The Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication is one of the most complicated mechanical pockets watches ever created. The 18-karat gold watch has 24 complications and was assembled by Patek Philippe. It was named after banker Henry Graves Jr who commissioned it out of his desire to outdo the Grande Complication pocket watch of American automaker James Ward Packard. The two were both at the top of the watch collecting world, regularly commissioning innovative new timepieces.
The timepiece contains 920 individual parts, with 430 screws, 110 wheels, 120 removable parts, and 70 jewels, all of them handcrafted on a tiny scale. The timepiece is a gold, double dialled and double open-faced, minute repeating clock watch with Westminster chimes, grande and “petite sonnerie”, split-seconds chronograph, registers for 60-minutes and 12-hours, perpetual calendar accurate to the year 2100, moon-phases, equation of time, dual power reserve for striking and going trains, mean and sidereal time, central alarm, indications for times of sunrise/sunset and a celestial chart for the night time sky of New York City at 40 degrees 41.0 minutes North latitude. Its diameter is 74mm thickness of case with glass 36mm; and weight of case 536g.
It took three years to design, and another five years to manufacture the watch, which was delivered to Henry Graves on January 19, 1933. The Supercomplication was the world’s most complicated mechanical timepiece for more than 50 years, with a total of 24 different functions. These included Westminster chimes, a perpetual calendar, sunrise and sunset times, and a celestial map of New York as seen from the Graves’s apartment on Fifth Avenue. The record was bested in 1989 when Patek Philippe released the Patek Philippe Calibre 89, but the Supercomplication remains the most complicated mechanical watch built without the assistance of computers.
Henry Graves Jr. died in 1953. His daughter Gwendolen inherited the Supercomplication and in 1960 passed it to her son, Reginald ‘Pete’ Fullerton. In 1969, Mr Fullerton sold the piece to Seth G. Atwood, founder of the “Time Museum” and an industrialist from Illinois, for US$200,000 (equal to some US$1.2 million today). After that, the watch had been kept in the Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois, one of the leading horological museums in the world, which was shut down in March 1999 (From January 2001 through February 2004, the Time Museum collection was displayed at Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, then sold.)
On July 10, 2014, Sotheby’s announced that in November 2014, the pocket watch would once again be auctioned. On November 11, 2014, the watch was sold in Geneva, Switzerland. The final price, bid via proxy for an anonymous entity, reached 23,237,000 Swiss Francs, equivalent to USD $24 million at the time. The sum was the highest price that anyone has ever paid for a timepiece, including both pocket watches and wristwatches.
by Alexander Elisab