It took a mere 15 minutes of bidding by five people before one of the world’s most famous pocket watches sold for a record $24 million at a Sotheby’s sale in Geneva, Switzerland.
The sale smashed the $11 million record the watch fetched in 1999, when it was bought by Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed Al Thani of the Qatari royal family, who tragically died in London a day before the sale at the age of 48.
Sotheby’s had expected the Henry Graves Supercomplication to fetch in excess of $15.8 million at the November 11 sale of important watches.
Made by Patek Philippe in 1933, the masterpiece of horology is said to be the most famous watch in the world and the most complicated ever made completely by human hand.
Its reappearance on the market, 15 years after its record sale to Sheikh Saud, coincided with Patek Philippe’s 175th anniversary celebrations.
In 1925, Patek Philippe was commissioned by Henry Graves, a prominent New York banker, to produce the most complicated watch in the world. The product of three years of research and five years’ effort by the most skilled technicians, this extraordinary timepiece is a gold openface minute repeating chronograph clockwatch with Westminster chimes. Among the features it incorporates are a perpetual calendar, moon phases, sidereal time, power reserve, and indications for time of sunset and sunrise and the night sky of New York City.
Graves is said to have paid $15,000 for the watch, and it is often credited with keeping the Swiss watchmaker in business during the Great Depression.
With a total of 24 horological complications, the watch retained the title of the world’s most complicated watch for 56 years and even then was only surpassed by technicians working with the aid of computer-assisted machines.
A prolific art collector who later on ran into financial difficulties, Sheikh Saud was Qatar’s former minister of culture.
He is credited with helping Doha build up its massive art collection at a cost of more than $1.5 billion, and setting up its Museum of Islamic Art.