In the world of watches there’s an oddly lucrative market: The erotic watch. These timepieces have a history that dates back centuries, with graphic depictions that date back even further. Although these risqué timepieces might not bode well in polite company, they have a very unique history—and are highly valuable to collectors around the globe. It’s by no measure of perversion that these watches are currently sought after (presumably). The craftsmanship required to embellish these tantalizing timepieces takes practiced and masterful hands. Lewdness aside, the art of styling a watch to a customer’s request—both on the interior and exterior of the case—has helped inform the greater art of watchmaking for centuries. With such niche designs, the erotic watch has carved out a very unique corner of the pocket and wristwatch economy.
In terms of history, the erotic timepiece has its roots going back as far as the 17th century. In an Oct. 2015 piece by Roberta Naas in Forbes Magazine, Roberta writes, “According to Antiquorum Auction House, the first types of erotic watches were made for the Chinese market, with the most luxurious ones created for the Emperor and his entourage.” As a royal request, these timepieces had fantastically sculpted designs on their enamel cases. Because of the malleable enamel, it was easy to work intricate designs into the cases. Although not all craftsmen were tasked with these depictions, they became an early fascination for the wealthy people who could pay to have them made. By the 18th century, the mechanics of these timepieces caught up with their case depictions of eroticism (featuring automated moving figures). As well, the pocket watch was becoming more commonly worn in societies throughout the globe. As a result—long before the advent of online dating—these timepieces were at times given as gifts. This act of romantic courtship was often seen as countercultural (and may still be considered so today) to the more reserved rituals of romance in most Western societies. Indeed, the countercultural aspect of these pieces made them less common than their more reserved horological counterparts. In many cases, when discovered, these timepieces were confiscated or banned from their markets. In being thus rare, they have become increasingly valuable over the years.
There are current watchmakers that are still designing erotic watches for wealthy collectors around the globe. A current watchmaker—Richard Mille—capitalized on this style recently with their “Erotic Tourbillon” watch. Though this watch doesn’t feature depictions of automatons (moving figures) caught-in-the-act, it utilizes tempting phrases that appear on the dial as it ticks. Each of these 30 watches were sold for $750,000 a piece—and will likely become more valuable at auctions in the future. Another similar example of a high-priced erotic watch was one sold at auction in 2004, designed by Piguet & Meylan. The watch was originally crafted for the Chinese market and sold in Geneva for over $400,000. Furthermore, an erotic watch titled “Musique D’Amor” sold at a separate auction back in the early 2010’s for about $210,000. These examples are just a few in a market that doesn’t always get a lot of press. However, being a collector’s fascination—and a lucrative request from high end buyers—the erotic watch conitnually carries a lot of weight in the watch world.
Although the erotic watch may be a taboo to some—or perhaps many—it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon. Their continued popularity is indicative of not just their unique characterization, but also the artistry of their design. If you happen to acquire one (or currently own one), they’re well worth keeping up-and-ticking. With many masterful hands behind their design work, erotic watch value is bound to hold—or even rise—through the years. So, there’s no need to be shy to show your bit of history to an experienced watchmaker or tech. After all, what is any sign of love made for but to withstand the test of time?
Times Ticking has been in operation for more than 30 years, since 1982. We have performed watch repair for customers both locally and internationally. If it Ticks! We KNOW it! Our team of watch repair technicians have a combined experience in watchmaking of over 120 years.