Henry Graves, Jr’s Patek Philippe Supercomplication, The World’s Most Complicated Pocket Watch Sells Today at a Sotheby’s Auction for a Record $24 Million.
First question that pops into mind when looking at the Henry Graves, Jr. Patek Philippe Supercomplication pocket watch is a practical one. $24 million price tag aside, who would ever carry a pocket watch weighing a massive 1 pound 3 ounces (aka 536 grams) and measuring an Audemars-Piguet-Royal-Oak-Offshore-dwarfing 74 mm (2.9 inches) in diameter and an inch-and-a-half thick. I mean, seriously, this thing is huge… massive… gargantuan. The answer: Probably no one. The Patek Philippe Supercomplication was likely meant to be a display piece, an object d’art, rather than a practical timepiece. But, what would you expect of a Patek Philippe that holds, within its 18-karat yellow gold case, a record 24 complications.
Commissioned by famed New York banker and Patek Philippe collector Henry Graves, Jr. and began in 1925 with three years of considerable research and planning, PATEK PHILIPPE & Co., Geneva, No. 198.385, Case No. 416.769, was completed in 1932. It was delivered to Henry Graves, Jr. on 19 January 1933. The most complicated timepiece for 56 years (only then surpassed by the current most complicated watch ever, the Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4 with its 36 complications, the result of man and computer working together), this watch is the pinnacle of watchmaking. No computers. No calculators. No advanced CAD and engineering programs. Just human hands, human minds, pencil and paper went into the Henry Graves Patek Philippe Supercomplication and its 24 function.
And, earlier today, this piece of astonishing horological art broke its own record as the most expensive watch ever sold. Auctioned at a special Sotheby’s auction in Geneva (where else?), the Henry Graves, Jr. Patek Philippe Supercomplication pocket watch sold for a staggering 23,237,000 CHF (aka $24,086,907), shattering its previous 1999 record sale of a meager $11,000,000. Due in no small part to its amazing history, perfect provenance (see below) and Patek’s own 175th anniversary fervor, the Patek Philippe Supercomplication was expected to fetch a hefty sum at the Sotheby’s Geneva auction. But, who could have guessed twenty-four million dollars?!? Hell, the estimate was “only” $16.8 million.
But, after 15 minutes of bidding, former head of Christie’s International Watch Department and horology consultant for Phillips Auction House, Aurel Bacs (who happened to be in the room, bidding personally), won the day and the watch. Bacs was likely bidding for a heretofore unknown private buyer. Amazing.
So continues the history of the Henry Graves Patek Philippe Supercomplication pocket watch. Only time will tell what the next chapter will hold for this astonishing watch. Below, check out the full list of this pocket watch’s complications as well as a breakdown of it provenance. For more details, visit the Sotherby’s site here. Oh yeah, there’s a video below, too.
Complications of the Henry Graves Patek Philippe Supercomplication
- The hours of sidereal time
- The minutes of sidereal time
- The seconds of sidereal time
- The time of sunset
- The time of sunrise
- The equation of time
- Perpetual calendar
- The days of the month
- The days of the week
- The months
- The stars chart
- The age and phases of the moon
- The Chronograph
- Split seconds
- The 30-minute recorder
- The 12-hour recorder
The Chime Complications
- The “Grande sonnerie” Westminster chimes with carillon
- The “Petite sonnerie” Westminster chimes with carillon
- The minute-repeater
- The alarm
- The going train up-down indication
- The striking train up/down indication
- The twin barrel differential winding
- The three-way setting system
Provenance of the Henry Graves Patek Philippe Supercomplication
- Henry Graves, Jr., New York, January 1933
- Gwendolen Graves Fullerton, by descent from the above, New York, 1953
- Reginald H. “Pete” Fullerton, by gift from the above, New York, 1960
- Time Museum, Rockford, Illinois, Inventory no. 4443, 1969
- Sotheby’s, New York, Masterpieces from the Time Museum, 2 December 1999, lot 7
- Private Collection of Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani Of Qatar (who died one day before the auction on November 10th, by the way)