Vintage Watches: 5 Most Expensive Watches Ever Sold at an Auction

A fine antique watch is a mark of style, sophistication and affluence. Many vintage watches are passed down through the generations of a family and become part of a family’s intergenerational wealth. Many also have a great deal of sentimental value as they become tied to cherished memories of a loved one. They can also be worth a great deal of money. Antique watch buyers are always on the look out for a classic piece and the value can increase over time. That being the case, if you are looking to sell antique watches, you might be wondering about the most expensive watches ever sold. What were they worth? Where were they sold? Why were they so valuable? In this article we will look at the five most expensive watches ever sold at auction.

5. Patek Phillpe, Gobbi Milan ‘Heures Universelles’, 1953

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Sold at auction for $8,967,00.00 by Christies in Hong on November 23, 2019. 

This stunning watch is highly coveted by vintage watch buyers. It is an intricate piece with a bright blue dial and pink gold case. It features both Roman and Arabic numerals. Also tells both diurnal and nocturnal hours. It has a revolving ring showing the names of forty major cities.

Crafted in the 1950’s, during the golden age of Patek Philippe, it is believed that only three of these timepieces were made. Now there is only one other know to be extant. All of which, along with its design, craftsmanship, technological features, and beauty make it a, “dream come true” for vintage watches buyers, according to the experts at Christies.

4. Patek Phillpe, Stainless Steel, 1953

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Sold at auction for $11,137.00 by Phillips auction house in Geneva on November 12, 2016. At the time it broke the record for most expensive watch ever sold.

This sleek and stylish watch features a wristband made of stainless steel chain links, and a space-age face with the world’s first perpetual calendar chronograph, making it a truly historic time piece. The fact that there were only four made in stainless steel added to its rarity and value. It was also in truly mint condition when sold. Some antique watches buyers dubbed it, “Rolls-Royce of watches”, and said they had been waiting for the chance to even see such a vintage watch.

3. ‘Exotic’ Daytona Rolex owned by Paul Newman, 1968

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Sold at auction for $17,752,500.00 by Phillips auction house in New York on October 26, 2017.

This sophisticated and stylish watch was owned by the legendary icon of cool, Paul Newman. The Rolex was a gift from his wife, Joanne Woodward, and was engraved. Moreover, it was owned at the time of the sale by James Cox, who received the watch from Newman after helping to build him treehouse. All of which demonstrates how the star power of a famous celebrity like Newman can dramatically increase the value of vintage watches.

In addition to Newman’s ownership, the watch also features a sleek, black leather wristband and ‘exotic dial’. The ‘exotic dial’ was exclusively crafted for Rolex. It is unique from other classic dials in a couple of ways, the typeface used for the numerals and the sunken outer seconds track that matches the color. The Daytona model was initially an unpopular design for Rolex but was made popular (and valuable) by Newman’s ownership of one. Which goes to show that when you sell antique watches the provenance can have a real impact on value!

2. Patek Philippe, Henry Graves Supercomplication, 1932

Sold at auction for $23,983,000.00 by Sotheby’s in Geneva on November 11, 2014. At the time it broke the record for most expensive watch ever sold.

This pocket watch was specially commissioned by banker Henry Graves, Jr. He commissioned it out a desire to own a time piece that would be superior to the Grande Complication created by Vacheron Constantin and owned by James Ward. It took over 10 years to create. When he received it in 1933, Graves ended up keeping the purchase a secret out of fear of kidnapping and theft.

It certainly lives up to the Super complicated in its name! No ordinary pocket watch, it is made of 18-karate gold and contains 920 individual parts. The watch was features 24 complications such as timekeeping, a calendar, a beautiful blue and gold chronograph, alarms, celestial charts, and power reserves. It’s incredible design and construction, the history of its creation, and its one-of-a kind status sets it apart from all other vintage watches.

1. Patek Philippe, Grandmaster Chime, 2019

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Sold at auction for $31,194,000 by Christie’s in Geneva on November 9, 2019.

Yes. That price is right. The Grandmaster Chime was sold for a jaw-dropping thirty-one million dollars. The elegant and sophisticated Grandmaster Chime was created by Patek Philippe in 2014 to celebrate the brand’s 175th anniversary. It is a stunning example of chiming complications with 20 complications on two dials that took seven years and more than 100,000 hours to create. The black leather wristband is set off by a stainless-steel face with multiple dials.

In 2019, Christies had its biennial Only Watch charity auction and the undisputed star was this completely unique time piece, a special edition of the Grandmaster Chime with a rose-gold dial featuring the words “The Only One”. The most exciting feature is that this is two watches in one. It has a swiveling mechanism that allows the rose-gold dial to be switched for a black dial. It is perhaps fitting that Patek Philippe, which is responsible for many of the most valuable vintage watches out there, broke all records with the selling price for this time piece celebrating their brand.

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