The world's most complicated watch, a 1933 timepiece made by luxury watchmaker Patek Phillipe was sold for an astounding $24.4 million USD at a Sotheby's auction in Switzerland on November 11th. The historic price for the aptly named 'Supercomplication' masterpiece smashed the world record set by same watch in 1999, when it was bought by Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al-Thani, a member of Qatar's royal family, for $11 million USD.
According to Sotheby's, it took the anonymous buyer just 15 minutes to outbid the other five watch enthusiasts that were competing for the rare timepiece that started bidding at $16.8 million USD. While that may appear a lot for an old pocket watch, to collectors, the Henry Graves Supercomplication that is often described as "the most important watch in the world," "one of the wonders of the world," and "the collector's holy grail", is the best there is.
Commissioned in 1925 by prominent New York banker Henry Graves, the watch, which cost $15,000 USD, took three years of research and five years of painstaking effort to build. The open face gold masterpiece that consists of 900 individual components is believed to be the most advanced timepiece ever made, without the use of computers.
So what is so special about it? Well for one, it keeps perfect time. Sotheby's officials claim that it hasn't lost a minute since it was last wound in 1969. But of course, there is more to it than that. It has what watch experts refer to as 'complications' - 24 features that go beyond just telling time.
Among them are built-in chimes that emulate the bells of London's Westminster Abbey and a perpetual calendar that automatically adjusts for month and year. The watch can also provide information about the phases of the moon and the time of sunrise and sunset. The celestial map of the New York sky in the center of the watch charts the exact spacing and density of the stars and rotates at the same pace as the sky did from Henry Grave's Fifth Avenue apartment in New York City - and these, are just a few of the amazing 'complications'.
What is even more interesting is that the world's most expensive watch was commissioned because of a friendly challenge between Henry Graves and luxury automobile manufacturer, James Ward Packard, to see who could obtain a better timepiece. While Packard's watch was the first to feature a celestial chart that was centered around his Ohio home and included 500 golden stars, it only had ten 'complications', making the Henry Graves Supercomplication timepiece the undisputed winner!
Unfortunately, Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al-Thani, never realized just how big a winner the watch had been. That's because two days before it went on the auction block the 48-year-old suffered from complications from an existing heart condition and died suddenly at his London home. Apparently, it did not bring good fortune to Henry Graves either. Seven months after the banker received the watch, he lost his best friend and son in a car crash. Are these coincidences or is the watch cursed? That, is the $24 million USD question!
Resources: cnn.com, forbes.com, bbc.co.uk