Over the years, numerous watches have gone under the hammer at renowned auctions. And aficionados have been willing to pay serious money for the privilege of owning a timepiece with an impressive provenance. Though Patek Philippe has largely ruled the roost, other brands have also had their share of stratospheric prices fetched at auctions. Here are seven watches that have made headlines for the records they’ve broken.

1. Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in Steel – $11 million

Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in Steel
Patek Philippe 1518, the watchmaker’s first perpetual calendar chronograph. Credit: PHILLIPS

The first and only known stainless steel Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 was sold by Antiquorum in 2005 for a then record-setting price of $2,990,000. But that was just a warm-up act compared to what the watch would go on to fetch 10 years later. In November 2016, at Phillips’ “GenevaWatch Auction: Five” sale, the same timepiece was offered again and this time it went under the hammer at Phillips in association with Bacs and Russo Geneva watch auction for a jaw-dropping price of CHF 9,280,000 – equivalent to approximately $11 million at the time.

2. Paul Newman Rolex Daytona – $17.8 million

Paul Newman Rolex Daytona
An exotic Rolex Daytona inspired by Paul Newman. Credit : PHILLIPS

Another watch that holds the distinction of being the first of its kind is the Rolex Daytona reference 6263 “Paul Newman”. This watch was the first Daytona to feature an exotic dial, with contrasting sub-dials in a three-colour layout. It was also the first Daytona to be offered with a stainless steel bracelet. The model became known as the “Paul Newman” Daytona after the actor was frequently photographed wearing one. In 2017, Reference 6239 of this watch sold at auction for a record $17.8 million.

3. Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010 – $31 million

Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010
Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, the most expensive watch sold at an auction

The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime Ref. 6300A-010 is the most complicated wristwatch ever made by the Swiss watch manufacturer. It took seven years to develop and features 20 complications, including a minute repeater, perpetual calendar, dual time zones, and moon phases. What’s more? It is also the world’s most expensive watch ever sold at an auction, with a price tag of $31 million. The timepiece was sold at “Only Watch” charity auction in November 2019.

4. Vintage Cartier Crash – $1.6 million

Vintage Cartier Crash
The vintage Cartier Crash from 1967 which inspired many more to come. Credit : Loupe This

In May 2022, a vintage Cartier Crash from 1967 sold for over US$1.6 million at an auction by Loupe This. The price nearly doubled from its 2018 auction where Crash sold for US$590,000. The Cartier Crash is one of the most iconic and recognizable watches in the world. It was designed by watchmaker Jean-Claude Babin in the 1960s, and its unique design is inspired by a car accident he witnessed, or so the tale goes. The watch’s mysterious origins add to its overall charm. Plus, many celebrities, including rappers Kanye West and Jay-Z and Schitt’s Creek actor Dan Levy, have embraced the Crash and have been spotted wearing the timepiece for multiple red carpet events.

5. Patek Philippe 5711/1A-018 Nautilus – $5.3 million

Patek Philippe 5711/1A-018 Nautilus
Patek Philippe Nautilus continues to break its previous records

In late 2021, the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1A-018 in Tiffany Blue sold for over US$5.3 million, breaking the auction record for the most expensive Nautilus ever sold. The Patek Philippe 5711 Nautilus is a modern classic. It’s a visual feast, thanks to its blue dial, date window, and power reserve indicator. The Nautilus is also special because it’s one of the few watches that has increased in value over time. It was first introduced in 1976 and has been in production ever since. That’s not all. This timepiece also holds the record for the most expensive stainless steel watch ever sold at auction. In 2018, a white gold version of this watch sold at auction for a record $2.6 million.

6. Philippe Dufour Grande and Petite Sonnerie #1 in yellow gold – $6.5 million

Philippe Dufour Grande and Petite Sonnerie #1 in yellow gold
The first wristwatch of Philippe Dufour Grande and Petite Sonnerie

The Philippe Dufour Grande and Petite Sonnerie #1 is a unique watch made by the Swiss watchmaker. A treat for the eyes, this timepiece features a yellow gold case, blue hands, a minute repeater and a brown leather strap. In addition to that, it is the world’s first Grande & Petite Sonnerie wristwatch ever, making it all the more sought-after. In 2021, this watch sold at the Tiffany and Co. auction for a record $6.5 million.

7. Patek Philippe “Silk Road” Ref. 2523 – $7.8 million

Patek Philippe “Silk Road” Ref. 2523
Patek Philippe Ref 2523 featuring the map of Eurasia. Credit : PHILLIPS

Sold for over US$ 7 million at the Geneva auction in May 2021, the Eurasia watch by Patek Philippe is THE timepiece to own for watch aficionados. The Patek Philippe Ref. 2523 is a world time watch that was first introduced in 1953. The yellow gold timepiece features a unique cloisonné enamel dial, boasting the map of “Eurasia” and two crowns. A ring surrounds the main dial, depicting the many cities in Eurasia. It ranks high on fashion, form and, safe to say, fame. To say that it is a rare watch is severely underestimating its inimitability; after all, there are only three (known) watches across the world.

Whether it’s the Paul Newman Daytona, the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, or the Philippe Dufour Grande and Petite Sonnerie, each timepiece is a work of art that is sure to be treasured for generations to come. All things considered, it’s no wonder that these watches are some of the most expensive in the world.