INTRODUCTION TO THE COMPLICATED WATCHES FORUM

Philip Poniz

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NAWCC is proud to present a new forum subject: Complicated Watches. By complicated watches we mean watches that are capable of more than just telling time, or are of a unique, complicated design.

We hope that the new forum will spark additional interest, not only among pocket watch collectors, but also wrist watch collectors. Our goal is to engage not only the young aspiring aficionadas, but also seasoned collectors. We hope to become a hub for information on this subject and to have some fun along the way!

My name is Philip Poniz. I have been appointed as moderator of this forum. I have been working with these types of watches for decades, as an academic, writing articles and giving talks, as an expert for auction houses and courts, as an advisor to collectors; but above all, as a collector with a passion for horology. The purpose of this forum is to draw on the expertise of the many members and their collective knowledge which is considerable - after all, we are the largest watch collectors’ association in the world. We want to be able to answer and ask questions, to share information and perhaps even argue a few points.

I have been working on complicated watches for decades; I researched them in archives, museums and private collections, I studied the theory of their mechanisms, and I also made a few from scratch, including tourbillons, constant force escapements, etc. I have recreated missing complicated mechanisms for dozens of watches, including repeating mechanisms, tide indications, perpetual calendars, equations of time, and many more.
Regardless of the many years I have spent with complicated watches, both as a collector (Mathematician by profession), an expert, and a restorer, I still come across a watch which puzzles and surprises me why I have not seen it before? I believe this sentiment is shared by many of you. This forum, I hope, will help to solve any mystery surrounding complicated watches. But foremost, I hope it will bring us fun, good education, and new participants.

To start the discussion, I am enclosing photos of the most complicated watch ever made (without the help of a computer), The Graves.

PonizWithGraves.jpg

A book was written about it (by the talented Stacy Perman) which reads like a mystery story. The watch was sold by Patek Philippe in 1933 to an American banker, Henry Graves, for about $15,000 and again recently, at an auction, for approximately $24,000,000.

FinishedGravesMovement.jpg RawMovementWithoutText.jpg

The last one is a rare photo of the raw movement for the Graves watch that Patek Philippe received from one of his movement suppliers. Many collectors do not realize that the name engraved on the movement or printed on the dial, was not, as a rule, the name of the makers of the movement. The photo gives a rare glimpse of how the Swiss system of watchmaking worked. To the best of my knowledge the photo has never been published publicly before. It is a glimpse of the front company and the actual movement makers on whom the former, Etablissement, relied.

In the next post I will discuss a relatively unknown aspect in certain complicated wristwatches.
 
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Ethan Lipsig

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Me, too, although I seriously question the sanity of collecting complicated watches (which I collect). Few complications are of any practical use and they make servicing a watch very costly. I believe I've seen the Graves watch at the Patek Philippe Museum or, if not, one like it. Only a giant could ever carry it. I believe it weighs more than a pound and is more than 50mm thick.
 

Tom McIntyre

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Me, too, although I seriously question the sanity of collecting complicated watches (which I collect). Few complications are of any practical use and they make servicing a watch very costly. I believe I've seen the Graves watch at the Patek Philippe Museum or, if not, one like it. Only a giant could ever carry it. I believe it weighs more than a pound and is more than 50mm thick.
Ethan, I am in the category of those who cannot afford them either as is about 99.99% of the world's population. I do admire them though and put together a presentation that included them for our National Convention in Louisville KY a few years ago. Personal Time
 

musicguy

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Welcome Philip I look forward to reading your posts.


Rob
 

Philip Poniz

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The company sold The Graves in 1933 for 60,000CHF (about $15,000 then, equivalent to $1,200,000-$1,500,000 today). I wonder what did they pay for the raw movement
 

Dave Coatsworth

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Philip,
It looks like there are some additions to the finished movement. Is it correct to assume that Patek added some 'complications' to the raw movement? Perhaps at Graves' request?
 

Philip Poniz

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Philip,
It looks like there are some additions to the finished movement. Is it correct to assume that Patek added some 'complications' to the raw movement? Perhaps at Graves' request?
I do not think so. But they finished the movement, inserted the balance, jeweled the movement, etc. Plus ordered the dials and the case (also from outside suppliers)
 

MartyR

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I believe I've seen the Graves watch at the Patek Philippe Museum or, if not, one like it. Only a giant could ever carry it. I believe it weighs more than a pound and is more than 50mm thick.
Vacheron Constantin hold the current record for the most complicated "pocket watch" ever made. It stands at 57 complications, almost 4 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick, and over 2lbs in weight. In my humble opinion, this should be called a clock, and not a watch at all :)
 

novicetimekeeper

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Vacheron Constantin hold the current record for the most complicated "pocket watch" ever made. It stands at 57 complications, almost 4 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick, and over 2lbs in weight. In my humble opinion, this should be called a clock, and not a watch at all :)
That would open a whole new can of worms as the terms were interchangeable pretty much in the earliest days, but the etymology is different.
 

MartyR

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That would open a whole new can of worms as the terms were interchangeable pretty much in the earliest days, but the etymology is different.
Nick, it's actually the term "pocket watch" which rankles with me. Etymologically that is crystal clear (pun intended) - it is a timepiece to be carried in the pocket. A clock is a timepiece not to be carried in a pocket (or on a wrist), or at all.

The V&C 57260 is a timepiece which could never be carried in a pocket, so surely it must be a clock, and actually the term "carriage clock" seems to suit it perfectly :)
 

novicetimekeeper

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Clock is supposed to come from the French for bell, so that should be clear a clock makes a noise, or is it the mechanism that controlled the noise regardless of the presence or absence of bells.

Watch is more disputed, is it a silent thing you watch or is it related to the watchkeepers, and should be applied to something with a bell so that it is something to mark time? Certainly early text applies watch to what we would call clocks.

I stick to wristwatch,pocketwatch, clock, and timepiece.
 

novicetimekeeper

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Either way, I think this is a useful addition to the forum, complications are a subject all of their own.
 

dshumans

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Excellent forum. Thank you, Philip, for heading it up. Complicated watches are my passion. I repair all sorts of complications and have about 30 complicated watches in my collection. I just acquired and am repairing a grande sonnerie with trip minute repeater. This new forum may overlap with American Watches and European Watches forums as most are either one or the other, but since it is located in the overall "Watches" forum category, it fits well.
Doug Shuman
 

clockman230@comcast.net

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It is great to have an expert participate in such a specialized part of horology. I have followed Philip's career, and he is certainly an asset to specialized time pieces. Respectfully submitted, Arthur Madresh
 

Scott Tzorfas

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Philip,
Welcome! I also look forward to gaining a lot of knowledge on this post. I collect mostly American pocket watches, but I do have a Tiffany tandem wind, 5 minute trip repeater made by Patek Phillipe. Some day I would like to own a grande sonnerie clock watch.
Scott
 

Philip Poniz

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Philip,
Welcome! I also look forward to gaining a lot of knowledge on this post. I collect mostly American pocket watches, but I do have a Tiffany tandem wind, 5 minute trip repeater made by Patek Phillipe. Some day I would like to own a grande sonnerie clock watch.
Scott
Thank you Scott!
5-minute trip repeaters are rare. I also had one some time ago which I traded with a collector friend for a different watch. It was Patek Philippe, retailed also by Tiffany, SN 112056.
 

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