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Most expensive watch auctioned sells for $7.3M

A Patek Philippe timepiece became the most expensive wristwatch ever sold at auction over the weekend, when it was purchased for $7.3 million.

The watch, called the 5016A, sold at Phillips auction in Geneva for more than 10 times its low estimate of $700,000. The sale followed nine minutes of intense bidding by two anonymous phone bidders, and led to a standing ovation by the crowd at the La Reserve Hotel.

The proceeds will go to charity.

This Patek Philippe watch sold for $7.3 million at auction.
Source: Patek Philippe
This Patek Philippe watch sold for $7.3 million at auction.

While pocket watches have fetched far more at auction — the record-breaking Henry Graves Supercomplication made by Patek went for $24.4 million last year — the piece sold over the weekend set a record for a wristwatch.

The previous record for a wristwatch was a Patek 18-carat gold timepiece that sold at Christie's for $5.7 million in 2010.

What makes the price tag on the 5016A especially surprising is that the piece has none of the usual flash of a new multi-million-dollar watch — no diamonds, jewels or obvious gold bling. Instead, the 5016A is made of simple stainless steel, with a subtle blue enameled dial and blue, alligator leather strap.

Its value comes mainly from its scarcity and "complications," or the features that do more than tell time. Patek made just one example of the 5016A, and it's a "grande complication" that includes a tourbillon (a device that counters the effects of gravity), a minute repeater and retrograde perpetual calendar. While small, the watch has 506 parts.

Patek donated the piece to the "Only Watch" auction, which is held every two years and donates the proceeds to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy research.