GIVEN THAT WE can now tell the time by reaching into our pockets and glancing towards our phones, investing in a high-end watch that costs as much as the GDP of a developing country might seem like an unwise expenditure. Or at least it would, if telling time was still the primary function of a multi-million-dollar timepiece.

You’d be kidding yourself if you were to argue that the world’s most expensive watches are purchased for their functional or aesthetic value – don’t get us wrong, most of them do look exceptionally pretty and do what most watches do, but that’s not why people buy them. No, the reason people make incomprehensible outlays for watches is the statement said watches make. A pricey watch doesn’t just complete an outfit, it’s a way for the rich and famous to say ‘look at me, I’m rich and famous!’

The watches that draw the heaviest sums come in many forms. Some earn their value by squeezing unfathomably complicated marvels of watchmaking into a tiny case. Others are so advanced they can track planetary movements or keep time into perpetuity without adjustment. Then there’s the pieces that come with a fair bit of bling – we’re talking hand-cut jewels, precious metals and glittery materials that can’t help but catch eyes. Yes Usher, we’re looking at your wrist. Almost invariably, these watches are also one of a kind.

So, who owns the most expensive of the bunch? Here, we break down the most valuable celebrity watches and, in the process, remove any hopes we have of owning one. Still, we dream.

All figures are in AUD and accurate as of July 9th 2024.

Celebrity Watches
richardmille.com

11. Richard Mille RM27-03 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal – Rafael Nadal

Valued at: $2.2 million

Rafa and Richard Mille have been in league since 2010, resulting in a number of horological collaborations over the years. This particular collaboration – seen on the wrist of Nadal at the French Open – has beared the most fruit in terms of value. Only 50 RM27-03s were ever made. They have cases set in the colours of the Spanish flag and for some reason, shock resistance of up to 10,000gs. We’re not sure how useful that is on a tennis court, but it does add considerable value.

10. Franck Muller Cintree Tourbillon – Cristiano Ronaldo

Valued at: $2.7 million

Ronaldo’s Franck Muller piece unique – watch speak for one-of-a-kind – is set in 18 carat white gold with a swirling array of baguette-cut diamonds. The overall design is fairly stock-standard, but it’s undeniably an attention grabber. Bizarrely, Ronaldo debuted the piece in a social media post promoting a hair transplant clinic.

Celebrity Watches
richardmille.com

9. Richard Mille RM 57-01 Jackie Chan – Jackie Chan

Valued at: $4 million

Only 15 pieces of Richard Mille’s collaboration with Jackie Chan were ever made. Chan owns one of them, which boasts a manual winding tourbillon movement and a baseplate made of PVD titanium. But of course, the most striking details are the dragon and phoenix smack bang in the middle of the dial.

Celebrity Watches
INSTAGRAM | @celebwatchspotter

8. Jacob & Co. Ruby Billionaire III – DJ Khaled

Valued at: $4.5 million

DJ Khaled dropped just under $5 million on this Jacob & Co watch back in 2022 and in spite of the hefty price tag, it’s easy to see why. The watch features a total of 713 diamonds. 504 of which are emerald-cut white diamonds which were hand-set in 18 carat white gold to form the watch’s bracelet. The case is studded with another 209 shiny rocks and incorporates Jacob & Co’s exclusive skeletonised tourbillon calibre movement. It seems that DJ Khaled is in fact the best at something.

7. Patek Philippe 2499 Platinum – Eric Clapton

Valued at: $5.3 million

A small asterisk here, because technically legendary guitarist Eric Clapton no longer owns this 1987 Patek Philippe watch. But he used to, and it’s one of the most valuable watches to ever go to auction. It’s one of only two 2499 platinum models, which integrate 23 jewels, ever made. Clapton parted ways with the watch in 2012, selling it for over $5 million.

Celebrity Watches
INSTAGRAM | @esquire.australia

6. Jacob & Co. Ruby Billionaire III – Usher

Valued at: $7 million

Usher wore this $7 million pink-hued Jacob & Co watch to the 2024 Met Gala, fresh off performing at the Super Bowl a few months earlier – clearly the pay cheque for that gig wasn’t too shabby. The watch is made from 18-carat white gold and features 714 encrusted rubies, which lend themselves to a rather exorbitant price tag.

5. Hublot Big Bang – Jay Z

Valued at: $7.5 million

A well-known watch fanatic, in his 2012 hit Otis, Jay Z exuberantly exclaims “New watch alert – Hublot”. Perhaps this was the very watch he was so excited to own he just had to tell everyone about it? Actually, we might be right on the money there, because this Hublot Big Bang was gifted to Jay Z by Beyonce for his 43rd birthday, which was in 2012! Case cracked.

As far as birthday presents go, this Hublot watch is absolutely enough to make you want to tell the world about it in just the third line of a hit song with Kanye West. It’s made of 18 carat white gold and features a total of 1,282 baguette-cut diamonds – 782 in the bracelet, 321 in the case, and 179 in the dial.

Celebrity Watches
Sotheby’s

4. Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime – Sylvester Stallone

Valued at: $8 million

Sly Stallone recently auctioned off a significant portion of his prized watch collection. The piece that fetched the highest price was this extremely rare Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime. No one – except the folks at Patek Philippe, we presume – knows how many of this model actually exist. Such a scarcity, even a dubious one, tends to drive up prices. But with a white gold frame, multiple subdials and five different gong sounds, it isn’t just rarity that makes this watch valuable.

3. Patek Philippe 5016A – Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie

Valued at: $16.5 million

This Patek Philippe piece unique was purchased by Brad Pitt at a charity auction in 2015, which might explain the lofty fee. As the story goes, Pitt bought the watch as a gift for his then-wife, Angelina Jolie. We’re not sure who has possession of the watch now that the pair have split, but with its Calatrava-style case, one-of-a-kind tourbillon, perpetual calendar with a moon-phase display and stratospheric price tag, you’d rather lose your house in a divorce than this watch.

Celebrity Watches

2. Rolex Daytona Paul Newman – Paul Newman

Valued at: $25 million

All the way back in 1968, Joanne Woodward gifted her husband Paul Newman – then at the height of his fame – a unique, personalised Rolex. It has since become the holy grail for watch collectors.

The watch boasts a black and creme dial, three subdials, and is engraved with the words “Drive Carefully”, a message from wife to husband. Newman sold his Daytona in 2017 for a cool $25 million, which remains the most a watch has ever been sold for at auction.

Celebrity Watches
INSTAGRAM | @superwatchman

1. Jacob & Co. Billionaire Diamond Tourbillon – Floyd Mayweather

Valued at: $26.5 million

So you’ve managed to save up $26.5 million, or maybe you’ve found it tucked away at the back of your wardrobe, or perhaps you’ve even won the lottery. The question now, as that cash burns a hole in your pocket, is what to spend it on?

While we can’t say we’ve been in that situation, Floyd Mayweather has one solution. In 2018, Mayweather bought the one of the most expensive watches ever made, an extravagant Jacob & Co timepiece with 260 carats of emerald-cut diamonds set in an inverted pyramid style and a skeletonised movement with a tourbillon complication. We suppose there are worse things to spend money on – and such a prized timepiece can only go up in value.

Related:

How luxury watches won the Miami Grand Prix

This is the vintage-inspired watch Ryan Gosling wears in ‘The Fall Guy’