If you thought $10,000 for a Rolex was a princely sum of money, you haven’t met the Henry Graves Supercomplication, perhaps the most unique and coveted watch in the world of horology. Now, for the first time since it was sold for a record $11 million to an anonymous bidder in 1999, the watch will once again be available for purchase. This time, however, the watch is expected to fetch at least $16 million when it is auctioned in Geneva on November 14th.
To appreciate the magnitude of this auction you must appreciate the sheer breadth of story attached to the timepiece. The “Supercomplication,” as it has been dubbed, was commissioned by banker Henry Graves to surpass his rival James Ward Packard, a wealthy Ohio automobile manufacturer who also collected watches. These two men, however, did not merely collect watches- they collected only the most expensive watches. In fact, they competed for who owned the world’s most costly timepiece. In 1927 Packard held the upper hand (or watch, as it were), so Henry Graves turned to Swiss luxury watch maker Patek Philippe & Co to craft for him a watch which would have no equal not just in the United States, but in the whole world.
Patek Phillipe, watch collectors ought well know, has made luxury timepieces since 1851 for the world’s wealthiest, including royalty such as Queen Victoria and her royal consort Prince Albert. Phillipe has well-earned their reputation as the world’s foremost luxury watch maker not only for the exquisite craftsmanship of their watches, but also for their technological advancement; Phillipe such features as the perpetual calendar, chronograph, split-second hand and the minute repeater in watches.
It should come as no surprise then that Graves turned to the Swiss manufacturer to make his one-of-a-kind watch, which took five years to design and manufacture and contains over 900 parts. The Supercomplication was bequeathed its name for the 24 complications, which include a perpetual calendar, the phases of the moon, the time of sunrise and sunset and even an indicator for the night sky of New York City. The Henry Graves Supercomplication’s engineering was so advanced that it wasn’t until 1989 that a watch with more complications was built- again by Patek Phillipe, and with the aid of computer-design- and it still holds the title as the most complicated watch ever built completely by human hand.
The watch was auctioned off in 1999 to a private bidder for $11 million, and has resided in the Patek Phillipe museum until recently, when Sotheby’s announced that the rarity would again be auctioned off. With the auction’s announcement came the revelation that the secret bidder was Sheik Saud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al-Thani of the Qatari Royal Family. The watch was pledged to Sotheby’s, along with $83 million worth of other antiquities, for debts owed to the auction house.
Watch collectors will certainly eye November 14th with anticipation for a chance to own the most collectible watch of them all. If they should happen to posses an eight-figure pocketbook, that is.