Great objects often foster great obsessions. In A Grand Complication: The Race to Build the World’s Most Legendary Watch, Stacy Perman chronicles the creation of an extraordinary timepiece, the Patek Philippe Supercomplication and of two collectors: James Ward Packard and Henry Graves Jr.
Perman’s book is far more than the story of a watch, it’s really a chronicle of a particular time in America, the turn of the century and the country was finding its way as a world leader. It was a time when Midwestern manufacturing was just beginning to become the booming heart of growing industry and the Gilded Age was giving way to a new wealth where the distinctions between the bluebloods of old money and the arrivistes of new money became increasingly irrelevant. Money it turned out, was just money.
For Perman, the two collectors represent two faces of American wealth–Packard, the self-made creator of one of the early successes in the auto industry, and Graves, the product of a long lineage and his father’s Wall Street dominance. Both had a desire for high-end horology but more than that they had that uniquely American combination of ego and inventiveness that deemed anything possible with the right application of money and grit. Their passion sparked a duel to create timepieces of ever-increasing complexity.
While later quartz watches changed the industry, mechanical watches are once again much desired by collectors and the Packard/Graves competition outlives its two combatants in the form of auction results at the world’s top houses. Now Asian, Russian and Middle Eastern super collectors battle for the world’s top prizes. As Perman aptly puts it toward the end of the book: time is a constant, possession is not.
The Grand Complications Exhibition at the Aaron Faber Gallery in New York City opens on June 5 at 5:30 p.m. with book signing hosted by Perman. The exhibition features some very exclusive and rare watches, including the Patek Philippe ref 959, a clockwatch valued at $1.5 million and No. 1 of 1, and the Ulysse Nardin “Tellurium Johannes Kepler”, No. 15 of only 99. A Connoisseur Roundtable moderated by Gary Girdvainis, former editor of International Wristwatch Magazine will be held on June 10 and features Edward Faber, of the gallery and author of “American Wristwatches: Five Decades of Design and Style” as well as Osvaldo Patrizzi, former chairman of Antiquorum, Alexis Sarkissian, former president of Roger Dubuis, N.A. and current CEO of Totally Worth It, and Michael Friedman, former horology director at Antiquorum and curator of the National Clock & Watch Museum and current principal of MLF Horology Inc.
For more information on the exhibition visit: http://grandcomplications.lmrpr.com.