When Patek Philippe Supercomplication timekeeper was sold at the Sotheby’s Auction for 11 million dollars in 1999, it set the record for the highest price ever paid for a watch, which it still holds to this day (to be fair, there is even more expensive watch – 201 Carat Chopard – whose price of $25 M is caused by the enormous amount of the diamond decorations). However, the complex pocket watch was bought by the anonymous bidder and it was not known who the owner of the most valued existing watch was. Everything changed this week when it was announced that a member of the Qatari royal family had to pledge Supercomplication watch and other valuables to Sotheby in order to cover debts to the famous auction house. So after 13 years, the mystery of the ownership is finally resolved. Even more importantly, it is expected that Sotheby will be auctioning the famous timepiece once again.
As it turned out, the watch was in the possession of a cousin of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al-Thani. Obviously, the Sheikh had a knack for luxurious items. Apart from the most expensive timekeeper on the globe, he was forced to pledge other valuables he was not able to pay and the total value of the returned artifacts was over 80 million dollars.
The Race for the most Complicated Timekeeper – Graves vs. Packard
The obvious question that pops to one’s mind is exactly why this Patek Philippe watch was so expensive and the answer to the question is hinted in the name of the watch. The pocket timekeeper was made by the brand for the banker and passionate watch collector from New York, Henry Graves, in 1933. The banker who was a patron of Patek Philippe was competing with the automotive industry tycoon James Ward Packard in the attempts to become the owner of the most complicated watch in the world. When Packard got his timekeeper in 1927, Graves commissioned another, even more complex one. Five years later, Patek Philippe finally presented the pocket watch that was sold to Mr. Graves for the price of CHF60,000. Supercomplication timepiece had a different function for each hour of the day, including a chart of the night sky over New York City with magnitudes of stars, as well as a minute repeater whose chimes reproduce the melody of Big Ben. At the time, the pocket timekeeper was kept in the Museum of Time in Illinois. It remained in the ownership of the Graves family until it was sold to the Qatari Sheikh (whose identity was not reveled at the time) in 1999 for $11,002,500 and moved to the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.
Patek Philippe Supercomplication timekeeper held the record for the number of complication for a long time. For the Swiss brand that produced it, it took fifty years to present even more intricate piece – it was Caliber 89 watch made with 33 additional functions for the 150th anniversary of the watchmaker in 1989. However, this timekeeper didn’t get anywhere near the value of its famed predecessor, since it was sold for five million dollars.
Living up to the Reputation
Nowadays, there are watches that are made with a higher number of complications than the legendary Graves pocket timepiece. Still, none of them was able to fetch the same amount of money that the Patek Philippe from 1933 did. With the possibility of it being auctioned again, it remains to be seen if it will be able to repeat the result and gather this mind-boggling sum of money once again.