Patek Philippe Watches Star in Sotheby’s Auction
Born to a banking family, Graves (1868-1953) amassed about 40 extraordinary watches over four decades, commissioning some of the most complex pieces ever made.
His 1933 Patek Philippe “The Henry Graves Supercomplication” fetched $11 million at Sotheby’s in 1999, the highest price ever paid for a timepiece at auction.
The 13 Graves watches, which have never been published or appeared on the market, will be offered at Sotheby’s on June 14 in New York.
“It’s like finding a dozen Picassos from the finest Picasso collector sitting in a closet,” said John Reardon, Sotheby’s head of watches in New York.
The watches come from the estate of Graves’s grandson Reginald “Pete” Fullerton, Jr., who died last month.
Fullerton inherited his grandfather’s zeal for timepieces, assembling a collection of his own. His 41 Patek Philippe and Breguet wristwatches will be included in the auction as well.
Here are the highlights:
Graves’s yellow gold barrel-shaped, minute-repeating wristwatch by Patek Philippe is engraved with his family’s coat of arms, including the Latin motto “Esse quam videri” (“To be, rather than to seem.”) The estimate: $600,000 to $800,000.
On June 5, 1926, the day of Graves’s daughter Gwendolyn’s wedding, the banker gave his son-in-law an inscribed 18-karat gold Patek Philippe pocket watch with a minute repeater. Press a tiny button and listen to its gentle chime. It’s the same sound Graves heard almost a century ago. The estimate: $40,000 to $60,000.
One timepiece is concealed inside a gold $20-coin from 1904. Barely visible along its ridge is a faint rectangular shape. Press it. The cover will pop open to reveal an elegant dial inside. The estimate: $10,000 to $15,000.
The Fullerton collection includes 11 iconic perpetual calendar watches by Patek Philippe from the 1950s to the 1990s.
One was the prototype of the company’s popular reference 2497 and the first major wristwatch Fullerton bought. Made with 18-karat yellow gold, it cost $1,000 in 1960. The estimate: $200,000 to $300,000.
Another perpetual calendar model, reference 3450, features unusual white enamel dial. Fullerton bought it at Sotheby’s in 1990 for $41,000, without buyer’s premium. It’s currently valued at $200,000 to $300,000.
Fullerton kept all the watches in leather boxes near his room, winding them once a day, Reardon said.
“Within 24 hours after he wound them up for the last time, they stopped,” he said.
(Katya Kazakina is a reporter for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)
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