Blancpain was the first watch brand to support the Monaco Association against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (AMM), this support dates back to 2001. Since 2005 the bi-annual Only Watch charity auctions have become a remarkable horological event, and this year, the Manufacture is again presenting a one-of-a-kind model for the 9th Only Watch charity auction to be held in Geneva on November 6, 2021. Let’s take a look at this year’s unique piece and all it’s predecessors.
The 2021 Tribute to Fifty Fathoms No Rad Piece Unique
This year’s Only Watch color code has influenced the design of the Tribute to FF No Rad piece unique in a spectacular way:
The bright orange creates a striking contrast against the matte black dial, and the no radiations symbol completely changes it’s expression from a warning label into a more Halloween-like and positively bright visual highlight. And the fact that this No Rad has no date window emphasizes the strong color code even more.
The 2019 Fifty Fathoms Barakuda Piece Unique
The Fifty Fathoms Barakuda “Only Watch unique piece” for 2019 is based on the new limited to 500 pieces Barakuda introduced earlier this year (for a closer look at the regular model, click here), but it offers a substantially different look.
Obviously the case, the movement, the dial layout and hands are similar to the catalogue fifty Fathoms Barakuda, but what a difference the piece unique color code makes! Instead of the iconic red/yellow(ish) colors, the piece unique features white SuperLuminova and light blue accents on the dial and light blue SL on the sapphire bezel. This takes away 90% of the retro character and transforms the Barakuda from a tribute piece into a modern 40mm Fifty Fathoms.
The only reference to the charity auction can be found on the NAC coated rotor, accompanied by the Piece unique engraving on the case back. Besides those identifying criteria and the unique color code, the hands of the Fifty Fathoms Barakuda for Only Watch are not the white lacquered ones we know from the regular model. Other than for the blue accents on the seconds hand tip, they are identical to those we know from the MilSpec or OC III.
With kind permission from Monochrome Watches I can share some live photos of this unique Fifty Fathoms Barakuda. Please visit Monochrome for their first hand reporting. The watch fetched 45,000 CHF at the auction.
Previous Blancpain Only Watch timepieces
Coming back to conceptual idea behind the Fifty Fathoms Barakuda Only Watch: two years ago Blancpain took a similar approach by entering a variant of the just released Tribute to Fifty Fathoms MilSpec, featuring a yellow color code resembling the 2017 official Only Watch colors. The Fifty Fathoms MilSpec “Piece Unique for Only Watch” was auctioned with a NATO strap and fetched a stunning CHF 53,000.
In 2015 Blancpain entered a piece unique Villeret Calendrier Chinois Traditionelle with a black Grand Feu enamel dial and a black Champlevé enamel rotor for the Only Watch charity auction, this beauty fetched CHF 80,000.
In the 2013 Only Watch catalogue we find a piece unique Blancpain Women timepiece, called White Dove. This beautiful watch, offering a beautiful glimpse at the handcrafts of the Blancpain Metiers d’Art fetched 40,000€.
2011 saw a Villeret Piece Unique with a hand engraved Monegasque scene on calibre 15B, a 45mm timepiece crafted in red gold and featuring a Grand Feu enamel dial. This beauty was auctioned with a final price of 42,000€.
For the 2009 Only Watch charity auction Blancpain entered a unique 500 Fathoms crafted in titanium with the dial being the exceptional aspect: a combination of carbon fiber in the center and grey-blue sapphire over the date disc, this three dimensional face made the unique 500 Fathoms fetch 22,000€.
A truly exceptional piece was submitted in 2007: this 45mm Half Hunter (Demi-Savonette) pocket watch features the famous ultra thin manual wind calibre 15, just 1,9 mm thick at a diameter of 36,1 mm. The enameled Havana brown dial offers artistically sculpted apertures exposing the power train, and a hand engraved raised Blancpain signature. Once you open the Hunter case back, a full view on the hand engraved calibre 15 leaves you speechless.
This piece of true art fetched 70,000€.
The very first Only Watch charity auction in 2005 saw a Blancpain Leman Aqua Lung Grande Date with a sapphire dial and a commemorative engraving on the dial side of the movement. Crafted in brushed red gold, this first Blancpain Only Watch Piece Unique fetched 30,000€.
Taking a retrospect view at the various Blancpain Piece Unique timepieces for Only Watch is offering interesting insights in not only Blancpain’s commitment to this bi-annual charity auction but also the Manufacture’s focus at any given time and the full spectrum of model lines and crafts.
That being said, the 2017, 2019 and now also 2021 Only Watch submissions are breaking the sequence of variety a bit. All three auctions auctions see a variation of a limited 40mm Fifty Fathoms introduced to the market the same year, with in two cases only a differentiation in the color code compared to the catalogue timepiece, and the latest piece unique being in addition a no date version.
This approach is clearly understandable given the dominance of stainless steel sports watches in the horological world these days. Still, I would love to see a different direction going forward, something truly unique like the 2007 pocket watch or the 2013 White Dove, highlighting the depths and capabilities of the Manufacture.
This year’s Tribute to Fifty Fathoms No Rad for Only Watch will be auctioned on November 6, 2021. I personally expect it to surpass the already remarkable results of the 2017 MilSpec and the 2019 Barakuda, given the overwhelming response Blancpain has received for the “regular limited” Tribute to FF No Rad. Here you can find out more about this year’s Only Watch charity auction.
All photos in this report are used courtesy of foreign sources, to be credited to Blancpain and Monochrome Watches for the Barakuda. Thanks a lot to both!
I hope you enjoyed this report!
this blog essay was updated on July 1st, 2021