The Most Expensive Watch Ever Sold: The Story Behind the Price Tag

Soliu

This Article was Reviewed by The Chief Editor, Godfrey

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Reviewed by Soliu.

The most expensive watch ever sold is the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication. It was sold at auction in 2014 for a whopping $24 million. 

This pocket watch, made in 1932, features 24 complications, including a moon phase display, a perpetual calendar, and a celestial chart based on the night sky above Graves’ New York apartment. The intricate craftsmanship and historical significance contributed to its extraordinary price tag.

The legendary Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication timepiece possesses remarkable qualities that contributed to its extraordinary price tag of $24 million.

The watch was created by Patek Philippe, one of the most prestigious and renowned Swiss watch manufacturers known for their exceptional craftsmanship and innovation.

The Supercomplication took a total of seven years (from 1925 to 1932) to be designed and manufactured by Patek Philippe’s master watchmakers.

The watch was then commissioned in 1925 by American banker Henry Graves Jr. This watch was intended to outdo the Grande Complication pocket watch owned by James Ward Packard. The project took several years, and the watch was finally completed in 1932. It held the title of the world’s most complicated mechanical watch for over five decades.

The watch boasts an astounding 24 complications, which are intricate functions beyond essential timekeeping. Some notable complications include:

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  • Perpetual Calendar: It accurately displays the day, date, month, leap years, and even the century.
  • Moon Phase Display: Indicates the phases of the moon as observed from Earth.
  • Celestial Chart: This complication shows the night sky over New York City, as seen from Graves’ apartment.
  • Chronograph Function: Allows precise timing of events, often used for measuring short periods with great accuracy.

Besides the mentioned complications, the watch also features Westminster chimes that sound the same melody as the clock in London’s Big Ben.

Apart from its technical complexities, the watch featured an elegant 18-karat gold case and a classic design that blended functionality with aesthetics seamlessly.

The Supercomplication is a pocket watch, not a wristwatch, reflecting the style of the era in which it was created. It was designed as a piece of art and technical prowess rather than for everyday wear.

For many years, the watch was displayed at the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, Switzerland, a testament to its significance in horological history.

Most Expensive Watch Ever Sold: Auction and Record Price

In 1999, the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication was auctioned by Sotheby’s for a then-record price of $11 million. In 2014, it went up for auction again and was acquired by an anonymous buyer for an astonishing $24 million, setting a new world record for the most expensive watch ever sold at auction.

This watch’s unparalleled craftsmanship, historical significance, and the rarity of its complications make it a true marvel in the world of horology, justifying its remarkable price tag.


The timepiece comprises 920 individual components, meticulously handcrafted on a minuscule scale. Among these are 430 screws, 110 wheels, 120 removable parts, and 70 jewels. This exquisite creation is a gold, double-dial and double open-faced minute repeating clock watch. 

It features Westminster chimes, grande and petite sonnerie, a split-second chronograph, registers for 60 minutes and 12 hours, and a perpetual calendar accurate up to the year 2100. 

In addition, it showcases moon phases, equation of time, dual power reserve for striking and going trains, mean and sidereal time, a central alarm, indications for sunrise/sunset times, and a celestial chart depicting the nighttime sky of New York City at 40 degrees 41.0 minutes North latitude.

The timepiece has a diameter of 74 millimetres (2.9 inches), a case thickness (including glass) of 36 millimetres (1.4 inches), and a weight of 536 grams (18.9 ounces). The case itself, weighing 250 grams (8.8 ounces), was expertly manufactured by Luc Rochat of L’Abbaye. Other skilled watchmakers also contributed to its creation.

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What is the Watch Made of?

The Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication is made of 18-karat gold. This precious metal is commonly used in high-end watches due to its durability, corrosion resistance, and luxurious appearance. The use of 18-karat gold adds to the watch’s elegance and value.

Who Created the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercompilation Watch

The watch was created by Patek Philippe, one of the most prestigious and renowned Swiss watch manufacturers known for their exceptional craftsmanship and innovation.

Commissioner: It was commissioned by Henry Graves Jr., a wealthy American banker, avid watch collector, and prominent figure in the early 20th-century horological world.

How Many Years Did It Take to Create the Supercompilation Watch? 

The Supercomplication took a total of seven years (from 1925 to 1932) to be designed and manufactured by Patek Philippe‘s master watchmakers.

Before its record-breaking auction in 2014, the watch was owned by Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al-Thani of Qatar, a prominent watch collector.

These aspects contribute to the mystique and allure of the Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication, making it a true legend in the world of watches.

There are also many other watches in the ranks of the most expensive watches ever sold. Let’s check out the top 10 in this ranking.

Top 10 Most Expensive Watches Ever Sold 

1. Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication

most expensive watch ever sold

Price: Sold for $24 million in 2014.

Details: This pocket watch, made by Patek Philippe, is named after its original owner, American banker Henry Graves Jr. It was created in 1933 and features 24 complications, making it one of the most complex watches ever made.

2. Paul Newman’s Rolex Daytona:

most expensive watch ever sold

Price: Sold for $17.8 million in 2017.

Details: This Rolex Daytona, owned by the iconic actor Paul Newman, is a legendary watch known for its distinctive design. Its exotic dial design, featuring art deco-style numerals and square markers, captured the attention of collectors. Newman’s association with this watch, showcased in a 1969 photoshoot, added to its allure.

3. Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in Stainless Steel:

most expensive watch ever sold

Price: Sold for $11.1 million in 2016.

Details: The Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 is the first perpetual calendar chronograph wristwatch produced in series by any company. This rare Patek Philippe watch is one of only four known to exist. 

The stainless steel version is scarce, with only four known examples. It features moon phases, a perpetual calendar, and a chronograph function.

4. Patek Philippe Ref. 5016A:

most expensive watch ever sold

Price: Sold for $7.3 million in 2015.

Details: Part of the Only Watch auction, this Patek Philippe watch is unique, featuring a minute repeater, tourbillon, and perpetual calendar. It was created specifically for auction to raise funds for research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Its case is made from stainless steel, and its blue enamel dial adds to its elegance.

5. Rolex Bao Dai:

most expensive watch ever sold

Price: Sold for $5.1 million in 2017.

Details: This Rolex once belonged to Bao Dai, the last emperor of Vietnam. It’s a rare reference 6062 model in 18-karat yellow gold, known for its black dial and diamond markers, triple calendar with moon phases.

6. Patek Philippe Ref. 1527:

most expensive watch ever sold

Price: Sold for $5.5 million in 2010.

Details: This vintage Patek Philippe watch is renowned for its rarity. It features moon phases, a perpetual calendar, and a chronograph, making it highly coveted among collectors.

7. Rolex 6062 “The Dark Star”:

most expensive watch ever sold

Price: Sold for $5.06 million in 2018.

Details: This Rolex 6062 is nicknamed “The Dark Star” due to its black dial. It’s a triple calendar moon phase watch, and its rarity and unique appearance contributed to its high price at auction.

8. Patek Philippe Ref. 130:

most expensive watch ever sold

Price: Sold for $4 million in 2009.

Details: This vintage Patek Philippe watch is known for its timeless design. It’s a chronograph wristwatch made in 1927 and is highly valued among collectors.

9. Vacheron Constantin 57260:

most expensive watch ever sold

Price: Estimated at over $8 million.

Details: While this watch has not been sold publicly, it is one of the most complicated mechanical pocket watches ever created. It was unveiled in 2015 and features 57 complications, making it a masterpiece of horological engineering.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona Ref. 6263 

10. Oyster Albino:

most expensive watch ever sold

Price: Sold for $1.4 million in 2018.

Details: This Rolex Daytona is exceptionally rare due to its silvered chronograph totalizers, giving it the “Albino” nickname. Collectors highly seek it for its unique appearance and historical significance.

Top 5 Most Expensive Watch Brand 

1. Patek Philippe:

Patek Philippe is often considered the epitome of luxury watchmaking. Established in 1839 in Geneva, Switzerland, this brand is known for its exceptional craftsmanship, timeless designs, and complicated movements. 

Patek Philippe watches are often regarded as investment pieces due to their rarity and historical significance. The brand is celebrated for producing some of the world’s most expensive and coveted timepieces, with limited editions and unique complications driving their exclusivity.

2. Rolex:

Rolex is arguably the most iconic and recognizable luxury watch brand globally. It was founded in 1905 by Alfred Davis and Hans Wilsdorf in London and later moved to Geneva, Switzerland. Rolex has become synonymous with precision, prestige, and performance. The brand has a long history of innovation and was responsible for several pioneering achievements in the watchmaking industry.

Rolex designs develops, and produces most of its watch components in-house, including the movements, cases, and bracelets. This vertical integration ensures quality control and allows Rolex to maintain exceptional standards.

Rolex uses high-quality materials, including 904L stainless steel, gold, and platinum, in its watchmaking. The brand also introduced its proprietary ceramic material, Cerachrom, which is highly resistant to scratches and fading.

3. Audemars Piguet:

Founded in 1875 in Le Brassus, Switzerland, Audemars Piguet is famous for its Royal Oak collection, introduced in 1972 and designed by Gerald Genta. 

The brand is esteemed for its avant-garde designs, high-quality materials, and innovative complications. Audemars Piguet watches are often sought after by collectors and enthusiasts, which is why it command premium prices at auctions.

4. Vacheron Constantin:

Vacheron Constantin, established in 1755, is one of the oldest watch manufacturers in the world. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, the brand is revered for its elegant and sophisticated timepieces. 

Vacheron Constantin watches are characterized by their intricate movements, exquisite craftsmanship, and classic designs. Limited edition and bespoke watches are part of their offerings, catering to a discerning clientele.

5. A. Lange & Söhne:

A. Lange & Söhne is a German luxury watch brand with a rich heritage dating back to 1845. Located in Glashütte, Germany, the brand is known for its precision engineering, distinctive aesthetics, and traditional watchmaking techniques. 

Each timepiece from A. Lange & Söhne is meticulously handcrafted, showcasing the brand’s commitment to quality and attention to detail.

6. Richard Mille:

Richard Mille, founded in 2001, is a relatively new player in the luxury watch industry but has quickly gained prominence for its innovative designs and use of cutting-edge materials. 

The brand is synonymous with high-tech, lightweight watches that feature complex movements and avant-garde aesthetics. Richard Mille watches are often associated with high-performance sports and are favoured by celebrities and athletes alike.

In the world of luxury watches, these brands not only tell time but also narrate stories of craftsmanship, innovation, and heritage. Owning a timepiece from these renowned brands is not just a display of wealth but an appreciation of the art and engineering that goes into creating these exceptional horological masterpieces.

Conclusion

The story of the most expensive watch ever sold stands as a testament to the artistry, innovation, and passion that define the world of fine timepieces. The Patek Philippe Henry Graves Supercomplication, with its intricate complications, meticulous craftsmanship, and historical significance, transcends the boundaries of mere timekeeping. 

Its extraordinary price tag not only reflects its monetary value but also mirrors the profound appreciation for heritage, technical excellence, and the pursuit of perfection.

This remarkable watch not only tells time but also weaves a narrative of human ingenuity and dedication. It embodies the relentless pursuit of pushing the boundaries of what is possible, both in terms of engineering and artistic expression. 

The legacy of the most expensive watch ever sold serves as a beacon, inspiring future generations of watchmakers, collectors, and enthusiasts to continue exploring the limitless possibilities within the realm of horological craftsmanship.

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About the Chief Editor

Godfrey Ogbo, the Chief Editor and CEO of AtlanticRide, merges his environmental management expertise with extensive business experience, including in real estate. With a master's degree and a knack for engaging writing, he adeptly covers complex growth and business topics. His analytical approach and business insights enrich the blog, making it a go-to source for readers seeking thoughtful and informed content.

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