Breguet Grande Complication Marie-Antoinette
Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime
Louis Moinet Meteoris Collection
Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona
Patek Philippe Ref 1518 In Steel
What do they all have in common? That’s right; these are some of the most expensive watches in the world of all time. They’re the world-beaters and Holy Grail of the world of Haute Horlogerie.
Although The Thrifty Gentleman focuses on the world of affordable timepieces, today we ask ourselves the question - why is it that some luxury timepieces are valued so highly?!
Take Breguet Grande Complication Marie-Antoinette, for instance. Considered the world's priciest luxury timepiece, the vintage watch is the brainchild of iconic horologist Abraham-Louis Breguet. The rumour has it that it was commissioned by Marie-Antoinette's secret lover in the early 1780s. And it could be yours if you've got a cool £25 million to spare.
If you’re £900,000 short for the pocket watch above, you can settle for Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime. The wristwatch went under the hammer at a Christie’s-run charity auction in 2019 for a world-beating price of $31 million (£24.1 million). Five minutes of auction time is all it took the steel Grandmaster Chime to dethrone Paul Newman Rolex Daytona (£13.5m) to officially become the most expensive luxury wristwatch in the world.
Even from their monikers alone, these men’s luxury watches have one word written all over them: expensive! They were explicitly crafted to smash world records and encourage the Who's Who of the world (think billionaires, millionaires, aristocrats, royal nobility, and A-list celebrities) to empty their pockets.
If you have ever wondered why some luxury watches are so expensive, then you have come to the right place. Here’s why.
Manufacturing, Design, and Marketing
Why do some luxury watches come with multi-million price tags? The short answer is that you’re paying for never-seen-before ingenuity in watch-making. For one, the most expensive watches in the world are crafted from rarest, most extravagant, and sinfully lavish materials.
A classic example is the Louis Moinet Meteoris Collection, which comes with a brain-melting price tag of £3.5 million. It’s a collection of four men’s luxury watches named for the godfather of the chronograph industry, Louis Monet. They sport not only rare pieces of meteorites but also precious stones nestled into their dials.
For instance, the collection’s Tourbillon Mars features a 180-year-old fragment of a meteorite that fell on the desert of Oman from Mars. One gram of these Martian rocks can set you back as much as £1,000, which is well over 20x the per-gram price of gold.
In addition to that, the most expensive watches in the world use a raft of other highly-prized and sought-after materials, such as yellow gold, rose gold, diamond, platinum, sapphire crystal, and white gold — just to mention a few.
Not just that; the design and manufacturing process of these men's luxury watches is usually complex, time-consuming, and equally expensive. For example, the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime design boasts 6 patented innovations (including two titular chiming modes), a reversible case, and 20 complicated pieces of watch technologies. What's more, the luxury watch's design, production, and assembly process took a whopping 100,000 hours.
Let’s not forget luxury watchmakers are some of the biggest spenders when it comes to marketing. They partner with the crème de la crème of the sports-world, from golf titans like Tiger Woods to football sensations like Neymar. Patek Philippe alone spends an average of £11.4 million on marketing its luxury watches each year.
Supply / Demand
Another significant reason why mens luxury watches are so expensive comes down to market dynamics: supply versus demand. It's well-known in economics that rare (aka low-supply) items in high demand tend to be pricey. The same rings true in the chronograph space.
Let's consider Paul Newman Rolex Daytona, which is currently priced at around £13.5m. The eponymous cosmography oyster steel watch specially made for Paul Newman as a gift from his wife is regarded as a Holy Grail luxury piece amongst fans, collectors, and connoisseurs. So yeah, the demand for the watch is pretty high,
Reason? Obviously, only one Paul Newman Rolex Daytona was ever made. Had there been more of this watch, the price would definitely be much lower.
Luxury watches have become almost synonymous with certain social groups. They’re owned and worn by the world’s elite -- think presidents, Hollywood celebrities, kings, princes, queens, socialites, millionaires, and billionaires. All of these people are the cream of the crop of society.
For them, luxury watches carry meaningful social value. They're the "it thing" in their social circles. It doesn't matter if the watch cost £1,000 or £1m to produce; it's the social value tied to it that matters the most — and with good reason. The luxury watch's social value can say a lot about the wearer's social standing, wealth, sense of style, and personality.
Luxury watches are in and of themselves meant to be exclusive, rare, and extravagant items. Exclusivity is what makes luxury cars, luxury handbags, and other luxury items unique and premium products. After all, a Hollywood A-lister wouldn’t want to own or wear the same watch as the average joe on the streets.
Exclusivity takes the desirability of luxury watches to a whole new level, making them must-have items for elite wearers, shoppers, and collectors. With that in mind, luxury watches from brands like Patek Philippe, Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Jaeger-LeCoultre are, by design, churned out in limited and exclusive quantities and qualities to give the illusion of exclusivity. And that’s what warrants their eye-watering prices.
The most expensive watches in the world like those from Patek Philippe have been known to hold their value for decades. That means that they can be worthy assets to invest in, as with other luxury items like vintage cars. For this reason, expensive luxury watches are a slice of heaven for collectors who are always looking for something that'll hold excellent investment value.
Whether they're from Richard Mille, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, or Rolex, the most expensive watches in the world are exclusive products that have historically shown proof of retaining the value paid for them. In fact, most of them end up gaining more value in the long haul.