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Unique piece: The one-of-a-kind watches every collector needs to know

9 January 2019 • Written by Zoe Dickens

Limited edition timepieces and Metiers d’Art marvels are all well and good but, when you already have a strong collection featuring key pieces from all the major houses, what can you buy that really stands out? The answer, of course, is something completely unique. The preserve of only the finest watchmakers and usually commissioned to mark a special event or anniversary, these one-of-a-kind timepieces often showcase a particularly complicated calibre or artistic technique that truly sets them apart from the rest. Of course, being unique, you’ll need deep pockets, good connections and quick reaction times to get your hands on one – here are the watches that are worth the effort.

Jaquet Droz Bird Repeater Falcon

Swiss watchmaker Jaquet Droz has been famed for its skill in automata since its foundation in 1738 and, accordingly, its finest wristwatches provide a miniature showcase for this traditional skill. Among the most beautiful of these is the Bird Repeater line which was debuted in 2012 and to which the most recent addition is the UAE-inspired Bird Repeater Falcon. The watch houses a hand-engraved and painted red gold nest with two falcons and two chicks inside a white gold case. When the minute repeater sounds the automaton comes to life and sees one falcon bend to feed a chick, the other spread its wings and a third chick hatch from a central egg.

Case: 10 karat white gold, 47mm
Strap: Alligator
Movement: Jaquet Droz RMA88 hand-wound mechanical
Complications: Minute repeater, automaton
Price: POA, jaquet-droz.com

Panerai Laboratorio di Idee Experience Luminor Tourbillon GMT

One of a growing number of fine watchmakers to embrace online boutiques, Panerai released the Laboratorio di Idee Experience timepiece to celebrate the launch of its e-commerce platform in late 2018. Only one of the 100-strong limited edition will be available to buy online, with the owner of this unique piece offered a private visit to the manufacture in Neuchatel where they can discover Panerai’s research and innovation department – or Laboratorio di Idee (Laboratory of Ideas) – where the watch was created.

Case: Brushed titanium, 47mm
Strap: Leather
Movement: Calibre P.2005/T hand-wound mechanical
Complications: Small seconds, GMT, 24 hour indicator, power reserve, tourbillon
Waterproof: 100 metres
Price: £121,000, panerai.com

Chaumet Espiègleries Trésors d'Afrique

Bejewelled timepieces that also boast complicated mechanical movements often enter the realm of unique watches due to the skill and expertise required to create them. A perfect example of this is Chaumet’s Espiègleries watch from its Trésors d'Afrique fine jewellery collection. Featuring an aventurine dial adorned with a yellow gold, tsavorite garnet and yellow sapphire snake and yellow gold frog, it also boasts a flying tourbillon with custom leave-shaped upper disc making it far more than your average cocktail watch.

Case: 18 karat white gold with diamonds, 39.9mm
Strap: Alligator
Movement: Swiss mechanical manual wound
Complications: Flying tourbillon
Waterproof: 30 metres
Price: POA, chaumet.com

Piaget Emperador Cushion

Sometimes it is just the sheer level of bling exhibited by a timepiece that elevates it to the level of a unique piece. The Emperador Cushion watch by Piaget is crafted in 18 karat white gold and set with more than 1,200 diamonds totalling 38.3 carats. However, unlike many quartz fine jewellery timepieces, the Emperador boasts some impressive watchmaking beneath its dazzling exterior. Its self-winding mechanical minute repeater movement is the thinnest in the world at just 4.8mm.

Case: 18 karat white gold and diamond, 49mm
Strap: White gold and diamond
Movement: Calibre 1290P self-winding
Complications: Minute repeater
Waterproof: 30 metres
Price: POA, piaget.com

Krayon Everywhere Horizon

Winner of the Innovation Prize at the 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Geneve, Krayon’s Everywhere Horizon is unprecedented in the unusual complications its Calibre USS movement packs into an elegant wristwatch. Admittedly its somewhat crowded dial may take some getting used to but, once you do, you’ll have the time of sunrise and sunset anywhere on earth, a universal mechanical calculator, date, daylight duration and 24-hour time at your fingertips. Every watch is custom made and personalised to client requests so no two pieces will ever be the same.

Case: White gold, 43mm
Strap: Leather
Movement: Calibre USS automatic
Complications: Sunrise/sunset calculator, 24-hour time, date, daylight duration indicator
Waterproof: 30 metres
Price: CHF775,000, krayon.ch