Lot 345
  • 345

Patek Philippe

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  • The Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication PATEK PHILIPPE & Co., Geneva, No. 198.385, Case No. 416.769, started in 1925, completed in 1932 and delivered on 19th January 1933
  • A yellow gold cased watch with silver and enamel double dial
A gold, double dialled and double open-faced, minute repeating clockwatch with Westminster chimes, grande and petite sonnerie, split seconds chronograph, registers for 60-minutes and 12-hours, perpetual calendar accurate to the year 2100, moon-phases, equation of time, dual power reserve for striking and going trains, mean and sidereal time, central alarm, indications for times of sunrise/sunset and a celestial chart for the night time sky of New York City at 40 degrees 41.0 minutes North latitude

Accompanied by the original fitted tulipwood box inlaid with ebony and centered by a mother-of-pearl panel engraved with the arms of Henry Graves, Jr. Also accompanied by the Patek Philippe Certificate of Origin and an Extract from the Archives of Patek Philippe.


For any information about the condition of the Patek Philippe & Co. The Henry Graves Supercomplication please contact the watch department: meaghan.steele@sothebys.com
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. All dimensions in catalogue descriptions are approximate. Condition reports may not specify mechanical replacements or imperfections to the movement, case, dial, pendulum, separate base(s) or dome. Watches in water-resistant cases have been opened to examine movements but no warranties are made that the watches are currently water-resistant. Please note that we do not guarantee the authenticity of any individual component parts, such as wheels, hands, crowns, crystals, screws, bracelets and leather bands, since subsequent repairs and restoration work may have resulted in the replacement of original parts. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. In particular, please note it is the purchaser's responsibility to comply with any applicable import and export matters, particularly in relation to lots incorporating materials from endangered species.NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

**Please be advised that bands made of materials derived from endangered or otherwise protected species (i.e. alligator and crocodile) are not sold with the watches and are for display purposes only. We reserve the right to remove these bands prior to shipping.

Important Notice regarding importation into the United States of Rolex watches
Sotheby's cannot arrange for the delivery of Rolex watches to the United States because U.S. laws restricts the import of Rolex watches. The buyer or a designated agent may collect the property in the country of sale."

Catalogue Note

In the course of Patek Philippe’s 175 years as a master watchmaker, an anniversary which the firm celebrates this yea, many extraordinary watches have been created that have challenged the way we think about timepieces. It is an honour to offer the Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication in this important anniversary year of Patek Philippe, Geneva. Amongst the most complicated and significant timepieces ever created, the Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication redefined the possibilities of watchmaking and changed horology forever. With 24 complications, it remained the world's most complicated watch until Patek Philippe created the Calibre 89 in 1989 for its 150th anniversary. However, the Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication retains the title of the most complicated watch ever made without computer-assisted technology.

We are grateful to Eric Tortella for his assistance in researching the Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication.

LOT 345

PATEK PHILIPPE & Co., Geneva, No. 198.385, Case No. 416.769, started in 1925, completed in 1932 and delivered on 19th January 1933

diameter 74mm; thickness of case with glass 36 mm; weight of case 536 grammes (approx. 1 lb. 3oz)

A gold, double dialled and double open-faced, minute repeating clockwatch with Westminster chimes, grande and petite sonnerie, split seconds chronograph, registers for 60-minutes and 12-hours, perpetual calendar accurate to the year 2100, moon-phases, equation of time, dual power reserve for striking and going trains, mean and sidereal time, central alarm, indications for times of sunrise/sunset and a celestial chart for the night time sky of New York City at 40 degrees 41.0 minutes North latitude

Accompanied by the original fitted tulipwood box inlaid with ebony and centered by a mother-of-pearl panel engraved with the arms of Henry Graves, Jr. Also accompanied by the Patek Philippe Certificate of Origin and an Extract from the Archives of Patek Philippe.

The Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication movement is unique. Patek Philippe ensured that each complication was designed specifically for this watch. Complex watch movements usually consisted of complications that were added to a simpler base calibre, however, the Supercomplication’s calibre was developed specifically for this single watch. The Supercomplication required the expertise of some of the finest watchmakers of the period, each skilled in the execution of particular components. These master makers had to work together to ensure that all complications within the watch were seamlessly combined with one another and presented in a case and with a dial of the finest design. After all, this watch was no mere flight of fancy; it was a special order and had to please its patron. This unique collaboration resulted in a watch that was not only the most complex in the world, but was also a timepiece of exceptional aesthetic beauty.

Please see fig. 6 for the list of the Supercomplication's 24 complications.


Henry Graves, Jr. (1868-1953) was more than just a modern man at the beginning of the 20th century; he was an innovator. Born into a prominent banking family in Orange, NJ, his father, Henry Graves, Sr., was a partner in the banking firm of Maxwell & Graves located at 143 Liberty Street, New York City. Henry Graves, Jr. joined his father in the financial industry and moved to New York City. In 1896, Mr. Graves married Florence Isabel Preston of Irvington-on-Hudson, New York and they had four children. As a wealthy society family at the turn of the century, Mr. and Mrs. Graves had the luxury of owning several vacation homes in addition to their residence in New York City.  The family spent their summers at their homes in Irvington and Saranac, New York. In Saranac, the Graves owned Eagle Island, where Mr. Graves reveled in one of his sporting passions: boating. One of his treasured boats was the Eagle, a 50-foot speedboat.

During the winter, the family spent time near Charleston, South Carolina where Mr. Graves was a member of the prestigious Yeaman’s Hall, an old plantation-turned-private club. The remainder of the year, the family lived at 420 Park Avenue in New York City, until the family moved to 834 Fifth Avenue in 1931. Mr. Graves would remain at his Fifth Avenue apartment until his death at the age of 86.

Mr. Graves had a well-known appreciation for the arts. On 3rd April 1936, a single-owner sale was held at the American Art Association Anderson, Galleries, Inc., a predecessor of Sotheby’s in New York. The sale was titled "Masterpieces of Engraving and Etching: The Collection of Henry Graves, Jr." The introduction of the catalogue states:

"The possibilities of collecting are revealed at their finest in the majority of the magnificent prints gathered by Mr. Graves. No other collection so rich in beauty, so carefully chosen, and in such splendid condition has ever been offered at public sale in this country."

The highlight of the sale was Albrecht Dürer’s Adam and Eve, which brought an impressive $10,000. This price was truly remarkable at the time, given that the sale occurred in the midst of the Great Depression. 

In addition to Mr. Graves’ passion for fine art, he is remembered for his superb Patek Philippe collection of timepieces. Mr. Graves was introduced to the firm by his family jeweler, Tiffany & Co., and was impressed by Patek Philippe’s success in various timing contests at the Geneva Observatory. Mr. Graves began acquiring Patek Philippe timepieces in the 1910s, ultimately becoming one of the firm’s most notable patrons. Mr. Graves would either commission watches from the firm or would ask Patek Philippe to personalize timepieces he acquired with his family’s coat-of-ams. The Graves coat-of-arms bears an eagle rising out of a ducal coronet, along with the motto: Esse Quam Videri (To Be, Rather than to Seem). The majority of Mr. Graves’ watches are distinguished by the use of this Coat-of-Arms on the case or, as with the Supercomplication, on the watch’s box. Many of his pocket watches were further personalised: “Made for Henry Graves, Jr. New York.”

In line with his own competitive spirit, Mr. Graves commissioned Patek Philippe to make him the most complicated watch – more complicated than James Ward Packard’s Patek Philippe with sky chart no. 198.023, the Leroy No. 1 and the “Marie Antoinette” by Breguet. Mr. Graves became the very proud owner of the Supercomplication on 19th January 1933 for the sum of 60,000 SF ($15,000). Weighing approximately 535g (1 lb. 3 ounces), the watch consists of 920 individual components including 430 screws, 110 wheels, 120 mechanical levers or parts and 70 jewels.

The Supercomplication remained in Mr. Graves’ collection of timepieces until his death in 1953. His daughter, Gwendolen, inherited the Supercomplication and much of the collection and later gifted it onto her son, Reginald H. “Pete” Fullerton, Jr., in 1960.  Mr. Fullerton, Henry Graves, Jr.'s grandson, was the last descendant of the Graves family to own the Supercomplication until its sale to Seth G. Atwood, founder of the Time Museum, in 1969.


One of the few, very few, minor regrets that I may have had during the 36 exhilarating years of my association with Patek Philippe, Geneva, is that I was not around during an era which, today, is considered as being  the vintage years for a number of timepieces produced by the Manufactory, namely: between 1900 and 1935.

During that era, two men in the U.S.A., vied with one another to order and acquire exceptional watches, either for their time-keeping qualities or their complex mechanisms. Interestingly enough, both chose Patek Philippe as their principal source of supply. Thus started a fascinating ‘contest’ between two gentlemen . . . who were nevertheless rivals in the field of horology. 

The first, Henry Graves, Jr. of New York, was essentially a sportsman and collector; but fortuitously born into a private banking family. The second was James Ward Packard of Warren, Ohio, the automobile manufacturer.

First one, then the other of these two gentlemen would order from Patek Philippe in Geneva, timepieces with multiple horological complications. By 1916, Mr. Packard had edged in front of Mr. Graves in his bid to own the finest and most complex watch in the world. Indeed, in January of that year he took delivery of an impressive pocket-watch made by Patek Philippe and which incorporated 16 horological complications. Again, in April 1927 a further stunning pocket-watch with ten complications, including a celestial-chart, was delivered to Mr. Packard by Patek Philippe. However, neither piece could claim to be the most complicated watch ever made.

For Mr. Graves, ever the sportsman and competitor, the challenge was irresistible. Unhesitatingly, he returned to the ‘contest’ with renewed determination. In strictest secrecy he once more approached Patek Philippe in Geneva with a monumental request, namely: to plan and construct “the most complicated watch ever made”

The master-watchmakers at Patek Philippe, undaunted, returned to their respective ateliers and drawing-boards to ponder this new, exciting challenge. Obviously, computer assistance in the construction of complex horological mechanisms did not exist in those days. Exhaustive studies in the realms of astronomy, mathematics and precision mechanisms were necessary to achieve what then became the “world’s most complicated timepiece” incorporating 25 horological complications. The Supercomplication retained that title for an impressively long time: 56 years in total.

By modern-day standards, the end result was achieved astonishingly quickly. Indeed, ‘only’ seven years were necessary, between 1925-1932, to research, develop and produce the chef-d’oeuvre ordered by Mr. Graves from Patek Philippe. The watch was delivered to Mr. Graves on 19th January 1933. 

Then, in 1989, to mark Patek Philippe’s 150th anniversary, they unveiled the Calibre 89 which incorporates 33 complications. Thus, the “Graves” watch lost its title…but to a worthy successor. For those who may have the privilege of actually handling this famous and extraordinary timepiece will, I am sure, experience an indefinable sensation. I certainly did!

Alan Banbery
Former Curator of the Patek Philippe Museum
Geneva, October 2014


The sidereal time dial was made between 1929 and 1932 from a gold plate with silvered finish. The three subsidiary dials for sunrise, sunset, and subsidiary sidereal seconds were recessed by circular engraving. The plate was then engraved and enamelled. Above the subsidiary sidereal seconds, the equation of time sector indicates the difference between the minutes of mean time and sidereal time. The sky chart is also made from a gold disc and is overlaid with champlevé blue enamel. The archives of Stern Frères show that Patek Philippe supplied the gold for the dial and paid 110 Francs for its construction. The Stern Frères archives still retain a copy of the original drawings for the dial which were submitted to Henry Graves, Jr. for his approval. The drawings appear in what is known as Stern Frères special design book.

Dial details:
Gold dial plate with silvered finish, black enamel Arabic dauphine numerals, outer minute track, large aperture revealing the sky chart surrounded with the cardinal points, the sky chart composed of a champlevé blue enamel over gold stars à paillons depicting approximately 450 stars and a magnificent representation of the Milky Way, the whole of the night sky for the exact longitude of Mr. Graves’ Manhattan apartment overlooking Central Park on Fifth Avenue, three sunken subsidiary dials for times of sunrise and  sunset in New York, and seconds combined with equation of time scale, ‘pear’ shaped blued steel hands, the dial plate engraved and enamelled and with large personal inscription reading “Made for Henry Graves Jr, New York 1932 by Patek, Philippe & Co. Geneva, Switzerland.”


The mean time dial was made by Stern Frères S.A. between 1929 and 1930 and is white enamel. The perfect aesthetics of the dial mask the extreme complexity of its construction. The dial has to accommodate seven layers of hands - the two split seconds hands, hour hand, minute hand, alarm hand, and double hands within either power reserve subsidiaries - all of which have to seamlessly glide above one another. In order to accommodate the unprecedented number of hands, the subsidiary dials are double sunk, and each are made from two separate enamel sections with their relevant calibrations. This allows extra depth to the dial, keeping the overall height between crystal and dial surface to a minimum and thereby minimizing the overall depth of the watch.

Dial details:
White enamel dial, black enamel radial Roman numerals chiffres Romaines regardants, style Genève, outer track for minutes and chronograph seconds indication for fifths of a second, double-sunk subsidiary dials for 60-minute and 12-hour registers combined with power reserves for striking and going trains respectively, further double-sunk subsidiary dial for subsidiary seconds and date, apertures for day, month and moon-phases, Breguet hour and minute hands, the subsidiary dials with feuille shaped hands, gold alarm indicator hand, all other hands blued steel.



The movement's core tier is double sided. Each side of the ocre accomodates an additional tier, thereby making a total of three tiers.

The movement: 25''' damascened, two train, multi-layered plates with 70 jewels, signed and numbered on the movement band.

Tier 1

Main plate with lever escapement, three first wheels of 14k gold, bi-metallic compensation balance, with gold regulating screws, adjusted to heat, cold, isochronism and five positions, unique balance regulator with aperture enabling regulation concealed under bezel, striking mechanism with two barrels, Westminster-type carillon, grande and petite sonnerie, with four hammer's striking four gongs, mean time train, power reserves for movement and strike, both chronograph mechanisms visible to back-hyphen plate of central tier.

The chronograph is executed in a classic manner, however this complication utilizes a 12-hour register which is rarely seen on Patek Philippe watches. It is also notable that the chronograph function has a 60-minute register which is considerably more complex to integrate than the more standard 30-minute register.

The grande sonnerie includes four hammers that strike four gongs to sound the passing hours and Westminster quarter hours, the petite sonnerie when activated merely strikes the passing Westminster quarter hours.

The alarm employs a fifth hammer and a fifth gong to ring the alarm.

Tier 2 -
Under Mean Time Dial

Plate with alarm, spring and lever layout for time and alarm triple-setting system, calendar, and moon-phases.

The perpetual calendar is unusually displayed with the day of the week and month of the year both shown in rectangular windows.

Tier 3 -
Under Sidereal Time Dial

Sidereal time train, sky chart mechanism, cams for equation of time, sunrise and sunset.

The Sidereal Time train is constructed with three main wheels and makes one full revolution every sidereal day. The Supercomplication provides the complete sidereal time with hours, minutes and seconds indicated. This is the most accurate manner to display Sidereal time but also the most complex.

The Sky Chart mechanism comprises the display plate itself with three wheels and one gear, all connected to the sidereal time and adjustable through the crown's hand setting function.


The case of the Supercomplication was made by Luc Rochat of L’Abbaye in the Vallée de Joux. The case is 73.2mm in diameter, 35mm thick including the crystals and weighs 535g (1 lb, 3 oz). The case by itself weighs an impressive 250g. The double open-faced case is of classic bassine design. Both bezels are impressively thick to accommodate the depth of the dials and their hands. Each bezel has a concealed hinge, which represents the highest quality of such design.

Despite the watch’s impressive size, it is exceptionally well proportioned; this is a testament to the careful planning and extraordinary collaboration between the master watchmakers, dial makers, and case maker who, between them, ensured that every cubic millimeter of space was used with the greatest efficiency. Almost five years were required from the design of the case to its final delivery, during which time hundreds of adjustments were made to ensure every function allowed by the slides and pushers was precise and smooth.

The case incorporates 13 operational functions. Facing the watch from the mean time side and running around the case in a clockwise direction from the crown these are:
1. winding device, turning to one side for the main barrel and to the other side for the chime
2. pulling the crown, first position for the mean time, second position for the sidereal time setting
3. chronograph main start/stop coaxial device
4. moon-phase adjuster
5. alarm winding sliding device
6. petite/grande sonnerie selection slide
7. minute repeat trigger slide
8. adjuster for months of the year
9. adjuster for days of the week
10.  adjuster for date of the month
11. the strike/silent option, selected via a slide
12. the split device pusher
13. pusher to engage hand-setting when crown is pulled out


Perpetual Calendar with Moon-Phases

The perpetual calendar shows the correct day of the week, date of the month and month of the year regardless of the length of the month. It also automatically adjusts for the leap year. The aperture for moon-phases shows the correct phase and age of the moon.

Since the duration of the Solar year is 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 48 seconds and the mean year is 365 days, an extra year is added every four years (leap year) and a further adjustment is made with the omission of a leap year every four centuries. According to the Gregorian calendar reforms of 1582, century years that are divisible by 400 without remainder are to be considered leap years. Consequently, the perpetual calendar of the Supercomplication will be accurate until the year 2100, when the calendar will need to be readjusted for the first time.

The Westminster Chimes, Repeater and Alarm

Grande Sonnerie with Westminster chimes. Selected via a slide on the case band, this function strikes the hours and quarters at every quarter. The five gongs hammer for the carillon are separate from the alarm.

Petite Sonnerie selected via the slide on the case band, this function strikes the passing quarter hours.

Minute Repeater Selected on demand via the case band, the watch strikes the passing quarter hours and minutes.

The Westminster chime, made famous by the Westminster London clock popularly known as ‘Big Ben,’ was first used in St. Mary’s Church, Cambridge in 1793. The chime tune itself was taken from the fifth bar of Handel’s aria from the Messiah, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.”

Split Seconds chronograph

The split seconds chronograph can be used to time up to two events at the same time. The chronograph is started, stopped and reset via the pusher at the center of the winding crown. When the chronograph is running, the split pusher which is located in the case band between 10 and 11 o’clock (when looking at the mean time dial) can be pressed to stop one of the central chronograph seconds hands, leaving the other to continue alone. Whilst the chronograph is running, minutes elapsed will be counted on the subsidiary dial to the right and hours to the left on the mean time dial.

Sidereal Time and Equation of Time

The Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication has hours, minutes and seconds of sidereal time, the time of sunrise and sunset (calibrated for New York City) and the equation of time. This sidereal complication requires a transmission ratio of exactly 1.0027379092, which is driven by a 62 tooth wheel on the arbor of the fourth wheel.

Sidereal time is based on the amount of time it takes the Earth to make two consecutive transitions of a meridian by a fixed star. By measuring the transits of a fixed star, one is able to measure the actual time it takes for the Earth to turn on its axis. This period of time is known as a sidereal day which is approximately 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds.

The equation of time indicator on the Supercomplication watch is calibrated to show the difference between apparent solar time (the time as indicated by a sundial) and mean time (the average of solar time). Since the Earth is in an elliptical orbit, the difference between mean and solar time ranges from plus 14 minutes 59 seconds to minus 16 minutes 15 seconds. Solar time agrees with mean time on or about 15th April, 15th June, 31st August, and 24th December.
The Supercomplication watch indicates the equation of time on a sector-shaped scale with calibrations for plus/minus 17 minutes. The equation of time mechanism is driven by an arbor that protrudes through the movement from the calendar mechanism.

The spelling ‘sideral’ on the dial of the watch is the French form of the word; the English spelling being ‘sidereal.’

The Star Chart

The Supercomplication’s star chart rotates anti-clockwise behind the oval aperture of the dial. The shape of the aperture allows one to see the night sky as seen from New York City, complete with magnitudes of the stars and the Milky Way.


Henry Graves, Jr., New York, January 1933
Gwendolen Graves Fullerton, by descent from the above, New York, 1953
Reginald H. “Pete” Fullerton, by gift from the above, New York, 1960
Time Museum, Rockford, Illinois, Inventory no. 4443, 1969
Sotheby’s, New York, Masterpieces from the Time Museum, 2 December 1999, lot 7
Private Collection

Rockford, Illinois, The Time Museum, 1970-1999
Geneva, The Patek Philippe Museum, 2001-2005

“The Summum of complication,” Journal Suisse d’Horologie, December 1932, pp. 36-37.
“Watches: These are the Best Built in the World,” Life Magazine, 23 December 1940, p. 31.
“The World’s Most Complicated Watch,” Patek Philippe Newsletter, May 1960, pp. 2-3.
Eugene Jaquet and Alfred Chapuis, Technique and History of the Swiss Watch, New York, 1970, pl. 122-123.
Cecil Clutton and George Daniels, Watches, London, 1979 (3rd ed.), pl. 377a-e.
Rheinhard Meis, Taschenuhren: Von d. Halsuhr zum Tourbillon, Munich, 1979, pl. 848-850.
Seth G. Atwood and William Andrews, The Time Museum an Introduction, Rockford, 1983,  p. 30.
Martin Huber and Alan Banbery, Patek Philippe, Geneva, 1983 (vol. 1, 1st ed.), pp. 250-257, pls. 232a-h.
Martin Huber and Alan Banbery, Patek Philippe, Geneva, 1993, (vol. 1, 2nd ed.), pp. 88-91, pls. 237-239h.
David S. Landes, Revolution in Time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World, Boston, 1983, pp. 448-449.
Patek Philippe S.A., Star Calibre 2000, Geneva, 2000, pp. 20-21.
Arthur Lubow, “Complicated Collectors,” Patek Philippe Museum, Geneva, Autumn/Winter 2002, pp. 36-41.
Stacy Perman, A Grand Complication: The Race to Build the World’s Most Legendary Watch, New York, 2013.

Please see fig. 9 for the timeline of The Henry Graves Jr. Supercomplication.

We are grateful to the following individuals for their guidance and assistance with the creation of this catalogue: Patricia Atwood, Alan Banbery, Alex Barter, Sylvie Dricourt, Peter Friess, Stacy Perman, Martin H. Wehrli, Béatrice Widemann, and of course, Patek Philippe.