Henry Graves (banker)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Henry Graves Jr.
Henry graves photo.jpg
Born(1868-03-11)March 11, 1868
DiedMarch 21, 1953(1953-03-21) (aged 85)
OccupationBanker, watch collector
EmployerMaxwell & Graves
Known forOwning the most complicated watch
Spouse(s)Florence Isabel Preston

Henry Graves Jr. (1868–1953) was an American banker descended from John Graves of Concord, Massachusetts.

Early life and career[edit]

He was born on March 11, 1868 in Orange, New Jersey into a prominent banking family, the son of Henry Graves Sr. (1838–1906),[1] a founder and partner in the Maxwell & Graves banking firm.[2][3] Graves Jr. made millions of dollars in banking and railroads.[3] He was also an art collector whose single-owner sale was held in 1936 by American Art Association Anderson Galleries, Inc., which evolved into Sotheby's. The highlight of that sale was Albrecht Dürer's Adam and Eve, which sold for an impressive $10,000.[2]

Watch collector[edit]

An ardent watch collector, Graves was a patron of Patek Philippe, competing with James Ward Packard, the automobile manufacturer, for ownership of the most complicated watch in the world.[3] In 1927 Packard commissioned a complicated watch but, not to be outdone, Graves surpassed his rival in 1933 to become the owner of the most complicated watch ever made.[4]

Supercomplication watch[edit]

It was called Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication. Designed and built by Patek Philippe, it was an ultra-complicated (24 functions) pocket watch. Graves spent 60,000 Swiss francs (USD $15,000),[5] nearly five times the price paid by Packard. It took three years to design, another five to manufacture, and was sold to Graves on January 19, 1933.[5][6] The most advanced techniques in horological engineering produced a truly one-of-a-kind timepiece; only one watch was ever built. Complications included a perpetual calendar with phases and age of the moon, indication of sunrise and sunset, and a celestial chart depicting the stars in the nighttime sky over New York City.[4]
Graves died in 1953. His heirs sold the watch in 1968 to The Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois, which closed 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.)[7] The watch was held in the Rockford Time Museum until it was sold at Sotheby's for a record breaking $11,002,500 to an anonymous bidder in New York City on December 2, 1999.[4][8] The owner was later known to be a member of the Qatari Royal Family, Sheikh Saud bin Muhammed Al Thani.[9][10] The watch was on loan to the Patek Philippe Museum[6] in Geneva, Switzerland for several years,[9] and was the most expensive single piece on display.[11]
On July 10, 2014, Sotheby's announced that in November 2014, the watch would once again be auctioned.[12] It sold for 23.2 million Swiss francs (≈USD $24 million/ ≈19.3 million Euros)[13] at Sotheby’s in Geneva on November 11, 2014, setting a new record price for any timepiece sold at auction.[5][13]

Personal life[edit]

In 1896, Henry Graves married Florence Isabel Preston of Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, and they had four children. Mr. and Mrs. Graves owned several vacation homes in addition to their residence in New York City. The family spent their summers at their homes in Irvington and Saranac, New York. In Saranac, the Graves owned Eagle Island, where Mr. Graves reveled in one of his sporting passions—boating. The Island has been named a National Historic Landmark, and has been operated for many years as a children's summer camp. One of his treasured boats was the Eagle, a 50-foot speedboat.[14]


Graves died aged 85 on March 21, 1953 in New York City.


  1. ^ "Obituary: Henry Graves", The New York Times, September 1, 1906
  2. ^ a b "The Collections of Henry Graves: The banker, aesthete and timepiece collector", justcollecting.com, 2010
  3. ^ a b c Perman, Stacy, A Grand Complication: The Race to Build the World's Most Legendary Watch, Atria Books (Simon & Schuster), February 2013. ISBN 9781439190081
  4. ^ a b c Rohleder, Anna (November 28, 2001). "The Most Expensive Watch". Forbes. Archived from the original on November 23, 2010. Retrieved November 12, 2014.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)-
  5. ^ a b c Mulier, Thomas; Pulvirent, Stephen (November 12, 2014). "Most Expensive Watch: Patek Philippe Supercomplication Sets Record at $24 Million". Bloomberg.com. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Patek Philippe Museum "Select: The Collection/ Patek Philippe Collection/ Complex pocket watches (1851-1989)/ The Supercomplication" www.patekmuseum.com-Patek Philippe Museum website. Retrieved November 12, 2014
  7. ^ "The Time Museum". www.timemuseum.com/. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  8. ^ Sotheby's website[dead link]
  9. ^ a b Clymer, Benjamin (October 2014). "Hands-On With The Henry Graves Jr. Patek Philippe Supercomplication". www.hodinkee.com. Hodinkee. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  10. ^ Clymer, Benjamin (November 10, 2014). "Owner Of Henry Graves Supercomplication, Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani Of Qatar, Dies Unexpectedly At The Age of 48 One Day Before Auction". www.hodinkee.com. Hodinkee. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  11. ^ Perman, Stacy (September 12, 2012). "World's Most Expensive Timepieces-Graves Supercomplication Watch". BusinessWeek. Bloomberg. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  12. ^ Clymer, Benjamin (July 10, 2014). "BREAKING NEWS: Sotheby's To Sell The Henry Graves Patek Philippe Supercomplication This November". www.hodinkee.com. Hodinkee. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Swiss pocket watch nets record sale at Sotheby's". www.dw.de. AFP, Reuters. November 12, 2014. Retrieved November 12, 2014. The Henry Graves Supercomplication re-established its supreme status as the most valuable timepiece in auction history, selling for CHF 23,237,000, thereby beating the record of $11 million it established in 1999 - Sotheby's
  14. ^ "THE HENRY GRAVES JR. SUPERCOMPLICATION PATEK PHILIPPE & CO., GENEVA, NO. 198.385, CASE NO. 416.769, STARTED IN 1925, COMPLETED IN 1932 AND DELIVERED ON 19TH JANUARY 1933". sothebys.com. Retrieved 2015-04-20.

Further reading[edit]