The Patek Philippe Supercomplication pocket watch breaks its own record of $11 million at Sotheby’s in Geneva, setting the new record price of $24 million.
“The Swiss masterpieces of watchmaking are now considered by investors and collectors as real pieces of art, like paintings or sculptures,” Jean-Claude Biver, director of timepieces for Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, said before the sale.
The Supercomplication has been called the holy grail of watches, in part because of its fabled and quite complicated history. It was created as the result of a 1925 “contest” between two watch collectors, New York City banking magnate Henry Graves Jr. and automaker James Ward Packard, to see who could create the most complicated watch. Eight years later Patek Philippe, delivered the final product. The Supercomplication is still considered the most complicated watch in the world ever built by hand.
To surpass James Ward Packard, an Ohio-based auto manufacturer who had been buying complicated pieces from Patek Philippe for years, Henry Graves Jr. paid $15,000 for the watch and is often credited with keeping the Swiss watchmaker in business during the Great Depression.
The 14k gold watch comprises 900 individual parts that comes in at over 1.5 inches thick, it weighs more than one pound and boasts 24 complications (features other than time), including a perpetual calendar that extends to the year 2100, indications for the time of sunset and sunrise, a stopwatch for hours and minutes, an alarm, a map of the sky over Graves’ New York City apartment, playing the melody of the Westminster chimes. The original watchmaker even made a note to point out that the Tiffany bag it was shipped in was a bit too tight and could accidentally activate the buttons.
The timepiece “is a real triumph of physics and micro-engineering and mathematics,” said author Stacy Perman. “Every function, every feature, had to work independently and work together. The tiniest error impacts everything. It’s like extremely complicated three-dimensional chess.”