Independent luxury watch broker David Duggan contributes another in a series of educational articles about watches. This time, David gives five reasons why Patek Philippe's Titanium Ref. 5208T-010 managed to reach a staggering CHF6.2m at the Only Watch Auction at Christie's Geneva last Saturday. 

Saturday November 11 saw Christie’s hosting the seventh Only Watch auction and the spectacular event did not fail to disappoint, raising more than 10 million Swiss Francs for charity. A treasure trove of beautiful, one-off watches was auctioned off to the highest bidders, all in aid of raising money for research into Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a severe form of the inherited condition where the muscle tissue begins to waste away from around the age of four. The biannual auction sees unique timepieces – each one created especially for the event – sold to diehard collectors.


It was a particularly triumphant day for Tudor, breaking the brand’s record for the most expensive watch it’s ever auctioned – its unique left-handed Black Bay Bronze One with matching khaki dial and bezel sold for a cool CHF350,000.

Once again, though, Patek Philippe stole the show with its Grand Complication Reference 5208T-010 – a self-winding minute repeater, monopusher chronograph and instantaneous perpetual calendar, making it one of the most complicated watches to be made by Patek, next to the Grandmaster Chime. The timepiece sold for a staggering 6.2 million Swiss Francs –  more than six times its modest presale estimate.

The watch really is a once-in-a-lifetime purchase, so we asked independent luxury watch specialist David Duggan to tell us why its new owner is one lucky individual.


The Grand Complication Reference 5208T-010 is a self-winding minute repeater, monopusher chronograph and instantaneous perpetual calendar, which means it’s unbelievably complex. For instance, the perpetual calendar movement takes into account different lengths of months as well as leap years. The one-of-a-kind hand-finished movement is made up of an incredible 719 parts, and the blue checkerboard ‘carbon’ pattern dial was customized specifically for the auction. As part of the deal, the winning bidder also won a tour of Patek’s watchmaking workshops, museum and a private lunch with its president, Thierry Stern.


While it’s complicated on the inside, the watch’s aesthetic has a clarity and readability that is extremely modern. In particular, the date is highly prominent, and the dials are just lovely and elegantly executed. I love the way the year is slotted into the right-hand minutes dial and then the hour counter on the left and the minutes on the right. It packs a huge amount of information into a beautiful dial.


Titanium is typically used for sporty chronographs as it is incredibly lightweight and has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of all known elements, which makes it both extremely strong and durable. It’s also resistant to corrosion, seawater and chlorine, as well as being scratchproof and hypoallergenic. Titanium isn’t to everyone’s taste as it can feel a bit light on the wrist. Patek Philippe doesn’t use titanium that often but at the 2013 Only Watch auction its ref. 5004 went for 2,950,000 euros (roughly £2.5 million at the time). Their rarity makes them all the more desirable for collectors.

What will be interesting is hearing how the sound of the minute repeater resonates in a titanium case. The case metal distorts the sound, so you get a different sound in platinum and gold casing and obviously titanium is a lot lighter. I’ve never heard a minute repeater in titanium. It’s such a difficult material to work with, particularly as Patek’s standards demand such intricate case work.


As previously mentioned, the use of titanium cleverly blends traditional craft, complication and modern aesthetic. But the ornate, hand guilloche work is also quite rare on a minute repeater, especially one with such a sporty, youthful feel to it.

The gorgeous blue color in the dial and matching Cordura strap also adds to its youthful appeal. Thierry Stern himself is a fan of blue dials as they’re easy to wear. Indeed, comparisons have been drawn between this model and one of Patek’s earlier Only Watch offerings – the 2015 steel 5016A-010 Minute Repeater Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, which went for a record-breaking 7.3 million Swiss Francs. Blue seems to be the go-to colour for luxury watches right now, especially if this year’s Baselworld offering is anything to go by.


Interestingly, the watch is a Patek Philippe first in that it has a modified movement – a distinctive black rhodium plated finish and platinum hand-finished micro-rotor. It makes the watch the only timepiece in its archives with a modified movement. The platinum micro-rotor is hand-guillochéd to the highest degree, with the same carbon-fiber decoration as the dial, a fiendishly tricky process that requires enormous amounts of patience and skill. The touch of black rhodium is also a departure from the silvery white rhodium finish conventionally employed. No doubt these features made it highly desirable for the auction’s bidders – more exclusivity for an already notoriously exclusive watch brand like Patek means collectors will be remain fascinated by this watch for decades.

You can find out more about Only Watch 2017 and the  Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies here , or visit David Duggan Watches in Burlington Arcade, London.