a copper membrane that is mounted between the mainplate and caseback of the watch. And the governor that plays conductor within the 44 × 16 mm Genta-designed titanium case, while traditional in its steel construction, actually aids in shock absorption while remaining utterly silent until called upon. The result is a repeater whose purity of sound would rival the Musikverein in Austria.
Jaeger LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica á Grande Sonnerie
When it was first released in 2009, the Jaeger LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica á Grande Sonnerie was crowned the most complicated watch in the world. While that title has since passed to Vacheron Constantin’s “Tivoli,” JLC’s Hybris remains breathtaking. This timepiece’s significance does not lie in its ability to play the entirety of the Westminster melody; it’s not because the calibre 182 movement is comprised of 1406 individual, hand-finished parts, within a water-resistant, white gold case; it’s not even because it houses a whopping 26 complications. It’s great because it combines them all, perfectly.
Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater
One of the toughest hurdles watchmakers attempt to overcome when engineering a minute repeater complication (a watch that can chime down to the minute) is the background noise that a mechanical timepiece creates. Put even the most exquisite timepiece to your ear and it will inevitably tick and whir. This makes the chiming of the repeater mechanism less clear. Unless, of course, the timepiece in question is powered by a Seiko Spring Drive caliber. This Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater silently sweeps the day’s seconds away, only announcing its presence via its gongs — which are handcrafted by the Myochin clan, a group of metalworkers continuously in business for 52 generations and counting. Only three of these watches are made per year.
Patek Philippe Grandmaster Sonnerie
You might expect any controversy surrounding the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Sonnerie to relate to its price tag: its cost rivals a Bugatti Chiron’s. In fact, the issue is that the Grandmaster Sonnerie was originally a timepiece created in extremely limited numbers — seven, total — to celebrate the marque’s 175th anniversary. Only six of those coveted and highly adorned timepieces were sold to Patek’s most loyal and well-heeled clientele. And now, just a year later, a second version of Patek’s most complicated timepiece ever created is available. The white gold version you see here foregoes the intricately engraved case but remains powered by the same Caliber 300 movement and boasts functions including Grande Sonnerie, Petite Sonnerie, minute repeater, second time zone, moonphase and many more. Six people may be grumpy about this watch — the rest of us are pretty damn happy about it.
A. Lange & Söhne Grand Complication
Unlike Patek’s Grandmaster Sonnerie, Glashütte’s A. Lange & Söhne Grand Complication has been truly limited to only six timepieces. This pinnacle of Germanic precision combines an in-house chiming mechanism — a complication typically sourced from the Swiss — with grande and petite sonnerie as well as a minute repeater. Lange has also included a split-seconds chronograph with minute counter and foudroyant (flying seconds) and a perpetual calendar, which visibly tracks all 48 months within a leap year. It has been said that to hand assemble the 876 parts of the L1902 movement, it takes the watchmaker a full 12 months and that its design was inspired by a Lange pocket watch from 1902 that itself took thousands of hours to restore.
Greubel Forsey Quadruple Tourbillon
A “bargain” timepiece for $800,000? Okay, it’s a bit absurd, but hear me out. First of all, Greubel Forsey only makes five or six a year. Secondly, it is constructed with four tourbillons (two sets of two, to be exact). We’ve written before about how even just one of these can cost well upwards of $15,000. And there are aesthetic niceties for your investment, too. One of which is the barrel bridge, which takes 15 hours of hand-beveling with a diamond-paste tipped, wooden polishing stick to get its shimmer just right.
Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine
Designed to mimic the look of a ship’s boom, the blued-aluminum, retrograde minute hand of the Ulysse Nardin Grand Deck Marine is controlled by a series of nanowires. Crafted from Dyneema fiber (a fabric also used in protective motorcycle gear as well as ship rigging), the wires are virtually invisible and controlled by a pulley system, powered by Ulysse’s in-house developed UN-630 manual-winding movement. In motion, the hand is swept across a unique, translucent blue arc before resetting itself at the turn of every hour. A jumping hour window resides at twelve o’clock and a 60-minute flying tourbillon fills the only negative space cut into the exquisite wood marquetry dial.
Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon
The flying tourbillon floating within the sapphire disc at the ten o’clock position of the Rotonde de Cartier Minute Repeater Mysterious Double Tourbillon is a thing of beauty. A staple of Cartier’s pinnacle timepieces since 2013, the tourbillon rotates once every 60 seconds while the negative space itself also completes an entire rotation every five minutes. Those complications alone are obviously impressive — but this latest Sapphire Cabochon–adorned piece also boasts a minute repeater that has been engineered to ensure each gonged note’s timbre and clarity. To that end, Cartier employs a silent inertia flywheel to preserve the notes’ fullness by governing the speed and striking force exerted. Most impressive, this timepiece also bears the Geneva Seal — a prestigious standard.
Panerai Radiomir 1940 Minute Repeater Carillon Tourbillon GMT
The Panerai Radiomir 1940 Minute Repeater Carillon Tourbillon GMT has the unique distinction of being the world’s first watch to offer two minute repeaters: one chimes for the local time, while the other indicates the second time zone marked by the GMT complication. While this level of experimentation with haute horlogerie would be expected from houses such as Patek or Vacheron, it’s a very bold statement from Panerai. Other complexities worth mentioning are the tones with which the repeater chimes, which are tuned in homage to the bell tones heard on ships while at sea. And then there is the tourbillon itself. Unlike traditional mechanisms, the escapement of the P.2005/MR rotates every 30 seconds and does so on a perpendicular axis. This is to secure accuracy, but admittedly it also adds some aesthetic depth. For interested buyers, Panerai is also willing to customize the Carillon to suit tastes (at an additional cost, of course).