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Sotheby’s to sell the ‘Henry Graves Supercomplication’ – the ‘Holy Grail’ of Watches

by Gregory Watkins (07/10/14).

The Henry Graves Supercomplication watch—made by Patek Philippe in 1933—is the most famous and expensive watch in the world. It will be put up for auction in November at Sotheby’s Geneva with a presale estimate of $16 million.

The Henry Graves Supercomplication watch—made by Patek Philippe in 1933—is the most famous and expensive watch in the world. It will be put up for auction in November at Sotheby’s Geneva with a presale estimate of $16 million.

GENEVA – A masterpiece of horology, the Henry Graves Supercomplication watch—made by Patek Philippe in 1933—is the most famous watch in the world and it is coming back to the market 15 years after setting a world-record auction price for a watch.

Known as the most complicated watch ever made completely by human hands, the Henry Graves Supercomplication is considered the “Holy Grail” of the watch world and its reappearance on the market coincides with Patek Philippe’s 175th anniversary celebrations, a fitting tribute to the genius of the Swiss manufacturer. The watch will be auctioned on Nov. 11 in Sotheby’s Geneva sale of Important Watches with a presale estimate in excess of $16 million.

The Henry Graves Supercomplication watch—made by Patek Philippe in 1933—is the most famous and expensive watch in the world. It will be put up for auction in November at Sotheby’s Geneva with a presale estimate of $16 million.

Known as the most complicated watch ever made completely by human hands, the Henry Graves Supercomplication is considered the “Holy Grail” of the watch world.

“The list of superlatives which can be attached to this icon of the 20th century is truly extraordinary,” said Tim Bourne, Sotheby’s worldwide head of watches. “Indisputably the Holy Grail of watches, The Henry Graves Supercomplication combines the Renaissance ideal of the unity of beauty and craftsmanship with the apogee of science.”

The story of this amazing watch begins when Patek Philippe was commissioned in 1925 by Henry Graves—a prominent and vivacious New York banker—to produce the most complicated, multi-faceted timepiece in the world, one that was ritzy enough to stand out from all others at the height of the Roaring ’20s.

Three years of research and five years’ effort later, Philippe’s creation surpassed anything the banker could have hoped for: an extraordinary openface gold timepiece with a minute-repeating chronograph clockwatch with Westminster chimes that mirrored the same melody played out by London’s Big Ben. Among its features are a perpetual calendar, moon phases, sidereal time, power reserve and indications for time of sunset and sunrise, and the night sky of New York City.

The watch earned Phillipe world-wide acclaim, which helped vault his brand to a lofty prominence that it still holds today.

With a total of 24 horological complications, the Graves watch held the crown as the world’s most complicated watch until 1989, only surrendering the title to a watch with a computer-aided design.

This openface gold timepiece has a minute-repeating chronograph clockwatch with Westminster chimes that mirrored the same melody played out by London’s Big Ben.

This openface gold timepiece has a minute-repeating chronograph clockwatch with Westminster chimes that mirrored the same melody played out by London’s Big Ben.

Graves held the watch dear and it remained in his possession until his death in 1953. The watch then resided in the Seth G. Atwood’s Time Museum in Rockford, Ill., until December of 1999, when Sotheby’s first sold it in New York in as part of a sale of 81 masterpieces from the museum. Offered with a presale estimate of $3 to $5 million, the generated colossal interest and an extended bidding war broke out. When the dust settled, it sold for a record-breaking $11 million, exceeding the company’s wildest expectations and becoming the most expensive timepiece ever sold at auction.

“Our offering of this horological work of art in 1999 was unquestionably the highlight of our professional careers and set a world record which has held until today,” said Daryn Schnipper, chairman of Sotheby’s watch division. “We are extremely privileged to be offering it once again.”


Gregory Watkins is the editor of WorthPoint.com You can email him at greg.watkins@worthpoint.com

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