World's most complicated watch sells for a record £13.4m

The Henry Graves Supercomplication was made for a New York City banker in the 1930s

The Henry Graves Supercomplication timepiece
(Image credit: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty)

A watch believed to be the most complex ever built without the help of computers sold at auction yesterday for a new world record: £13.4m. The Henry Graves Supercomplication was made by Patek Philippe in the 1930s.

The gold pocket watch is known as the pinnacle of the watchmakers art because of its 24 'complications', says the BBC. A complication is a watchmaker's term for any extra feature which does more than simply tell the time.

Wealthy banker Henry Graves wanted a watch with more complications than anyone else - in particular his rival, automotive pioneer James Packard, who had recently commissioned a watch for himself with 10 complications, including a star map.

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Graves, who had been born into a dynasty of rich financiers, commissioned Swiss firm Patek Philippe to make him something even better. After three years of research and five of manufacturing, the watch was finished in 1932.

With 900 parts, the Henry Graves Supercomplication remained the most sophisticated watch ever built for 56 years. It was only beaten by watchmakers working with the help of computers.

Although the watch has not been wound up since 1969, it is still in working order. Among its features is a rotating map of the stars as they appear from Graves's apartment on Fifth Avenue in New York.

The watch also indicates sidereal time, which is used by astronomers to keep track of the stars and planets. A sidereal day is approximately 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds long.

Other complications include Westminster chimes, a perpetual calendar, sunrise and sunset times, ages and phases of the moon, a split-second stopwatch, an alarm, a minute-repeater and twin barrel differential winding.

The watch smashed its estimate of £10.5m and sold in just 15 minutes to an anonymous bidder at Southeby's in Geneva.

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