On November 11th, 2014, at a Sotheby’s auction in Geneva, Switzerland, a Patek Philippe Supercomplication pocket watch was sold for $24,000,000 USD to an anonymous buyer. At the time, this was the most anyone had ever paid for a timepiece, far exceeding its estimated value of 15 million Swiss Francs. It all happened in a matter of minutes, 15 to be exact, but the history of this particular pocket watch was 90 years in the making.
The History of the Patek Philippe Supercomplication Pocket Watch
The pocket watch is aptly titled the Supercomplication because when it was created, the timepiece was the world’s most complicated watch due to its total of 24 “complications” or functions, so to speak. The American businessman Henry Graves Jr. commissioned Patek Philippe to create the watch. He asked for “the world’s most complicated timepiece,” and he was willing to pay any price.
Graves had been in a friendly competition with American industrialist James Ward Packard. The two went back and forth commissioning Patek Philippe to create more and more complex watches in an effort to best each other. Patek Phillipe began building the watch in 1925. In 1932, after enlisting help from multiple Swiss horologicalworkshops, the timepiece was finished. Packard unfortunately died before the completion of the Supercomplication. If he had lived to see the watch finished, he may very well have persuaded Patek Philippe to outdo itself—a feat that wasn’t accomplished until the 1980’s when the watchmaker created the Patek Philippe Calibre 89.
Watch the Supercomplication Rise in Value
In 1933, Graves paid $15,000 for the Patek Philippe Supercomplication. By today’s standards, Graves paid just over $200,000 USD. If the Supercomplication were a new pocket watch released during today’s market, it would easily retail for over $1 million. Fortunately, the watch is still in impeccable condition as it has been a collector’s piece for nearly a century and barely used.
Before the 2014 auction, the Patek Philippe Supercomplication was purchased in 1999 by Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed bin Ali Al-Thani of the Qatari royal family for a whopping $11 million—making it the most expensive timepiece in the world at that time, as well. From $15,000 in 1933 to $24 million in 2014, Patek Philippe proves a luxury timepiece can be a great investment. Of course, not every watch will rise to such an atmospheric value, but watches of reputable name and craftsmanship will always fetch a pretty penny—and there’s nothing super complicated about that.