With economic crises on every horizon and even the elite spenders of the world apparently conserving their cash, it’s easy to assume that luxury brands would be a little careful about releasing anything too… exceptional.
If that’s the case, somebody needs to tell the watch industry. Even though it’s still one of the healthiest segment in luxury, even they should be feeling wary surely? If 2017 is anything to go by that’s apparently not the case. Despite not being halfway through the year, we’ve had not one, not two but five watches over the $1 million mark.
So without further ado, here are the million dollar timepieces that fly in the face of economists the world over.
Greubel Forsey Grande Sonnerie
Greubel Forsey aren’t exactly accessible at the best of times. Even their Balancier – which has no real complications – fetches a considerable price (check our list of 100k – 250k pieces for details). You can expect their take on one of the most extreme complications therefore to enter a whole new tax bracket.
This is a first for Greubel Forsey but that’s not exactly unusual for a brand that produces new movements at their staggering rate. The Grand Sonnerie isn’t just a minute repeater – essentially a mechanical alarm – but also chimes on every hour and the quarter hour every fifteen minutes. Don’t worry though, despite being surprisingly loud it can be silenced if you don’t want to be woken up with every chime. Of course, the watch also comes with one of Greubel Forsey’s slanted tourbillons. When something like that is just an extra, you know the Grand Sonnerie is something very special indeed.
Richard Mille RM 50-03
Richard Mille are one of the most extreme performance watchmakers around. McLaren are one of the most extreme performance car makers around. What happens when you put them together? The RM 50-03 – one of the most extreme performance watches around.
This is pure racing engineering, enough to easily warrant the McLaren association. The case is made from a proprietary carbon fibre composite, the movement has been skeletonised to within an inch of working and every material in its construction can be deemed superlight. In fact, the entire watch – strap included – weighs less than 40 grams and is the lightest mechanical chronograph ever made. A good part of that is thanks to the inclusion of graphene, a material just one atom thick. Is it over the top for a timekeeper? Yes. Yes it is. But… well, this is Richard Mille.
Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Symphonia Grande Sonnerie 1860
Given that it’s one of the most elite complications ever conceived it’s no surprise that there’s another Grand Sonnerie in this year’s million dollar club. This time it’s from a watchmaker that was probably around when the first versions of the complication were – Vacheron Constantin, the world’s oldest, continually-operating watchmaker.
I’ve already gone into what exactly a Grand Sonnerie is above so I won’t repeat myself too much. Here that extraordinarily complicated piece of engineering is encased in a breathtaking case in signature Vacheron style. Together with the movement, the entire piece takes a single watchmaker over 500 hours to build – that’s over 20 days of solid work. It’s good to know then that, thanks to the safety features built into Grand Sonnerie, those hours won’t be undone by something as innocuous as an unforeseen bump.
Audemars Piguet Diamond Outrage
The name says it all really. Rather than the rigid octagon of the iconic Royal Oak or a high-tech minute repeater, the most eye-catching 2017 piece from Audemars is this monstrosity of diamond spikes. It’s certainly a spectacular show piece and a step up in pomp from previous AP haute joaillerie pieces. It’s also a little threatening.
It might look like an oversized bangle – and it kind of is – but it can also tell the time. A hatch of yet more diamonds can be opened to reveal a tiny octagonal dial with minute and hour hands. If the white diamonds just don’t cut it for you (they can everything else) there’s also a blue sapphire version. No matter which model you go for, the Diamond Outrage holds around 65 carats of stones. It might not be what Audemars Piguet are best known for but it puts many a high jewellery house to shame.
Vacheron Constantin Les Cabinotiers Celestia Grand Complication
Normally we’d veer away from showcasing the same brand twice in the same article but let’s be fair, things are slightly different when we get to this level of timepiece. There aren’t exactly a swarm of multi-million dollar timepieces out there and, no matter which way you look at it, this one is something truly special. Vacheron Constantin know how to make a phenomenal timepiece.
This unique, one-of-a-kind watch is one of the single most complicated watches in the world with no less than 23 complications, predominantly focused on astronomical functions. It took five years of development to create and the movement contains a grand total of 514 individual components. Setting all those indicators – sidereal, solar and civil times amongst others – can be a pretty daunting task. Fortunately, keeping it wound is a good deal easier with a three week power reserve. So far the Celestia is arguably the most impressive watch of the year; I don’t see that changing any time soon.
Words by: Sam Kessler