• Important Watches auction at Christies

    Sale 1383

    Important Watches

    14 November 2011, Geneva

  • Lot 89

    Patek Philippe. An exceptional, unique and historically important platinum openface one minute tourbillon watch with Guillaume balance, original fitted wooden presentation box and Bulletin d'Observatoire


    Price Realised  


    Patek Philippe. An exceptional, unique and historically important platinum openface one minute tourbillon watch with Guillaume balance, original fitted wooden presentation box and Bulletin d'Observatoire
    Signed Patek Philippe & Co., Genève, Made for Henry Graves Jr., New York, movement no. 198'311, case no. 417'380, manufactured in 1932
    Cal. 17''' nickel-finished lever movement numbered twice and stamped with the Geneva seal, 18 jewels, Guillaume balance, the polished steel three arm tourbillon cage by James Pellaton, central jewel carried in gold screwed châton, platinum cuvette with engraved inscription No. 198311 Awarded First Price Geneva Astronomical Observatory Timing Contest 1933-1934 Points 872. Made For Henry Graves Jr. New York by Patek Philippe & Co. Geneva, the platinum dial with black enamel Roman numerals, subsidiary seconds, circular heavy case, engraved coat of arms and motto Esse Quam Videri (to be rather than to seem) to the reverse, hidden hinge, case, cuvette, dial and movement signed and numbered
    48 mm. diam.

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    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 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.

    Few watches ever made by the leading manufacturer Patek Philippe are so significant for their history as the present platinum tourbillon no. 198'311. It epitomizes precision watchmaking to a record breaking level, craftsmanship which can be felt when holding it, aesthetics immediately impressing one's eyes and a provenance of such importance that it is second to none. Witnesses of Patek Philippe's illustrious history spanning nearly two centuries of such significance are rare and examples having remained in private hands are even fewer. Pieces of the latter group are mostly locked away for generations and the public offering of such a gem must be considered an important moment in an avid collector's career.


    9 April 1989, Habsburg, Feldmann, Geneva, "The Art of Patek Philippe", lot 38: acquired by an important private collector
    17 November 2008, Christie's Geneva, "Important Watches", lot 88: acquired by the current owner

    Pre-Lot Text


    The record-breaking platinum
    Patek Philippe tourbillon number 198'311
    made especially for
    Henry Graves Jr.


    Listed in Das Tourbillon by Reinhard Meis, p. 353.

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