A Portion of the Proceeds Will Be Donated to Eagle Island, Inc. dedicated to the preservation of Henry Graves Jr.’s family Adirondack camp that he kindly donated in 1937 as a unique summer camp for youth. Florence Preston Graves In the fall of 1895, when Florence Preston became engaged to the financier Henry Graves, Jr. - they married at St. Thomas’s Protestant Episcopal Church on Fifth Avenue in New York on January 21, 1896 - the New York Times hailed their coupling as one of “social prominence.” Indeed, a golden couple of the Gilded Age, Graves was the scion of a wealthy New Jersey family whose fortune rested on railroads, Wall Street, and commerce. Today, he is perhaps best known as one of the most important watch collectors of the 20th century. It was Graves who commissioned the Patek Philippe masterpiece: the “Graves Supercomplication,” delivered in 1933; a magnificent 18-karat gold double-dial pocket watch with 24 complications, among them, a stunning celestial chart calibrated to replicate the night sky above the Graves’s Manhattan apartment. Born on March 3, 1870 in Irvington-on-Hudson to Rebecca (née Duncan) and William Riley Preston, a wealthy commodities broker, Florence’s family tree stretched all the way back to Emperor Charlemagne, was descended from King Edward III, and boasted eleven barons – witnesses to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215. The seventh of ten children, Florence lived with her family in a townhouse just off Fifth Avenue on Forty-eighth Street; during the summers the Preston’s lived in what was known as the Millionaire’s Colony in Irvington, on a large estate that spanned between the Croton Aqueduct and the Hudson River. A member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the National Society of Colonial Dames; like many of her social set, as a girl, Florence studied at Mrs. Sylvanus Reed’s English, French, and German Boarding, and Day School for Young Ladies in New York City, where she learned languages and how to be a refined gentlewoman. Together, Mr. and Mrs. Graves, Jr. lived a life that can only be described as sumptuous. Along with their four children, the family resided at their 27-room mansion in Irvington-on-Hudson that featured a ballroom complete with Tiffany windows. Seasons were characterized not by climate but destination: summers at their Great Camp, Eagle Island in the Adirondacks, spring launched months-long trips to Europe, and winters were spent at their duplex at 834 Fifth Avenue. The Graves family coat of arms contained the Latin motto: Esse Quam Videri (To Be, Rather Than To Seem) and indeed the couple’s luxury and refined tastes were a testament to the family maxim. Henry was a great collector of fine and rare Chinese porcelains, gold coins, and Old Master engravings. Throughout their marriage he gifted his wife a great deal of stunning pieces of jewelry and other magnificent objects of art including a gem-laden crystal perfume bottle. As horology was a particular passion of his, several of his gifts reflected his intense, outsized interest in timepieces. In the spring of 1928, the couple sailed aboard the RSS Olympic arriving in Cherbourg to begin a six-month European holiday. It was during this trip that Graves became obsessed with a Vacheron Constantin tourbillon chronometer awarded the First Prize in the timing completion at the Geneva Observatory. Engaging in a colorful correspondence with the watchmaker, before the piece was delivered to him personally at the Hotel de Crillôn in Paris by none other than Charles Constantin, the great-grandson of Francois Constantin, cofounder of the maison. It was around this time that Graves presented his wife Florence with a spectacular Patek Philippe rectangular wristwatch made of platinum featuring 3.54 carats worth of baguette diamonds -- a dazzling example of the Art Deco style. A connoisseur with indelible taste, on another occasion, Graves gifted his wife with a Marcus & Co. pendant watch. Founded in 1892 by Herman Marcus, who had previously worked for Tiffany & Co., Marcus & Co. earned a well-deserved reputation for creating superb and meticulously crafted pieces of the Art Nouveau era, featuring strong colored stones, exotic motifs, and intricate enameling. Mrs. Graves’s 18-karat gold and enamel pendant watch, with a removable butterfly brooch contains many of the brand’s trademarks including the use of peridot gemstones, detailed enamel work, and lotus flowers embedded in the 12-inch gold chain, in the Egyptian revivalist style of which Marcus & Co. was famous. Florence Graves’s Patek Philippe wristwatch and Marcus & Co. pendant watch are believed to be the only known pieces from her personal collection to surface at market. She died on December 7, 1958, five years after her husband. Special thanks to Stacy Perman, author of A Grand Complication: The Race To Build The World's Most Legendary Watch, for her research and writing in accordance with this lot.
MOVEMENT NO. 109280, CASE NO. 504, CIRCA 1930