You may think that for a watch to cost more than a million dollars, it should have some historical significance or be dripping in diamonds.
But watches at the highest end of the price spectrum don’t necessarily have either.
To find out why some watches command crazy prices, we spoke to a representative from A. Lange & Söhne, an ultra-high-end watch manufacturer based in Germany.
The company recently debuted its Grand Complication, an incredibly sophisticated timepiece with a price tag of €1.92 million ($2.49 million at today’s conversion rates) and 876 individual components. The design is so complicated that the company only plans to produce six pieces.
“There will only be one made for each year throughout the next six years,” A. Lange & Söhne’s Alexander Haxton told us. “Only one watchmaker was able to work on each piece.”
Two factors go into the price, he said: Materials and workmanship.
The materials that go into the watch are all of the highest quality: It is made with an enamel dial, solid pink gold case, gold hands, a blued-steel second hand, and a hand-stitched leather crocodile strap.
Even the interior mechanisms have been polished black, and everything is hand-finished and hand-engraved.
But the real value comes from production. It takes a full year for the watchmaker to complete each piece — a process that actually happens twice.
“Our brand does ‘double assembly,’ which means that we put the watch together to perfection,” Haxton said. “They take it apart and then reassemble it again just to make sure everything is in working order and perfect.”
It took product developers seven years to design the Grand Complication and conceive of a number of elaborate functions.
One of the most complicated is the “sonnerie,” where the watch strikes a low-pitched gong every hour and quarter hour. With two settings called the “grand strike” and “small strike,” it’s perhaps the most complex function for a watch ever, Haxton said.
In addition to the gong strikes, the Grand Complication has a split-second chronograph with flying seconds (a mechanism that acts as a stop watch), and is accurate to one-fifth of a second.
It also comes with a perpetual calendar, which will correctly display the date and time until the year 2100 without adjustment, as well a gorgeous moon phase display.
In short, the watch is a work of art, both inside and out. Yet even with all of its incredible functions, the watch isn’t showy in the way other watches of this calibre tend to be — perfect for the unassuming multi-billionaire.
There are already rumours that A. Lange & Söhne has promised three of the watches to a businessman from Asia, and may have potentially sold all six even before the 2014 release date of the first watch.
But don’t worry, chances are an even more complicated watch is already being dreamt up.
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