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Jewelry in the News: The Price of Time

On November 11, the Henry Graves Supercomplication—a pocket watch owned by billionaire Sheik Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani—was bought for $24 million. But before it had a name as the most expensive watch ever sold, it was already well known in the timepiece industry. As suggested in its title, the Supercomplication was originally commissioned by banker Henry Graves to be the most complicated and advanced timepiece ever created without computers. In addition to keeping perfect time (not a minute lost since its last winding in 1969), its automatic calendar informs about phases of the moon, times of sunrise and sunset, and the exact rotation of the celestial map as seen from Henry Grave’s original New York City apartment. As an added bonus, it also chimes in the sound of the bells of Westminster Abbey.

 

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It took its designer, Patek Philippe, eight years to build: three for design plans and five to actually manufacture. It contains over nine hundred parts (as compared to an average pocket watch’s two hundred). In 1933, it was sold to Henry Graves, who had commissioned it years prior as part of a friendly competition to see who could create the most complicated watch in the world. With twenty-four functions, it far surpassed its nearest competitor, a sixteen-function watch commissioned by James Ward Packard.

 

Al-Thani bought the watch for $11 million in 1999, at the time a record-breaking price for a watch. At the far more expensive $24 million this past month, it seems this most complicated watch is destined to continue to break records for a while to come.

 

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