This record was predictable. The price too. But even if most of us were expecting a mind-blowing price, the amount of money offered yesterday for the Henry Graves Patek Philippe Supercomplication remains something close to indecency, as Sotheby’s hammered the most expensive watch to date for CHF 20,600,000 (before buyer’s premium). Now that we know the price, the big question is ‘Who’. Some clues to come.
Let’s begin with the most important: figures. We told you, the Henry Graves Patek Philippe Supercomplication just beat the previous record of the most expensive watch ever sold. It was previously held by… that same pocket watch. It had already been auctioned in 1999, also by Sotheby’s, for USD 11,000,000.
Yesterday, 11 November 2014, it reached CHF 20,600,000 before buyer’s premium or CHF 23,237,000 with buyer’s premium. For our readers to understand, it makes (with today’s exchange rate) EUR 19,322,000 or USD 24,128,000. It seems that watches manufactured by Patek Philippe are reaching the proper art status – also considering the prices achieved by wristwatches, such as the Ref. 2499 first series, sold at Patek Philippe 175th anniversary auction by Christie’s last Sunday.
The Henry Graves Patek Philippe Supercomplication was, for decades, the most complicated mechanical watches ever manufactured: 24 complications (detailed on the picture bellow), 8 years of hand-work, more than 500 grams, 74mm diameter. It kept this status until 1989, when Patek Philippe revealed the Calibre 89 for its 150th Anniversary. Alongside being a true museum piece and a work of mechanical art, it is also comes from an interesting origin. The reason of the creation for the Supercomplication is a ‘competition‘ between a banker, Henry Graves, and a car manufacturer, James Ward Packard. Both were fighting for the most complicated watch and Graves surpassed his rival in 1933 to become the owner of the most complicated watch ever made.
Then, in 1999, Sotheby’s sold it a first time for USD 11,000,000 to the Sheik Al-Thani of Qatar. Unfortunately, he died at the age of 48 just one day before the present auction, Saturday 10 November 2014. A sad but true story!
Now that we know more about the background, the auction itself and the figures, comes the big question of ‘who’. Whatever you may read in the average newspaper, the winning bidder is not anonymous. Furthermore, his name is far from being unknown in the watch industry: Aurel Bacs, previously head of Christie’s International Watch Department and now consultant for Phillips Auction House. Does that mean he was bidding for himself? Certainly not. Mr. Bacs may collect watches himself, and is possibly one of the greatest connoisseurs for vintage timepieces, he was bidding on behalf of someone else: a rich and (still) anonymous client. Or maybe for the Stern Family, owner of Patek Philippe, in order to bring back this piece of art to the Patek Philippe Museum. If rumors are right, the Henry Graves Patek Philippe Supercomplication will certainly be displayed very soon in Geneva.