This one-of-a-kind F.P. Journe watch just sold for a record US$420,000—and it’s quartz

By Rachel Cormack 8 March, 2024

The one-of-a-kind Élégante is now the second most expensive quartz watch ever sold

F.P. Journe and Phillips recently raised nearly half a mil.

The duo auctioned off a unique Élégante Titalyt for US$420,000 last Saturday, with 100 per cent of the proceeds benefiting the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. The wrist candy now ranks as the second most expensive quartz watch ever sold, behind only a diamond-encrusted Graff timepiece that hammered down for US$531,000 at Christie’s in 2019.

“The Phillips team is immensely honored to have collaborated with F.P.Journe in offering this one-of-a-kind timepiece for such a noble cause,” Phillips auctioneer Isabella Proia said in a statement. “Standing witness to the vibrant energy in the room as collectors and philanthropists united for this mission was truly inspiring.”

At once classic and modern, the special-edition Élégante features a 48 mm tortue case that is reminiscent of early 20th-century designs yet is made of a contemporary material called Titalyt. (It is essentially a grade five titanium that has been subjected to electro-plasma oxidation to increase hardness and durability.) The watch also showcases the pale pink synonymous with breast cancer awareness. The pastel hue most obviously appears on the strap, but the stylised numeral “1” on the dial is also colored pink to denote this is a one-off piece.

The special-edition Élégante showcases the pale pink synonymous with breast cancer awareness. Photo by Phillips

“We are deeply grateful for F.P.Journe and Phillips’ extraordinary efforts which have helped to draw important attention to male breast cancer and fund critical research into a disease that affects one in 833 men in the U.S.,” added the foundation’s president and CEO Donna McKay. “By supporting BCRF—the world’s largest private funder for breast cancer research—they are making an enormous impact in allowing our global legion of scientists to develop better approaches, treatments, and outcomes for those with breast cancer and their loved ones.”

The real pièce de résistance of the Élégante is the caliber 1210. The electromechanical movement is equipped with a microprocessor specially designed to conserve energy. How? A motion detection sensor notices when the watch is idle for 35 minutes and switches it into “hibernation” mode to preserve the battery. The hands stop ticking around the dial, but the movement continues to track time internally. As soon as the watch is back in action, the hands automatically move to the correct time. The sophisticated system results in an impressive power reserve of eight to 10 years when in use and 18 years in standby.

The Élégante distinguishes itself from other quartz watches on the market by displaying the gold-plated movement through an exhibition caseback. (The inertia weight is also visible through an aperture on the dial at four o’clock.) As such, the wearer can appreciate the high-horology finishing, such as the engraved battery bridge decorated with Cotes de Genève and the beveled and polished screw heads.

Collectors can no longer get this particular pink beauty, but the production model is quite similar. The only difference is the standard edition has black numerals on the dial and a non-pink strap. (The strap is available in several colours, including white, orange, yellow, burgundy, and royal blue.) It will cost you a lot less, too.

This story was first published on Robb Report USA