Patek watch sold for record $27.5 million
A PATEK Philippe gold watch billed as the most expensive in the world fetched a record US$21.3 million (S$27.5 million) when it went under the hammer in Switzerland on Tuesday.
The sale of the Henry Graves Supercomplication, a handcrafted timepiece named after its original owner, a New York banker who ordered it in 1925, was the main event at a jewel and watch auction in Geneva.
The watch, which weighs more than 500g and comprises 900 separate parts, had been estimated to go for a lower amount, US$15 million.
But frenzied bidding between five hopeful buyers pushed the price ever higher over 15 minutes, and the final amount paid was "a new world record", Sotheby's said.
The winning bidder, who remained anonymous, will have to fork out a total of US$24 million, including the commission.
It took Patek Philippe five years to put the watch together. Mr Graves' name is visible on the dial.
It was the most complicated watch built for 56 years and is superseded in that regard only by watches built later with computerised assistance.
Tim Bourne, Sotheby's worldwide head of watches, said the sale confirmed the watch's "superstar status". He called it an "icon of the 20th century, a masterpiece that elevates the discipline of watchmaking to art".
A watch industry expert told AFP before the auction that the timepiece was not just an immensely expensive accessory.
"This is not a watch you can wear. It is a watch that symbolises strength, power and money," he said.
The Patek Philippe piece displays not only the hour but also a plethora of other indicators: a perpetual calendar, the phases of the moon, sidereal time, indications for the time of sunset and sunrise, and the shifting night sky over Manhattan.
Its Westminster chimes sing joyfully every 15 minutes. The watch has been on the block once before, at a Sotheby's auction in New York in December 1999, when the Time Museum in Rockford, Illinois closed its doors and emptied its inventory.
That time, the exquisite timepiece went for a mere US$11 million, again to a buyer who remained unidentified.
The watch was among 368 timepieces up for auction on Tuesday. The lots, including the Graves timepiece, fetched a total of US$32.6 million.