Only Watch 2023 – the charity auction flogging one-offs from the watch world’s heavy hitters – is set to kick off on November 5. The event has grown to astounding 62 lots. Like Tudor’s 2021 fail, a lot of them are minor variations on existing models (cough Blancpain cough). A few are genuine “only” watches: one-offs with distinctive designs or movements. Here are my three faves…
Only Watch 2023 – Biver Catharsis
It’s about time someone created a watch that doesn’t tell the time. While I understand, appreciate and admire the beauty and engineering required to make a mechanical watch – any mechanical watch – we live in a world where smartwatches and smartphones have left trad watch utility in the dust.
If a watch be art, an Only Watch 2023 42mm 374-component timepiece waterproof to 50m with an automatic minute repeater carillon, a tourbillon and micro-rotor made of platinum (inside a titanium cage) without hands is it.
I’m not a fan of the choice of dial materials, but it is ridiculously luxe and properly symbolic (of time):
The lower part of the dial represents an agitated sea made of  sapphires. The upper part of the dial is a sunset representing a starry sky made of meteorite, silver obsidian, and opal.
Psych! In case you missed it (so to speak), there’s an hour hand on the back of the watch. The strap indicates Biver doesn’t intend for the watch to be worn upside down, so they get an temporal mulligan. Yes?
Only Watch 2023 – Grönefeld 1941 Principia Mandala
I’m red/green color blind. For all I know this watch is a color blind test. If the colors pop for me, I can only imagine what you color proficient types makes of it.
Anyway, now that Nelson Mandela is free, we’re free to enjoy Grönefeld’s mandala in all its hippy trippy 1960’s Peter Max pop art glory. The woven band does nothing to detract from the watch and everything to enhance it.
The perfectly-sized 1941 Principia Mandala (39.5mm) is powered by ye olde Grönefeld G-06 automatic movement. A movement as beautiful as Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 (fourth movement).
The watchmaker wanted to do something other than a new dial on an existing engine to justify Only Watch 2023 only-ness. So they added a hunter case back with a silly engraving of Bart, Tim and paterfamilias Sjef Grönefeld on the inside. Case closed.
Italians are a funny lot. Funny ha-ha and funny peculiar. Bulgari’s Only Watch 2023 donation qualifies on both counts. I mean, who else would take the world’s thinnest manual movement – with a flying tourbillon no less – and set it into a hunk of Verde di Alpi green marble?
Did I say “hunk”? I meant to say thin layers of marble totaling .06mm. A process that only required 800 hours of their Italian craftspeople’s time. Not to mention the “DLC titanium bracelet covered with a layer of 0.4mm of Verde di Alpi green marble on both the edges and the top of the link.”
Oh dear. What is that horrific logo doing over the movement, aside from marring its perfection? Sigh. Still, props to Bulgari for not taking the safe way out of the Only Watch 2023 charity-fest. And here’s hope its new owner never, ever knocks his or her watch against anything solid.