We love talking to collectors of fine and rare timepieces to understand what drives them to collect and their motivations in seeking out their next purchase. In our Collector’s World series we have featured a number of high profile collectors that have shared their fascinating insights.
Prior to being sold by Sotheby’s in 2014, I was extremely fortunate to have exclusive access to the ‘Henry Graves Supercomplication’ pocket watch (often referred to as the ‘Grail Watch’), created in 1933 and featuring 24 complications. In conversation with the Auctioneer who was conducting the sale, I was asked what I thought the bidding should start at – jokingly, I said it should be at least £10 million pounds. In the end they started the budding at CHF 9 million!
Eventually it was sold for a record-breaking price of over $23 million dollars (£15.1 million pounds). It was absolutely thrilling to be in the presence of such a legendary timepiece, an experience I will never forget. I know it may sound strange, but the exhilaration felt, just being in such close proximity to this mechanical marvel was incredible.
Whilst only a privileged few have the ability to purchase such an extraordinary watch, this is the unique essence of exactly why we collect these precious objects. Add to this the great intrigue surrounding the people that buy these unique pieces – the auction house is rarely (if ever!) drawn on the identities of either the seller or the buyer – it becomes truly intoxicating.
I’ve collected many things over the years but for me nothing captures the heart and imagination in terms of history, provenance and variety of design, as does the collecting of wristwatches.” Paul Maudsley, International Specialist, Director, Watch Department, Phillips
Perhaps two of the most legendary collectors from the early twentieth century were banker, Henry Graves Jr. and automobile manufacturer, James Ward Packard. By their very nature, they were fiercely competitive, but they went ‘head-to-head’ in a competition to own the most complicated watch in the world.
There has been much written about these two ‘titans of industry’ in this era known as the ‘Gilded Age’. Indeed, New York Times bestselling author Stacy Perman in her 2013 book, A Grand Complication: The Race to Build the World’s Most Legendary Watch, brilliantly chronicles the thrilling pursuit between Graves and Packard to possess the most complicated timepiece in history.
In July (13th-23rd), Patek Philippe are curating a collection of incredible and notable timepieces from iconic U.S. collectors that will be showcased in the U.S. Historic Room at The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition in New York.
It is here that you will be able to see the unique Patek Philippe timepieces commissioned by these two ‘super collectors’ including the aforementioned, ‘Henry Graves Supercomplication’ pocket watch. Overall there will be six significant watches from the Patek Philippe Museum, including his 1928 open-face, keyless winding pocket watch with Minute Repeater, Grande Sonnerie, Petite Sonnerie, Perpetual Calendar, and Moon Phases.
Visitors to the Exhibition will also have the opportunity to marvel at James Ward Packard’s Astronomical Pocket Watch ‘The Packard’ which will be amongst the five watches presented from Patek Philippe’s James Ward Packard collection. Commissioned in 1927, this astronomical pocket watch features a Minute Repeater on three gongs, Perpetual Calendar, age and phases of the moon, time of sunrise and sunset in Warren, Ohio, running equation of time, and sky chart for the latitude of Warren. The back of the case opens to reveal a rotating celestial map with more than 500 stars enameled in gold, depicting the night sky as it would appear in any given night over Packard’s birthplace.
I marvel at the technique and dexterity in creating the tiny wheels and pinions, wondering how they were ever fashioned by hand and eye, 200, 300 or even 400-years ago, before the modern machine tools we know nowadays.” Dr John C Taylor OBE, World-renowned Inventor, Clockmaker, Pilot, and Entrepreneur
Apart from it’s exquisite craftsmanship, the wonder of a notable Patek Philippe is its undoubted provenance. We know that the Patek below was owned by American baseball legend Joe DiMaggio’s.
His Patek Philippe Ref. 130J, created in 1948 is one of Patek’s most sought-after chronograph references and was reportedly given to him by the owners of the New York Yankees.
I have always had a fascination for watches from an early age and I suppose it came from seeing luxury watches on the wrists of film stars and sports personalities.” David Brailsford, Founder, Garrick Watches and Luxury Timepiece Consultant
The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition takes place in the iconic Cipriani 42nd Street, formerly known as the
Bowery Savings Bank. Built in 1921 in the spirit of the Italian Renaissance, Louis Ayres, of the distinguished architectural firm York & Sawyer, created “easily the most sumptuous of its kind in the country, departing sharply from the old architectural idea of a modified Greek temple as the proper model for a savings bank.”
Watches are in my DNA, I live and breathe for them. I have been collecting watches for the past 35 years because it represents art, beauty, precision and talent on both the dial and the movement. Being able to put together a piece of art and make a repeater, chronograph, calendar or tourbillon out of it is just fantastic.” Laurent Martinez, Luxury Watch Consultant
The U.S. Historic Room will be one of the ten thematic rooms at The Art of Watches Grand Exhibition in New York. The exhibition will be open to the general public and free of admission between 13th -23rd July, 2017 from 10:00am to 7:00pm.