Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Cursed Henry Graves Watch

This watch know as the “Supercomplication” or the “Holy Grail” of all watches was designed and then made over a period of 8 years.

Henry Graves Jr.
Henry Graves Jr. was born into a wealthy New York family. As a young man he shrewdly increased the family fortune via investments in railroads and banking.

Like most multi-millionaires of the time Graves was a collector. He had a passion for expensive watches.

He bought his first watch from the Swiss manufacturer Patek Phillippe in 1903.

In a friendly competition with the luxury car manufacturer, James Ward Packard, Henry Graves secretly commissioned Patek Phillippe in 1925 to make him “the most complicated watch” * on the planet.

*  “Complications” are any features added to a watch beyond just giving the time.

The Holy Grail's Features

A team of scientists, engineers and craftsmen spent 3 years designing the Supercomplication timepiece. They spend another 5 years making it.

The watch they created has 24 complications.

Click to enlarge
Among these are: a face on either side, phases of the moon, times for sunrise and sunset in New York City and a pattern of the stars for every night above Grave’s apartment in the city.

The watch also has remarkable chimes, and it shows the days of the week, has an alarm, is a stopwatch and is a perpetual calendar.

All of this was created before computers were invented.

Graves received delivery of the watch in 1933 for the cost of  $15,000--in today’s terms that would be over $700,000.

This timepiece that outshone any that Packard owned did not bring Graves the anticipated pleasure he expected--in fact, it brought the opposite.

A Cursed Talisman

Ownership of The Holy Grail brought Henry Graves both unwanted attention and grave misfortune.

In 1933 America was in the grips of the Great Depression. When people who were starving caught wind of the fact that Graves could spend thousands on luxury items they started to “resent him.”

On top of this Graves became firmly convinced that his new watch was cursed.

At one point he was about to throw the timepiece off his boat into a lake in Upper State New York. His daughter, Gwendolen convinced him not to at the last minute.

Just a short 7 months after Graves received the watch his best friend died. Then in November of 1934 he received word his youngest son had died in a car crash in Pasadena, California.

This news was made worse considering Graves had lost his eldest son to another car crash in 1922.

So Graves felt the Holy Grail had brought nothing but grief and hateful publicity into his life.

By the time of death in 1953 at the age of 86 he refused to have anything more to do with the watch that he once had so coveted.


Graves’ daughter inherited the watch and then she passed it on to her son, Reginald Fullerton in 1960. Fullerton sold it to an industrialist in Illinois for $200,000.

After this an Illinois museum displayed the watch until 1999.

Sotheby’s in New York then sold the watch for the highest bid to that point for a watch--$11 million in 1999.

The sheik that owned it died at the age of 48 just two days before it was sold again, just last month-- November of 2014

Sotheby’s in Geneva sold it to an anonymous collector for over $24 million.

Here is a video about the Holy Grail.

No comments: