Dimensions: 352 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.3 in
Published: February 19, 2013
Publisher: Atria Books
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 1439190089
ISBN - 13: 9781439190081
Read from the Book
A Grand Complication CHAPTER ONE Lot 7 Obsession is a demanding mistress. On December 2, 1999, Philippe Stern, president of the venerable Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe, found himself once again in her grasp. Keeping his steely Genevese reserve, he glanced at his watch, an impeccably crafted Patek Philippe, purportedly the perpetual calendar made in 1943, the one given to him by his father, Henri, who had preceded him as president. At sixty-one, Stern remained the very picture of understated elegance. A gentle man with thinning white hair, he had quietly slipped away from his office at the company’s headquarters in Plan-les-Ouates, a sleepy village on the outskirts of Geneva, well before the appointed hour for the auction of the legendary Supercomplication, the most exquisitely complex mechanical watch ever created. Given the time, it was probably best to take the telephone call from his family’s villa in Anières on the shores of Lake Geneva. In any event he would be more comfortable there. The time quickly approached 8:30 p.m., nearly 2:30 p.m. in New York City. There was still some time before the auction began. It had been thirty years since the Supercomplication had last surfaced. Having already eluded the family once, the moments until bidding opened were relatively short. Outside, the wind scythed across the lake in the spectral dark of winter. Here on Lac Léman, Stern had won a record seven regattas as a young sailor. A fierce competitor, he had
From the Publisher
Two wealthy, powerful men engage in a decades-long contest to create and possess the most remarkable watch in history.
James Ward Packard of Warren, Ohio, was an entrepreneur and a talented engineer of infinite curiosity, a self-made man who earned millions from his inventions, including the design and manufacture of America’s first luxury car—the elegant and storied Packard. Henry Graves, Jr., was the very essence of blue-blooded refinement in the early 1900s: son of a Wall Street financier, a central figure in New York high society, and a connoisseur of beautiful things—especially fine watches.
Then, as now, expensive watches were the ultimate sign of luxury and wealth, but in the early twentieth century the limitless ambition, wealth, and creativity of these two men pushed the boundaries of mathematics, astronomy, craftsmanship, technology, and physics to create ever more ingenious timepieces.
In any watch, features beyond the display of hours, minutes, and seconds are known as “complications.” Packard and Graves spurred acclaimed Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe to create the Mona Lisa of timepieces—a fabled watch that incorporated twenty-four complications and took nearly eight years to design and build. For the period, it was the most complicated watch ever created. For years it disappeared, but then it surfaced at a Sotheby’s auction in 1999, touching off a heated bidding war, shattering all known records when it fetched $11 million from an anonymous bidder.
New York Times bestselling author Stacy Perman takes us from the clubby world of New York high society into the ateliers of the greatest Swiss watchmakers, and into the high-octane, often secretive subculture of modern-day watch collecting. With meticulous research, vivid historical details, and a wealth of dynamic personalities, A Grand Complication is the fascinating story of the thrilling duel between two of the most intriguing men of the early twentieth century. Above all, it is a sweeping chronicle of innovation, the desire for beauty, and the lengths people will go to possess it.
“Jazz Age drama… Perman’s attention to detail evokes Jack Finney as she carefully reconstructs daily life in fin de siècle America and the Roaring Twenties. Her obvious passion keeps the pages turning."