Our 2018 buying guides have to come to an end. After the top 10 watches below EUR 2,000, followed by 10 watches between EUR 2,000 and 5,000, our 10 prefered watches between EUR 5,000 to EUR 10,000, and finally out top picks between EUR 10,000 and EUR 25,000, it is now time to look at the best of the best, when money doesn’t matter anymore: the best watches of 2018 in the high-end category, all priced above EUR 25,000. Complications, Haute-Horlogerie movements, hand-made decorations… what dreams are made of!
Note: as always, these “buying guides” are our personal selections and we’re sure you’ll have your own favourites. Feel free to list your top watches of 2018 in this “Above 25k Euros” category in the comment section at the end of this article!
A. Lange & Sohne Triple Split – EUR 139,000
When it comes to chronographs, A. Lange & Söhne already had a handful of masterpieces, including the Datograph and the Double Split. For 2018, the brand decided to give these two a new king, with the Triple Split – basically, the uber-Double-Split, itself the uber-Datograph. Technically, the rattrapante function has been implemented not only on the seconds but also one the minutes (like the Double Split) but also on the hours. What is most impressive is the decoration and the complexity of the movement – which is admittedly one of the most stunning chronograph movements we’ve ever seen. The design, on the other hand, remains rather discreet with a combination of a white gold case and grey dial. In short, the uber-uber-chrono – and a price of EUR 139,000.
Akrivia Chronomètre Contemporain – CHF 60,000
We already knew that Rexhep Rexhepi, founder of Akrivia, was capable of creating impressive and complex watches, with superbly decorated movements. Yet, true recognition only came this year when his Chronomètre Contemporain won the coveted men’s watch prize at the GPHG 2018. And rightfully so! With this new piece, Rexhep focused on more simplicity, more elegance and more subtlety… but only for the habillage – note the great hands and enamel dial. The movement, completely done in-house is finished to an incredible level. This new Chronomètre Contemporain is the watch of that reflects Rexhep’s maturity and a feast for Haute Horlogerie gourmets. A good way to spend CHF 60,000.
Bovet Recital 22 “Grand Recital” – CHF 435,000
Meet the best watch of 2018 according to the jury of the GPHG. The Bovet Recital 22 “Grand Recital” certainly is an impressive timepiece and shows all the talent of this manufacture. This watch has it all: the originality of the design, the complications, the hand-finishing, the respect of a secular brand and an undeniable charm. The Grand Recital combines hours indicated by a rotating Earth with day/night indication, retrograde minutes, a one-minute tourbillon, a retrograde perpetual calendar on the back and a precision moon phase (oh and a power reserve indicator too, with “just” 9 days of power). Certainly not the most discreet piece but consider it as a demonstration of savoir-faire and a flagship for the brand – which, as you can imagine, doesn’t come cheap retailing for CHF 435,000.
Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic – EUR 125,000
Having the thinnest tourbillon, the thinnest minute repeater and one of the thinnest automatic watches in the collection wasn’t enough for Bvlgari. So for Baselworld 2018, the team decided to strike hard with the Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic – which is simply the thinnest automatic watch and thinnest tourbillon ever. Its movement is paper thin at 1.95mm in height and its case is… almost non-existent at 3.95mm. To make this watch possible, Bvlagri took the super-thin hand-wound tourbillon movement and added a peripheral rotor around it – so both the automatic and hand-wound are the same height. The case has also been reworked to be as thin as possible. And no, this isn’t a concept-only but can even be purchased for EUR 125,000 – a lot of money but still almost “reasonable” considering the technical achievement.
Carl F. Bucherer Manero Tourbillon Double Peripheral – EUR 59,700
Carl F. Bucherer was already known for its use of the peripheral rotor winding system on its in-house movement – something the brand was the first to implement on a full industrial scale (this 1950s innovation never really made it in more than a few hundred pieces before). For its 130th anniversary, the brand pushes the concept further by implementing the peripheral complication on the tourbillon – something unprecedented. A tourbillon normally is held in place by two bridges (classic architecture) or one bridge (flying architecture). At Carl F. Bucherer, there are simply no bridges to hold the rotating cage. The tourbillon, raised on top of the dial, appears like it’s floating. It is, in fact, supported peripherally by three ceramic ball bearings, which ensure a stable connection, precise guidance, and smooth running – and a stunning visual impact. The rest of the Manero Tourbillon Double Peripheral is classic, elegant and nicely executed. An impressive technical achievement available for EUR 59,700.
De Bethune DB25 Starry Varius – CHF 60,000
De Bethune has had its ups and downs recently but the brand appears to be back on track with the introduction of several new models – which combine all the attributes that made the brand so desirable and unique. As an example is this simply stunning DB25 Starry Varius, a watch that is De Bethune in the best possible way. Superbly executed, combining classic elements with bold details and with a movement that is finished to an astonishing level. And then there is this dial, this flamed blued, hand-polished titanium dial with a customizable starry sky… The result is elegant, antique and modern at the same time, poetical and a feast for Haute Horlogerie lovers. CHF 60,000.
Grönefeld 1941 Principia – EUR 29,950
What is a 3-hand, automatic watch doing in this guide? Please bear with us, as this Grönefeld 1941 Principia is not any kind of time-only watch. Bringing back the design of the Remontoire watch, the Horological Brothers have created a deceptively elegant and restrained piece (especially in this enamelled version)… But wait until you turn the watch over and look at what might be the most stunning time-only, automatic movement of the year. For their “simpler” watch, the Bros remain true to their superb decoration and to their unique way of building a movement. Discreet and restrained outside, expansive on the inside. And that makes the Principia – an Observatoire-style piece – a true watch for connoisseurs, which is priced at EUR 29,950.
Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar School Piece – CHF 55,000
This year, at the SIHH 2018, Laurent Ferrier introduced his own vision of a calendar watch. Housed in the elegant and beautifully proportioned School Piece case, LF created a watch in his usual 1930s/1940s style, with sector dial and signature Assegai-shaped hands. In addition to that was a new alloy for the case, named pale yellow gold – a sand-coloured material that perfectly befits the vintage accents of this watch. Mechanically-speaking, the watch doesn’t disappoint either, with a user-friendly mechanism for the annual calendar and a new proprietary movement, again superbly decorated. Certainly one of the most elegant pieces of 2018, priced at CHF 55,000 in gold (CHF 50,000 in steel).
Patek Philippe Worltime Minute Repeater 5531R – CHF 495,000
With the 5531R, Patek Philippe brings the best of its best. It combines in a single watch two signature complications of the brand. First is the WorldTimer, which Patek was one of the first manufactures to implement. Then is the minute repeater, and we know that Patek masters the chiming complications. Add to that a cloisonné enamel dial (a scenery created from thin gold wires and then micro-painted with enamel powders) and a superbly shaped case. Of course, as you can expect, this doesn’t come cheap – CHF 495,000 but what a superb way to spend half a million Swiss Francs. Spoiler: we’ll have a full review of this watch in the coming days.
Urwerk UR-111C – EUR 155,000
Last but not least, URWERK, the hyper-creative independent watchmaker, introduced a new watch this year. While true to the roots of the brand, the UR-111C also marks a departure from the signature wandering hours complications with the satellites. The time is displayed by rollers and a retrograde linear display for the minutes. And there’s the optical fibre “screen” that projects the seconds indication from the bottom of the movement to the top of the watch – far from necessary but terribly cool. The design is still very impressive and technical but is surprisingly wearable. Creativity and boldness to the max. CHF 155,000.