Patek Philippe’s Four Most Complicated Watches

Patek Philippe’s Four Most Complicated Watches

From Patek Philippe’s Grandmaster Chime to the Henry Graves, Jr. Supercomplication, we look at the watches that have pushed one of the world’s most respected watchmakers to its limit – and beyond.
From Patek Philippe’s Grandmaster Chime to the Henry Graves, Jr. Supercomplication, we look at the watches that have pushed one of the world’s most respected watchmakers to its limit – and beyond.

A sk any serious collector which manufacture reigns supreme when it comes to making highly complicated watches at any sort of scale and you’re likely to get the same answer: Patek Philippe. Even as independent watchmaking has exploded over the last decade, nobody has managed to create the same variety of complications, to innovate on old complications and to devise new combinations of complications quite like this stalwart of the old guard. Patek has been at it for well over 100 years and shows no signs of slowing down.

Patek Philippe Grand Complications consistently command some of the highest prices at auction, with the Henry Graves, Jr., Supercomplication currently holding the title of second most expensive Patek ever sold. On 5 June 2024, a Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime reference 6300 headed to auction for the very first time – from the personal collection of Hollywood legend Sylvester Stallone, no less – where it achieved an astonishing $5.4 million off a $2.5-5 million estimate. Now is as good a time as any to look back at how the Geneva-based watchmaker has consistently set the bar for ultra-complicated watches and changed contemporary watchmaking in the process.

Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime – 20 Complications

The Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime has the distinction of being the most complicated wristwatch that Patek has ever made. All of the other watches here are pocket watches – and even the term “pocket” can only loosely be applied to the mega-complex timepieces below. Released in 2014 for Patek Philippe’s 175th anniversary, the Grandmaster Chime ref. 5175R has an ornately engraved gold case and was made in just seven examples.

This Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime reference 6300G owned by Sylvester Stallone sold for $5.4 million at auction in June 2024.

There are two dials to show the indicators for the 20 complications, and Patek holds six patents on new mechanisms developed specifically for the Caliber 300 movement inside. The front dial shows the basic timekeeping, the date and moon phase, as well as the five different chiming functions. Flipping over the reversible case reveals a more pared-down dial dedicated to the perpetual calendar indicators.

In 2016, Patek Philippe added a white-gold Grandmaster Chime reference 6300G to the collection with black dials, updating it in 2019 with blue dials (though all three variants are technically identical). It’s this latest blue-dialed Grandmaster Chime that came up for sale at Sotheby’s on 5 June 2024, from Oscar-winner Sylvester Stallone’s personal collection. It was also the first blue-dialed 6300G to hit the auction block anywhere and was sold sealed in plastic wrapping along with a full complement of accessories, ultimately achieving $5.4 million after a four-minute bidding battle between five vying collectors saw it surpass its $5 million high estimate. If you’re a collector of highly complicated watches, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Patek Philippe Star Caliber 2000 – 21 Complications

As Y2K fever was sweeping the globe and Juicy tracksuits were all the rage, Patek Philippe unveiled the audacious Star Caliber 2000. This watch marked the dawn of a new millennium for the famed manufacture and introduced new patented mechanisms for things like the equation-of-time display and sunset/sunrise times. There are 21 complications in all, making it the third most complicated watch Patek Philippe has ever made, only behind the two watches below.

Unusually, the Star Caliber 2000 was never made available to customers on an individual watch basis. Instead, Patek Philippe created five box sets, each with four watches. For four of the sets this meant one watch each in yellow gold, rose gold, white gold and platinum, with each box having its own unique engraving motif carried across each watch. The fifth box featured four platinum watches, each with a unique engraving pattern. These sets were priced at approximately $7.5 million at the time, which would be almost $14 million today. At least one set has since been broken up, with the occasional single Star Caliber 2000 landing at auction.

Because it was produced in such small quantities and before the watch-blog boom, the Star Caliber 2000 is still relatively unknown, even among serious collectors. However, its influence is definitely felt. Watches like the Sky Moon Tourbillon reference 5002 (introduced just a year later in 2001) and the Grand Complications Celestial reference 6102 utilize a similar style of sky chart and, in the case of the former, a similar two-dial layout.

Henry Graves, Jr. Supercomplication – 24 Complications

In many ways, this is the watch that kickstarted the complication wars among watchmakers and collectors, although it would take decades for things to really ramp up and for watches of this complexity to become known and appreciated outside of the most rarified circles.

Auctioned at Sotheby’s for 23.2 million CHF in 2014, Patek Philippe’s Henry Graves, Jr. ‘Supercomplication’ is currently the second most expensive Patek ever sold.
Auctioned at Sotheby’s for 23.2 million CHF in 2014, Patek Philippe’s Henry Graves, Jr. ‘Supercomplication’ is currently the second most expensive Patek ever sold.

In 1933, American industrialist Henry Graves, Jr. took delivery of a watch he had commissioned from Patek Philippe more than half a decade earlier. The so-called Supercomplication has 24 complications and, given the time period in which it was produced, was both designed and manufactured without the aid of computers. It is a true hand-made marvel and unlike any other watch made before or since. In an era when watches were becoming simpler and transitioning from the pocket to the wrist, this was a bold gesture in the opposite direction.

The Supercomplication has sold publicly twice, both times at Sotheby’s. An American collector named Seth Atwood had acquired the watch privately in the 1960s from Pete Fullerton, Grave’s grandson. Atwood displayed the Supercomplication in his Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois, for many years until the museum closed in 1999. After that, he sold it at Sotheby’s where it fetched $11 million, making it the most expensive watch ever sold at auction. It spent a few years in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva and then hit the block again in November 2014, when it sold for 23.2 million CHF, again making it then the most expensive watch ever sold. The current owner has chosen to remain anonymous.

Patek Philippe Calibre 89 – 33 Complications

Weighing in at nearly 2.5 pounds, measuring over 85mm across and over 40mm thick and housing 33 complications, Patek Philippe’s Calibre 89 pocket watch is the most complicated timepiece Patek Philippe has ever made. When it was introduced in 1989 to celebrate the company’s 150th anniversary, it was the most complicated watch of any kind anywhere, and it held that title for approximately 27 years. Only four pieces were made, one each in yellow gold, rose gold, white gold and platinum, and they took over four years to actually make (not including all of the research and development required before a single wheel or pinion could be crafted).

While important because of its sheer complexity alone, that is not where the Calibre 89’s influence ends. It also serves as a sort of spiritual turning point for Patek Philippe. It both pays homage to the brand’s history of ultra-complicated timepieces like the Supercomplication, while taking advantage of newer manufacturing techniques and evolving the brand’s aesthetic. Today, Patek Philippe is respected as one of the true masters of making grand complications – such as this reference 5208 pink-gold minute repeating perpetual calendar with additional complications. Additional references 5074, 5016 and more all trace their heritage to the Calibre 89. It was a stake in the ground, a reminder not only of what came before, but the investment and commitment Patek Philippe has to making top-flight complicated watches, record-setting and otherwise.

Over the years, many of the most complicated – and most expensive – watches by Patek Philippe Geneve have sold at Sotheby’s, where world-leading watch experts have access to a global network of collectors. So whether you’re seeking a Nautilus, Aquanaut, Calatrava or one of Patek Philippe’s most stunning Grand Complications, Sotheby’s watch auctions and online marketplace are the best places to find your next Patek.

Auction Results The Luxury Sales

About the Author

Upcoming Watch Auctions

More from Sotheby's

Stay informed with Sotheby’s top stories, videos, events & news.

Receive the best from Sotheby’s delivered to your inbox.

By subscribing you are agreeing to Sotheby’s Privacy Policy. You can unsubscribe from Sotheby’s emails at any time by clicking the “Manage your Subscriptions” link in any of your emails.

arrow Created with Sketch. Back To Top