Our Favorites From the Only Watch 2023 Collection

We’ve talked about it on a podcast, and we’ve written about some high profile releases, but now the time has come for the Worn & Wound team to pick their favorites from this year’s Only Watch. We’ve had a few weeks to digest over 60 piece uniques, and, collectively, we’re ready to name the ones we’d gladly bid on, if only we ran hedge funds or happened to come into vast sums of heretofore unknown generational wealth in the next few months. This year’s crop of watches is truly special, with some brands getting creative and striking bold new paths, and others reverting to heritage in the best way possible. 

Without further ado, our picks for our favorite watches in this year’s auction are below. Be sure to let us know what your favorite watches are from the sale in the comments below. 

Blake Buettner – TAG Heuer Monaco Split Seconds

I’ve always had something of a love/hate relationship with TAG Heuer’s Monaco, generally preferring the simple, old school approach to some of the zanier creations we’ve seen over the years. So it came as a surprise that, upon seeing the TAG Heuer Monaco Split-Seconds For Only Watch, I was kind of smitten. The floating dial structure works, and they went all-in on the case itself with a texturised titanium, so the whole thing works together rather than looking like a modern dial in a vintage case. Plus, just look at the shape of the running seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock. 


It’s not just the crazy exterior that works so well, either. Inside resides the new TAG Heuer caliber TH81-00 automatic split-seconds chronograph movement offering, well, a split-second chronograph complication, with a red timing hand sitting atop a silver directly underneath it. In something of a trend for TAG Heuer, they’ve made room underneath the scales of the totalizers at 3 and 9 o’clock for ‘rattrapante’ and ‘only watch’ labels. It would be strange in any other context but it’s just weird enough to work here. 

The estimate of the TAG Heuer Monaco Split-Seconds For Only Watch is an eye watering CHF 150,000 – 300,000, and if the past is anything to go by, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it end up near the top end of that estimate. 

Zach Kazan – Biver Catharsis

Call me crazy, but I think the best Only Watch pieces are watches that aren’t unique just because a brand decided to only make one, but because making more than one might actually drive the artisans, watchmakers, and other creatives slightly insane if they had to do it again. While it’s fun to prognosticate about brands doing some market research or prototyping via the Only Watch sale, what gets me excited are the watches that represent the kinds of crazy bursts of creativity that can’t easily be reproduced, either because there’s simply an infinitesimally small market for such a thing, or the degree of difficulty would ultimately push the watchmakers into a more relaxing line of work, like air traffic controller, or war correspondent. 

There are a few watches that reach those levels this year, but my personal favorite is the Catharsis, by Biver. That’s BIVER, the new watch brand that debuted their first pieces just months ago, helmed by none other than, yes, Jean-Claude Biver. Biver (the guy) is one of the most well known figures in the watch world, and has shaped large swaths of the industry in ways that ripple across brands, genres, price points, and even how we think about watches, without even fully realizing it. Biver (the brand) is perhaps not as well understood in these early days, but one thing we know for sure is that they’re getting up to some very serious high end watchmaking. 

The Catharsis, of course, is a complicated watch, featuring what we assume to be the same carillon minute repeater tourbillon caliber seen in the brand’s debut piece with some slight modifications. That watch could be seen as a maximalist expression of the high luxury world inhabited by, well, surely anyone who would shell out for one. The Catharsis strikes an entirely different note, however, and is more of an art piece in the true sense of the term, literally highlighting craft over function. 

Notably, the Catharsis doesn’t have a dial you can read the time on, which you’d think would be a requirement of just about any watch. No, you have to activate the minute repeater to get a reading of the time, which is elegant and perhaps a little intimidating, if not exactly convenient, when you decide to wear this in a business meeting in a room with no clocks. Instead, where we’d normally have a dial, we see a painterly scene of a sunset over a body of water. That scene is rendered via a complex combination of stone work and gem setting, with the “sky” made of silver obsidian hardstone, meteorite and opal, and the ocean below a series of 89 blue sapphires, each a different size and weight, giving the dial an organic and handmade feel that is quite a bit different from a typical gem setting execution. The brand calls this “invisible gem setting,” and combined with the stone marquetry on the top half of the dial (not to mention all the handwork that is surely done to the movement itself), I think it’s a safe bet that reproducing this watch serially would be a certified nightmare. 

There’s something audacious about a minute repeater with no hands – it’s been done before, and I kind of love the idea as a very expensive troll – but what Biver (the brand) has done here strikes me as even more confrontational, in a way. It seems like the type of nutty idea drawn up very late at night when you’re not in the best shape to think about these things. We all have those ideas, I think, but they’re rarely realized by world class artisans and craftspeople. To me, that’s what the best Only Watch watches are all about.

Zach WeissGirard Perregaux Neo Constant Escapement

Picking just one of the over 60 Only Watch entries for the 2023 auction to write about is like picking a favorite child – if you had sixty children and none of them were actually yours but you really liked all of them. Ok, terrible analogy, also, I got to cheat, as I already spoke at length about the Furlan Marri, Baltic Experiments, Bvlgari, and Konstantin Chaykin entries on A Week in Watches, check them out when you have a chance. So, for this article I am going to choose the Only Watch I got to see in person – like the actual watch going to auction – the Girard Perregaux Neo Constant Escapement.

The Neo Constant Escapement is an update to the 2008 launch of the brand’s innovative solution for a constant force mechanism. If you don’t know what that is, here’s the really fast, non-technical answer: basically, as the mainspring of a watch delivers the energy stored within to the escapement, the force exerted changes from full to empty. This results in a change of amplitude and can affect the accuracy of the timepiece. Solutions for this pervasive issue usually include a fusée and chain (imaging a tiny bike chain in the watch) or rementoir (a secondary intermediary spring that disperses force equally to the escapement) between the mainspring and escapement. GP’s solution was entirely novel – it used an apparatus with a silicon blade that buckles and releases, like a flexed playing card, that is part of the escapement itself.

In addition to being a fascinating challenge in watchmaking, that I would love to see somehow solved for more affordable timepieces, it also makes for at times remarkably beautiful and complex timepieces. The Neo Constant Escapement for Only Watch is certainly such a watch, featuring a 45mm rose gold case and a matching open worked dial showing the remarkable caliber within. For the new version of the Neo Constant Escapement, the time has been moved to the center of the dial, reinforcing the entirely symmetrical design, which features the escapement on full display on the bottom half of the dial.

In the metal, it was breathtaking, if a bit terrifying to handle. It looks, and feels, like it’s solid gold, but the real star is the silicon blade, which dances back and forth. Estimated at 140k – 220k CHF, this certainly is a special watch for a lucky bidder.

Chris Antzoulis – Bulgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble

If ever there were a watch so garish and Made For Me, it’s this year’s Only Watch entry from Bulgari—the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Marble. It’s gaudy, green, unnecessarily complicated, and oh so Italian. Michelangelo has a quote describing how he would sculpt from marble where he said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Bulgari saw horological art in marble, and now it should be slapped on the wrist of Michelangelo’s “David” to be admired for generations. 


At 6.9mm thin, this Octo Finissimo adds a flying tourbillon to the slimmest watch to hold the complication since 2013. When you flip the watch over you can see the impressive BVL 268 caliber in its 1.95mm thin glory. The green marble, Verde di Alpi, is sourced from the Aosta Valley, a passageway that connects Switzerland and Italy. The watch itself is actually made of titanium and covered with a layer of marble on the case and bracelet links. This is done both to keep the watch light, and to use marble in such a way where it wouldn’t crack during production. In total, this single watch took about 800 hours to develop and produce. A masterpiece that fits into the history of marble’s artistic and architectural use in Italy, and the watchmaking innovations of Switzerland. 

Finally, the recipient of this watch will get a night in Bulgari’s new hotel in Rome, a meal with someone from Bulgari’s top management, and a visit to a sculpture garden. And to that lucky person I say…if you’re allowed to bring a date, I am available. You can slide into my DM’s.

Christoph McNeill – Atelier De Chronometrie Barcelona

Only Watch time again! I always look forward to seeing what one-off gems all these creative geniuses come up with to help out with the Only Watch charity auction. And this year does not disappoint. The range of horological candy presented this year is astonishing, just amazing works of art. That said, the majority of them are overwhelmingly complex and busy, to my eye at least. And some are whimsical and downright gaudy. All well and good, but for me there was one that immediately stood out, the AdC30 from Atelier de Chronometrie. If you’ve read any of my articles or seen my Instagram, you’ll know that I’m drawn to vintage watches and the vintage design aesthetic, and so modern watches that evoke that vintage vibe always resonate with me. And this AdC30 fits that to a ‘T’.

The AdC30 is based on their line of AdC time only watches, with a classic 1940’s style Calatrava case and bullseye style time only dial. This Only Watch model does stand out in several ways from its predecessors of course. The 37mm case is made of 18k gray gold, and to be frank I’ve never heard of gray gold, but it sounds cool, maybe has more of a steel look? In any case, the lugs are the star here, with super sharp, bold steps that give it a fantastic Machine Age look that I absolutely love. The two-tone sandwich dial is classic Calatrava style, but with the polished inner track for the bullseye look. The classic sub-seconds at 6 o’clock is inset and shiny compared to the rest of the dial. The leaf hands are gorgeous, with the hour and minute being rose gold and the second hand blued steel. The only thing I’d change about this classic dress watch is the crown. Everything else has a beautiful attention to detail and the crown is too simple and has no logo or any adornment. I think if the crown were a step up, it would elevate this piece even more.

The movement is, like most watches at this level, a work of art unto itself. It is the in-house caliber M284. A 19 jewel manual wind beauty with 38 hours of power reserve that is highly finished to a level above and beyond what AdC usually uses on their regular line up. Another thing that drew me to this watch is the fact that Atelier de Chronometrie is based in Barcelona, Spain. It’s refreshing to see a high-end boutique brand watch out of Spain. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Barcelona, and I fell in love with the city and Spain itself, so for me this adds another layer to my appreciation for the Atelier de Chronometrie AdC30.

Brett Braley – Montblanc 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen Carbo2

Working in the luxury pen world has afforded me a keen eye for detail and that goes doubly for Montblanc. An institution in my own professional industry, I was curious to see if much of the design language transfers to the watch side of their business and, to put it mildly, I’d say they’re succeeding quite nicely. Montblanc has built an empire on creating everyday objects and updating them to veritable objets d’arte and the 1858 Geosphere 0 Oxygen Carbo2 shows us how even the limited real estate of a watch can be jam-packed with detail. 

From the electric blue face that holds two subdials which demarcate the world time meridians of the Northern and Southern hemisphere to the complementary adventure-seeking mountain logo of the company, the visual details of this watch beg for the wearer to look for their next adventure. The watch itself is a rugged 43mm made from 0 Oxygen material, produced by capturing CO2 and mixing it with carbon fiber, which is incredibly rugged, while eliminating fogginess and preventing oxidation. It’s a watch that isn’t just meant to be worn, it’s meant to be experienced

Thomas Calara – Frederique Constant x Christiaan Van Der Klaauw Tourbillon Planetarium

Where else are you going to find a more eclectic collection of high horology than at the biennial Only Watch auction. It’s the time of year where we really get to see watch brands let loose, have some fun and at the same time, flex their technical know-how. It’s also an opportunity for brands that don’t get their fair share of shine in watch media to have a moment of their own. In my humble opinion, Frederique Constant is constantly underrated and they don’t get the proper recognition they deserve for integrating mechanical ingenuity at a value compared to the respective competition. For Only Watch 2023, Frederique Constant has paired up with fellow Dutch watchmaker Christiaan Van Der Klaauw for a piece unique that combines both of the brand’s bread and butter. 

Christiaan Van Der Klaauw timepieces are known for their signature astronomical-mechanical movements, especially their trademark planetarium complication. Christiaan Van Der Klaauw has a stronghold in this particular niche of mechanics and their planetarium complication is the smallest in the entire world since it made its way into a wrist watch in 1999. The Only Watch Frederique Constant x Christiaan Van Der Klaauw edition marks the first time a complication of this type has been incorporated into an FC. At the dial’s surface the planetarium sub-register has six hand-painted planets with the sun at the center. Underneath the dial is a composition of components with over 700 hand-milled gears that allow the aforementioned sub-register planets to complete their revolution in the actual heliocentric time it takes – Mercury being the shortest, completing its orbit in 88 days and Saturn being the longest at a shade under 30 years.   

The Only Watch Frederique Constant x Christiaan Van Der Klaauw edition also marks the first time a tourbillon is found within a CVDK. Thanks to Frederique Constant’s Geneva based manufactory, the Manufacture Tourbillon graces the dial through the aperture at six o’clock. Just to give FC another nod, their regular production Manufacture Tourbillon pieces pack a ton of value. Sure, $28K isn’t anything to sneeze at for a wrist watch, but when you include the meticulous manufacturing and design skills, it’s a “bargain” of sorts. We get more of the same with this piece unique as each tourbillon component is hand finished, even on the underside of pieces that aren’t visible to the loupe peering eye. 

The Only Watch Frederique Constant x Christiaan Van Der Klaauw is adorned with an aventurine dial (another first for FC) and a date-month sub-register display at nine o’clock that runs all on one counter (again, another first for FC) that gets balanced out across the way by both of the brand’s badges encircled by an Only Watch tribute engraving. To put a bow on it all, the Only Watch Frederique Constant x Christiaan Van Der Klaauw uses not steel, not gold, but a platinum case to package everything together. Hold for applause. 

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