With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the present watch with platinum dial, black enamel hour markers and engraved coat-of-arms on the back cover in 1932 and its subsequent sale on 29 July 1935. Furthermore delivered with the original fitted wooden presentation box with inlaid mother-of-pearl shield featuring the coat-of-arms of Henry Graves Jr. to the cover and containing a spare crystal.
According to the accompanying timing sheets from the Geneva Observatory, the present watch participated at the 1933 contests where it was awarded the first prize with a record result of 872.2 points. It held this record in the chronometer category C until 1944 when, due to a change of the calculation method, such comparisons were not possibly anymore.
Since its first public appearance in 1989, the present watch has remained in the same private collection, unused and locked away in a vault, until its consignment to this auction in 2008.
ESSE QUAM VIDERI -
TO BE RATHER THAN TO APPEAR
Since its founding in 1839, Patek Philippe always stood for quality, craftsmanship, precision and style. It is to no surprise that this great firm's history is intimately interwoven with the lives of Kings and Queens, statesmen, celebrated businessmen, successful scientists and famous artists. Patek Philippe's clientele has included Queen Victoria and King Umberto II, James Ward Packard, Marie Curie and Albert Einstein, Richard Wagner and Duke Ellington. However, one stands out from all of the above as Patek Philippe's most influential and prominent patron - Henry Graves Jr. (1868 - 1953), born into an important private banking family, collector and sportsman.
Together with James Ward Packard, the automobile manufacturer from Warren Ohio, no other client like Henry Graves Jr. has ever been such a challenge to the master watchmakers of Patek Philippe. This challenge which was the consequence of an eager phantom competition between the two men, who actually never met, in an attempt to own the most complicated watch ever made. This race was eventually won by Henry Graves Jr. in 1933 when he took delivery of his "Supercomplication", a watch with 24 complications.
No public records are available to show how many watches Mr. Graves has ordered from Patek Philippe, but research would result in some 30 pieces, all highly unique. Until to date, 15 of these watches have reappeared in public and are known to have survived. It is noteworthy to mention that 13 of the latter are today property of Geneva's prestigious Patek Philippe Museum; the 14th, the super complication, is also at the Museum, however on loan from a private collector. Consequently, the present platinum tourbillon watch is, to date, the only publicly known and confirmed watch to have been made for Henry Graves Jr. not yet housed in Patek Philippe's dedicated showcase of watches manufactured for him.
Most of the watches of Henry Graves Jr. are engraved with the family's coat-of-arms and motto ESSE QUAM VIDERI.
The present watch, a platinum openface watch with one minute tourbillon regulator, was delivered to Mr. Graves in 1935. Two years earlier, this superb watch participated at the Geneva Astronomical Observatory Timing Contest and was awarded First Prize with a score of 872,2 points in 1934 - at the time a precision world record which this horological masterpiece kept for several years.
The only other Patek Philippe platinum tourbillon watches known to exist were also made for Henry Graves Jr.: number 198'247, sold in this saleroom on 18 May 2004, lot 88, and number 198'310 - both are now permanently on exhibit at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva.
Unique and extraordinary are adjectives to be used with care, but the platinum tourbillon watch No. 198'211 is deserving of such epithets. As well as being of exceptional quality and rarity, it also combines the contrast of invisible complexity and visible simplicity - ESSE QUAM VIDERI - TO BE RATHER THAN TO SEEM.