The three major watch auction houses, Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips, together sold $626 million worth of watches in 2022. Phillips took the lead, with year-end sales of $227 million, followed by Christie’s at $220 million, and Sotheby’s watch sales totaled $179 million. The following tally of the top 20 lots shows Patek Philippe and Rolex continue to rein as the highest-priced brands, but this year, Richard Mille, F.P. Journe, George Daniels and Audemars Piguet take their place among the top 20, a trend that reflects the greater importance of pieces made by independent watchmakers at auction.
Here are the top watches sold at auction in 2022. Ten were sold by Christie’s, and five each were auctioned by Phillips and Sotheby’s. All but number 20 hammered for more than $2 million. Nine watches sold for over $3 million. (In some cases, final prices are approximate, due to currency conversions).
1. Gobbi Milano-Signed Patek Philippe Ref. 2499 ($7,724,346)
The top lot of the year, sold by Sotheby’s in Hong Kong last spring was a Patek Philippe Ref. 2499, a pink gold version of Patek’s famous perpetual calendar chronograph. It was made in 1957 and double-signed by the retailer Gobbi Milano. It is one of nine pink gold second-series 2499s made, and the only one that’s known to have the Gobbi signature. It last sold in 2007 for $2.7 million, a record at the time.
2. George Daniels Spring Case Tourbillon ($4,092,075)
The highlight of the Phillips Geneva Watch Auction: XVI was a George Daniels Spring Case Tourbillon, a record price for any wristwatch by the British maker, and the second-highest price achieved by an independent watchmaker. The ingenious two-part case has an inner section holding the movement, which is hinged to the outer so that when released by a pusher in the band it springs open to reveal the reverse dial.
3. Richard Mille RM56-01 ($3,661,673)
This Richard Mille RM56-01 was sold at Christie’s in Geneva. The watch, with a sapphire and titanium case, a skeletonized tourbillon escapement and a power reserve and torque indicator, was one of 17 Richard Mille watches in the sale, nine of which hammered for over $1 million.
4. Rolex “Paul Newman” Daytona ($3,421,169)
The top lot in Christie’s Rare Watches sale this fall was a Rolex Paul Newman Daytona in 18-karat yellow gold with an “Oyster Lemon” dial. The watch, Ref. 6263, is the earliest of only three known examples of a Paul Newman-style dial in this color.
5. Patek Philippe “Pink-on-Pink” Ref. 1518 ($3,333,926)
This rare pink-on-pink Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 perpetual calendar chronograph sold at Phillips in Geneva in the spring. The pink gold, pink-dialed watch is a first-series edition, of which only 281 were made, and maybe six with this particular dial.
6. Tiffany & Co.-Signed Patek Philippe Nautilus Ref. 5711 ($3,180,665)
Christie’s Geneva sold this Patek Philippe Ref. 5711 Nautilus double-signed Tiffany, the most famous watch of the decade. The Tiffany Blue Nautilus was made in a limited edition of 170 and it retailed in 2021 for just over $50,000.
7. Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon Ref. 5002R ($3,129,380)
The Patek Philippe Sky Moon Tourbillon Ref. 5002R set a world auction record for the reference and doubled its pre-sale estimate at a Christie’s auction last spring. The pink gold masterpiece includes 12 complications, including a cathedral minute repeater, tourbillon, perpetual calendar with retrograde date, moon age and angular motion, sidereal time and sky chart.
8. F.P. Journe Grande et Petite Sonnerie Souveraine ($3,060,413)
This one-of-a-kind F.P. Journe Grande et Petite Sonnerie Souveraine minute repeater in steel with a petrol blue lacquer dial sold at a Christie’s fall auction in Geneva. Made in 2009, the dial bears the FIA 7th Constructors’ Formula One World Champions logo. It was a bespoke piece made for the seller.
9. Patek Philippe Second-Series Ref. 2499 ($3,000,000)
Sotheby’s sold this Patek Philippe second-series Ref. 2499, at a spring auction in Hong Kong. It is the only known example with luminous baton indexes and hands and was made in 1958. It was last sold, at Sotheby’s, in 2000 by the descendants of the original owner. Of all the 349 references of the Ref. 2499 made over three decades there are only five luminous examples known.
10. Patek Philippe Pink Gold Ref. 1518 ($2,900,000)
At the same sale, Sotheby’s sold a pink gold Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 perpetual calendar chronograph, made a decade earlier in 1948. Patek made only 281 of its legendary 1518s, and only 58 were made in pink gold. Even rarer are examples with pink dials. To date, the market has only seen 14 of these “pink on pink” examples.
11. “Possibly Unique” Patek Philippe Ref. 3974 ($2,498,314)
This “possibly unique” Patek Philippe Ref. 3974 was sought after by 20 bidders at a spring sale by Phillips in Hong Kong. It has a yellow gold case made by the legendary case maker Jean-Pierre Hagmann and features a black lacquer dial embellished with the Calatrava Cross logo.
12. George Daniels Platinum Anniversary Watch ($2,389,500)
The top lot in Phillips spring New York Auction Six was the first platinum George Daniels Anniversary watch, with serial number 00. It set a record for a George Daniels wristwatch and for any British-made wristwatch at auction (broken later in the year; see number 4 on our list). It was one of four platinum pieces in a series of 47 released in 2010 to commemorate the anniversary of the invention of Daniels’s co-axial movement.
13. Patek Philippe Ref. 5217 ($2,300,000)
Sotheby’s sold this Patek Philippe Ref. 5217 in Hong Kong last. It’s a platinum minute repeater perpetual calendar tourbillon with baguette diamonds set into the bezel and horns. It was a very limited series, no longer produced, and this is the first one to come to market.
14. Cartier-Signed Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 ($2,224,605)
Christie’s sold this Patek Philippe Ref. 1518, the only example double signed by Cartier. It was made in 1946, which makes it a late first-series example of the reference, Patek’s first serial-produced perpetual calendar chronograph.
15. Patek Philippe Ref. 5531-012 ($2,220,000)
Part of the Kairos collection sold by Christie’s in New York, this Patek Philippe Ref. 5531-012 World Time minute repeater has a cloisonné enamel dial depicting the Lavaux vineyards on Lake Geneva. It was made in 2017 to coincide with Patek’s watchmaking exhibition in New York and was the first to combine a repeater with a world time function.
16. Richard Mille Ref. RM001 ($2,104,449)
Christie’s sold this Richard Mille Ref. RM001 at its fall Geneva sale. The 18-karat pink gold watch, a tourbillon with torque and power reserve indicators, is one of the earliest examples of the model and was worn by Richard Mille as his personal wristwatch.
17. Gerald Genta’s Audemars Piguet “Jumbo” Royal Oak ($2,100,000)
This Audemars Piguet “Jumbo” Royal Oak has the extra cachet of having been owned by the designer of the Royal Oak, Gerald Genta, known as “the Picasso of watches.” It was sold by Sotheby’s in Geneva, and is the only known Ref. 5402 in steel with a gold bezel.
18. Rolex “El Limoncito” “Paul Newman” Daytona Ref. 6264 ($2,087,000)
Phillips sold this Ref. 6264 Rolex Paul Newman Daytona with a lemon dial and gold case in the spring. It’s almost identical to a Ref. 6263 sold later by ‘’s (see number 4): Both were made in 1969. This lot was nicknamed “El Limoncito” as an homage to the Mexican origins of the family who owned the watch since its production.
19. Patek Philippe World Time Ref. 605HU ($2,054,256)
This rare Patek Philippe World Time Ref. 605HU (Heure Universelles) was sold by Christie’s in May. Manufactured in 1948, it features a cloisonné enamel dial depicting a world map.
20. F.P. Journe Centigraphe Ferrari Edition ($1,983,850)
This F.P. Journe Centigraphe Ferrari Edition was sold by Christie’s this fall. The chronograph, with 100th of a second, 20th seconds and 10-minute registers, is a unique piece, made for motor racing executive Jean Todt.