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Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication

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Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication
ManufacturerPatek Philippe
Also calledThe Supercomplication
Typepocket watch

The Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication (no. 198.385) is one of the most complicated mechanical pocket watches ever created. The 18-karat gold watch has 24 complications and was assembled by Patek Philippe.[1][2] It was named after banker Henry Graves Jr. who supposedly commissioned it out of his desire to outdo the Grande Complication pocketwatch of American automaker James Ward Packard.[1][2][3] The two were both at the top of the watch collecting world, regularly commissioning innovative new timepieces.[4]


Patek Philippe produced its first grand complication pocket watch in 1898 (no. 97.912); it had previously been believed the firm's first grand complication had been produced in 1910, and the second was delivered to Packard in 1916.[5] The rivalry between Packard and Graves, who both commissioned timepieces from Patek Philippe, included two singular grand complication watches for Packard, one delivered in 1916 with sixteen complications (foudroyante, no. 174.129), and another in 1927 with ten complications (the "Packard Sky Chart", no. 198.023)[6][7] and two for Graves, the "Grand Complication" (1926, no. 198.052)[8]: 17  and "Supercomplication" (1932, no. 198.385).[9] However, the rivalry story is apocryphal, and it is not clear that Packard and Graves ever met; the rivalry may have been fabricated in the early 1990s as a publicity stunt by Alan Banbery, a former director of Patek Philippe, for the unveiling of the Calibre 89.[9] Other complicated watches that Graves sought to excel included the Leroy 01 (1904, twenty complications) and the Breguet No. 160 "Marie Antoinette" (1827).[8]: 10  [9]

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 at 834 Fifth Avenue.[8]: 12  [10] 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.[11]

Henry Graves spent 60,000 Swiss francs (US$15,000) when he commissioned it in 1925. Adjusting for inflation, the sum is roughly equivalent to $219,000 in 2019. When he took delivery, he did not want to be known as the owner of "the world's most complicated watch", fearing the threat to his family based on the notoriety of the Lindbergh kidnapping.[8]: 13  When it was most recently sold in 2014, the Supercomplication established a new record for the most expensive watch ever sold at auction, with a final price of 24 million US dollars (23,237,000 CHF) sold in Geneva on 11 November 2014; that has since been exceeded by the sale of the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime at the Only Watch charity auction at Christie's in Geneva in 2019.[1][2][6][12]

Subsequent ownership[edit]

Henry Graves Jr. died in 1953.[6] His daughter Gwendolen inherited the Supercomplication and in 1960 passed it to her son, Reginald 'Pete' Fullerton. In 1969, Fullerton sold the piece to Seth G. Atwood, founder of the "Time Museum" and an American industrialist, for US$200,000 (equivalent to $1,700,000 in 2023).[6][13][14]

After that, the watch was displayed in the Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois, US, a horological museum, until it closed in March 1999.[15][16] From January 2001 to February 2004, some of the Time Museum collection was displayed at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry, then sold.[17] However, the Supercomplication was auctioned in December 1999.

2 December 1999 auction[edit]

The watch was sold at Sotheby's for a record-breaking $11,002,500 to an anonymous bidder in New York City on 2 December 1999.[18] From 2001 to 2005, the Supercomplication was exhibited at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.[6]

The new owner was later revealed to be a member of the Qatari Royal Family, Sheikh Saud bin Muhammed Al Thani.[18][19] Prince Sheikh Saud died on 9 November 2014, and the watch was sent again for auction.[20]

11 November 2014 auction[edit]

On 10 July 2014, Sotheby's announced that in November 2014, the pocket watch would once again be auctioned.[21] On 11 November 2014, the watch was sold in Geneva, Switzerland. The final price, bid by Aurel Bacs serving as proxy for an anonymous entity, reached 23,237,000 Swiss Francs, equivalent to US$24 million at the time. The sum established a new highest price for a timepiece, including both pocket watches and wristwatches.[18]

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.[4] 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 nighttime sky of New York City at 40 degrees 41.0 minutes North latitude.[6]

Its diameter is 74 millimetres (2.9 in); thickness of case with glass 36 millimetres (1.4 in); and weight 536 grams (18.9 oz). The case alone weighs 250 grams (8.8 oz) and was manufactured by Luc Rochat of L'Abbaye.[6] Other credited watchmakers include:[8]: 25 

Maker Location Function
Victorin Piguet and Jean Piguet Le Brassus Project managers
Luc Rochat L'Abbaye and Geneva Case
Juste Aubert Bioux-Dessus Winding
Michel Piguet Le Brassus Grande Sonnerie and Westminster
Charles Rochat Chez Grosjean Movement and chronograph arbors
Louis Rochat-Benoit Les Bioux Split-second chronograph
Paul-Auguste Golay Le Sentier Perpetual calendar, equation and sunrise/sunset
Henri-Daniel Piguet Le Sentier Time setting
David Nicole and Paul Piguet Le Sentier Finishing
Stern Frères Geneva Dials

The Supercomplication features the following 24 functions.



  • 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


  • "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 978-1439190081.
  • Wilson, James (2012). The Illustrated Directory of Watches: A Collectors Guide to Over 1000 Timepieces, from Classic Designs to Luxury Fashionware. Chartwell Books. ISBN 978-0785829140.
  • Thompson, David (2008). The History of Watches. Abbeville Press. ISBN 978-0789209184.
  • The Henry Graves Jr. Patek Philippe Supercomplication (auction catalog). Geneva: Sotheby's. 11 November 2014.

See also[edit]

Other supercomplicated pocket watches include:


  1. ^ a b c Adams, Ariel. "$24,000,000 Patek Philippe Supercomplication Pocket Watch Beats Its Own Record At Auction". Forbes. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  2. ^ a b c "Swiss Pocket Watch Sells for Record $24 Million". Time. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  3. ^ "Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication: the most expensive watch ever sold at auction is back on the block". www.thejewelleryeditor.com. Retrieved 2015-04-20.
  4. ^ a b "The Henry Graves Supercomplication - the Mona Lisa of watch collecting". paulfrasercollectibles.com. Archived from the original on 2017-04-20. Retrieved 2015-04-20.
  5. ^ Clymer, Benjamin (June 10, 2013). "The Earliest Known Patek Philippe Grand Complication To Be Sold By Christie's Tomorrow In New York: Meet The Palmer Watch". Hodinkee. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Patek Philippe (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)". Sotheby's. Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  7. ^ Perman, Stacy. "Grand Commissioners" (PDF). Patek Philippe. Vol. 3, no. 10. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d e The Henry Graves Jr. Patek Philippe Supercomplication (auction catalog). Geneva: Sotheby's. 11 November 2014.
  9. ^ a b c Downing, Alan (September 18, 2017). "The Fake Rivalry That Created the World's Most Expensive Timepiece". SJX. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  10. ^ "Watches: These are the best built in the world". Life. December 23, 1940. pp. 31–34. Retrieved 9 December 2020. World's most complicated watch took Patek, Philippe's Geneva craftsmen 3 years to plan and 5 years to make for a private collector who paid $15,000 for it. Besides telling time, one face (at left) has a perpetual calendar (which takes care of leap year), moon phases, 15 split-second timer, 60-min. register, alarm, dials showing conditions of motor springs, second hand. Other face (right) has hour, minute, second hand for sidereal (star) time, indicator giving differences between apparent solar and sidereal time, sunrise and sunset dials, celestial chart of visible constellations at every hour. It also strikes hours, quarters and minutes automatically or at will. Works (center) contain 870 parts.
  11. ^ "The story of the 'most complicated' watch in the world". bbc.com. 2014-11-11. Retrieved 2015-04-20.
  12. ^ "Patek Philippe gold watch sells for record $24.4M - CNN". CNN Style. 2014-11-12. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  13. ^ "prhtml". www.timemuseum.com. Archived from the original on 2012-06-15. Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  14. ^ "At $15.6 million, the world's most expensive watch is up for grabs". Fortune. Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  15. ^ Humbert, Audrey (2014-11-03). "A ONE-OF-A-KIND WATCH AMONG ITS PEERS: THE HENRY GRAVES SUPERCOMPLICATION". www.watchonista.com. Retrieved 2015-01-15.
  16. ^ Manousos, Nicholas (June 21, 2018). "Historical Perspectives: Rarely Seen Documentary Video Featuring George Daniels And Seth Atwood". Hodinkee. Retrieved 2019-01-29.
  17. ^ "The Time Museum". www.timemuseum.com/. Archived from the original on 12 December 2009. Retrieved 12 November 2014.
  18. ^ a b c Adams, Ariel (2014-11-12). "$24,000,000 Patek Philippe Supercomplication Pocket Watch Beats Its Own Record At Auction". forbes.com. Retrieved 2015-04-20.
  19. ^ "World's Most Expensive Timepieces". bloomberg.com. Retrieved 2015-04-20.
  20. ^ "Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al-Thani: Sheikh who became Qatar's". The Independent. 2014-11-18. Archived from the original on 2022-05-25. Retrieved 2019-01-25.
  21. ^ 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.

External links[edit]