Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication

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Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication
Manufacturer Patek Philippe
Also called The Supercomplication
Type pocket watch
Display Analogue
Introduced 1933
Movement Mechanical

The Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication is one of the most complicated mechanical pocket watches ever created. The 18-karat gold watch was assembled by Patek Philippe and named after banker Henry Graves Jr who commissioned it out of his desire to outdo the Grande Complication pocketwatch of American automaker James Ward Packard.[1] The two were both at the top of the watch collecting world, regularly commissioning innovative new timepieces.[2]

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.

The Supercomplication remains the most complicated mechanical watch built without the assistance of computers.[3] Graves spent 60,000 Swiss francs (USD $15,000), when he commissioned it in 1925. Adjusting for inflation, the sum is roughly $202,000, measured in 2014 United States dollars.

Auctions[edit]

December 2, 1999[edit]

Henry Graves died in 1953. His daughter Gwendolen inherited the Supercomplication and in 1960 passed it to her son, Reginald ‘Pete’ Fullerton, who sold it to an industrialist from Illinois for $200,000, some $1.5 million today.[4] In 1968, the watch was sold to The Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois, which closed in March 1999.[5] (From January 2001 through February 2004, the Time Museum collection was displayed at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, then sold.)[6] 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.[7] The owner was later known to be a member of the Qatari Royal Family, Sheikh Saud bin Muhammed Al Thani.[7][8]

November 11, 2014[edit]

On July 10, 2014, Sotheby's announced that in November 2014, the pocket watch would once again be auctioned.[9] 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 wrist watches.[7]

Construction and complications[edit]

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.[2] The timepiece is a gold, double-dialled and double-openfaced, minute repeating clockwatch 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.[10] Its diameter is 74mm; thickness of case with glass 36mm; and weight of case 536g.

The Supercomplication features the following 24 functions.

Timekeeping[edit]

  • Hours, minutes and seconds of sidereal time (3 functions)
  • Time of sunset and sunrise (2 functions)
  • Equation of time

Calendar[edit]

  • Perpetual calendar
  • Days of the month
  • Days of the week
  • Months
  • Stars chart
  • Age and phases of the moon

Chronograph (stopwatch)[edit]

  • Chronograph
  • Split seconds
  • 30-minute recorder
  • 12-hour recorder

Chime[edit]

  • "Grande sonnerie" (Westminster chimes) with carillon
  • "Petite sonnerie" with carillon
  • Minute-repeater
  • Alarm

Other functions[edit]

  • Going train up-down indication
  • Striking train up/down indication
  • Twin barrel differential winding
  • Three-way setting system

Further reading[edit]

  • Perman, Stacy (2013). A Grand Complication: The Race to Build the World's Most Legendary Watch. Atria Books. ISBN 1439190089. 
  • Wilson, James (2012). The Illustrated Directory of Watches: A Collectors Guide to Over 1000 Timepieces, from Classic Designs to Luxury Fashionware. Chartwell Books. ISBN 0785829148. 
  • Thompson, David (2008). The History of Watches. Abbeville Press. ISBN 0789209187. 

See also[edit]

Other supercomplicated pocket watches include:

References[edit]

External links[edit]