The Most Expensive Watches Released In 2021
Maybe my favorite thing about luxury watch collecting is its inclusivity. No matter what your budget might be, there is something for everyone at just about every price point.
At the most affordable end, a few hundred dollars will buy you a beautiful mechanical or quartz model which, looked after properly, will last you literally the rest of your life.
In the mid range, an investment of a few thousand can secure you the sort of piece which gets handed down to future generations as an important heirloom.
But then, it is always fascinating to look at the very very top end of the scale, the part where we get to see how the 0.1% spend their cash.
Every year, the watchmaking world’s biggest and most exclusive names get to let their hair down, in a money-no-object sort of way. This is not only where much of the real innovation takes place, it is also where designers get to have some fun.
2021 was no different, with scores of eye-wateringly expensive works of horological art being unveiled by some of the best in the business.
Below, we have highlighted some of the most impressive, in both execution and asking price.
Roger Dubuis Excalibur Glow Me Up!—$215,000
I’m wracking my brains, but I honestly cannot think of any other watch with an exclamation point in its name.
However, we have one now and it is the latest version in the Excalibur Single Flying Tourbillon range from Swiss crazies, Roger Dubuis.
As quoted by brand CEO, Nicolas Andreatta in his video opening address at this year’s Watches & Wonders, ‘excess and madness are part of our DNA’, which he then went on to demonstrate by unveiling the extraordinary new Glow Me Up!
The 42mm piece, crafted from Dubuis’s own EON gold (an 18k pink gold alloy containing zinc and palladium to prevent the color fading over time) has been reproportioned to feature sleeker, cleaner lines and a thinner case.
Inside too, the engineers have been at work, with the brand’s star logo now appearing to float over the barrel of the RD512SQ movement and the tourbillon gaining a titanium lower cage and cobalt chrome upper cage to reduce weight.
However, the real story only comes out when the sun goes down. In a world’s first, Dubuis have coated the settings for each of the 60 baguette-cut diamonds festooning the watch’s bezel in SuperLuminova, using their own exclusive process.
That not-quite-a-rainbow luminescence (the stones glow emerald green, turquoise, violet, blue and yellow) shines through the diamonds, causing them to glow brilliantly in the dark, and is also mirrored across onto the model’s skeletonized bridges, giving off a spectacular lightshow.
A piece you really have to see in the flesh, it is limited to just 8 examples, with each one going for a very cool $215,000.
Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept La Côte-aux-Fées—$425,000
Playing a seemingly unending game of ‘thinnest watch one-upmanship’ with arch rivals Bvlgari, Piaget reigns supreme (for the moment) with the 2mm thick Altiplano Ultimate Concept, launched in 2018.
This year, they have introduced a new version, the La Côte-aux-Fées, named after the bucolic Swiss Jura village where company founder, Georges Edouard Piaget first set up in business in 1874.
The pastoral setting for the brand’s current movements manufacturing base is surrounded by verdant woodland during the spring and summer, and Piaget have taken that as an inspiration for this latest release. The La Côte-aux-Fées receives splashes of forest green across its off-centered dial at the 12 o’clock and onto its single bridge, which holds the caliber’s springs and gear train. It is achieved via a process called ALD, or Atomic Layer Deposition, which leaves a microscopically thin film of aluminum oxide on the surface.
The watch is driven by the incredible Piaget caliber 900P-UC, which doesn’t so much fit inside the case as it does form part of the case itself. The baseplate, case back, case ring and the bezel all sit on a single plane, and the mainspring barrel is mounted on just one ceramic ball bearing. Yet it still beats at 28,800vph and gives a 45-hour reserve.
What was originally a concept watch is now a part of the main catalog, so we can expect further variants in the series in years to come. For now, you can snap up the La Côte-aux-Fées for the bargain basement price of $425,000.
Louis Vuitton Tambour Carpe Diem—$475,000
Jeez, there’s a lot going on with this piece! In horology speak, the Tambour Carpe Diem is a time-on-demand wristwatch, featuring a minute repeater, jumping hour display and a jacquemart (an animated figure which strikes the hours on a bell with a hammer).
All that has been wrapped up in a sort of deferential tribute to the stoic philosophy of memento mori, or ‘remember you have to die’. So, cheery stuff but, as you would expect in a watch costing the best part of half a mill, it has been done spectacularly.
The dial is dominated by an 18k rose gold skull, complete with enamel serpent twining its way through its eye socket, and an hour glass at the 10 o’clock (all good memento mori elements). Pressing the snake-shaped pusher on the side of the case triggers a 16-second spectacle which sees the snake wind itself out of the way to display the hour in the middle of the skull’s temple and its tail, wrapped around a single brilliant-cut diamond, point to the minutes on a 0-60 scale at the 7 o’clock.
Meanwhile, the skull’s other eye opens to reveal the Vuitton monogram logo, and the jaw hinges down to reveal the legend, ‘Carpe Diem’, or ‘Seize the Day’.
At the heart of it all is the caliber LV525, a hand-wound, 426 component movement developed and assembled at the brand’s La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton manufacture, giving a 21,600vph frequency and a very impressive 100-hour reserve. The hour glass on the dial acts as the power reserve indicator.
This really is horology exotica at its most bizarre and idiosyncratic and I have to say, I love it to bits! Watches, like life, shouldn’t be taken too seriously because, as the wearer of this will be reminded every time they check the time, we’re all going out the same way.
Hublot Big Bang Integral Tourbillon High Jewellery—$685,000
Hublot’s Big Bang collection continues to grow in new and unexpected ways each year, and 2021 saw another hatful enter the ring. Arguably the two main standouts were the Integral Tourbillon Full Sapphire, a model crafted head to toe from sapphire crystal, and this, the High Jewellery.
Forged from 18k white gold, Hublot have apparently made it their mission to break every record concerning the number of carats they can fit onto one watch, and also the number of different combinations of setting. All told, the High Jewellery contains an incredible 484 baguette-cut diamonds, totaling some 31 carats. The extraordinary three-mesh bracelet alone counts for 304 of those diamonds, adding up to 20.5 carats. In fact, with the stones emblazoning literally everything on the watch, even down to the crown and crown guard, you can really see nothing else. In that way, it is similar to the Full Sapphire, except even more expensive.
It also uses the same movement, the HUB6035, a fully skeletonized caliber complete with open worked bridges which makes it look as if the components, including the tourbillon at the six o’clock, are floating in mid air. The mechanical, automatic movement ticks at 21,600vph and has a 72-hour reserve.
And the price? The Hublot Big Bang Integral Tourbillon High Jewellery, rather than being a limited edition is actually a made-to-order piece, with each one costing $685,000.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque $1.5m
Last but not least, an enormous achievement which you can buy for just a little more than the price of two of Hublot’s latest!
2021 marks the 90th anniversary of JLC’s legendary Reverso, and to mark the occasion, the brand has produced a new version; the first wristwatch ever made to have four different dials.
At first glance, there’s no mistaking the heritage. All the classic Reverso design codes are present, and especially the elegant, clean-cut rectangular lines and the Art Deco-esque gadroons at the top and bottom.
But this is very much a fusion of old school style with some highly advanced mechanics beneath. Somewhere inside the 51mm x 31mm x 15mm white gold case, Jaeger has managed to cram in 11 complications, including a perpetual calendar and a minute repeater, along with one of the most deep reaching moonphase displays ever included on a mechanical watch.
As well as tracking the synodic lunar cycle, as traditional models of the type do, which charts the progress from full moon to new moon and back again, you can also keep tabs on the draconic and anomalistic cycles.
Totally without the help of Google, I’ll explain what those are. The draconic cycle follows the path of the moon as it corresponds with the position of the earth around the sun, so it can be used to predict solar and lunar eclipses. The anomalistic cycle measures the distance between the earth and the moon, and so plays an important part in calculating ocean tidal patterns.
The Quadriptyque is the only traditional watch to include all three of these complications, and JLC has generated 12 patents to protect their brainchild. Along with being so comprehensive, this new moonphase is also extremely accurate, reportedly only needing adjustment every 1,111 years (mark your diaries).
In all, this is watchmaking elevated very much to the status of high art. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Hybris Mechanica Calibre 185 Quadriptyque is, quite simply, breathtaking in both concept and implementation. Oh, and price. Only 10 will be made, with each one taking six months to assemble, and costing $1.5m apiece.
— Featured Photo: Pixabay (cc) Archive.