Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Bragging rights are earned; but for Henry Graves, Jr. you can buy it. A pedigree American banker behind railroad projects and other industrial investments that propelled the U.S. economy in the early part of the twentieth century, Henry challenged the automobile manufacturer, James Ward Packard, in owning the world’s most complicated watch back in the 1930s. Some years earlier, James paraded the most complicated watch and the world was impressed, except Henry. He commissioned Patek Philippe to outdo James’ feat. A few years and some 60,000 Swiss francs after, Patek Philippe produced the world’s most complicated timepiece—a pocket watch—using state-of-the art horological techniques that many considered an engineering feat as it is a high form of art expression. Called the Patek Philippe Supercomplication, the watch has an 18-karat gold enclosure and 24 mechanical features that move in separate but precise coordination. It charts the positions of starts and the Milky Way, has a minute repeater playing the same melody as is in London’s Big Ben, a chronological function per hour and, yes, it tells time. But its biggest feature is not mechanical. The Patek Philippe Supercomplication watch was auctioned at Sotheby’s New York in 1999 for $11,002,500, a record high. Henry would not know this, of course; only that he bested his James Ward in his, well, time.
Image: "The Supercomplication" watch made by Patek Philippe