PATEK PHILIPPE GRANDMASTER CHIME: the most expensive watch in the world

July 29, 2021By Bonetto Cinturini

Luxury has always been one of the most important economic components of society. The items that belong to this narrow circle transmit a lot more than their intrinsic value, the materials used to make them and the high levels of skill that go into creating them. They can bestow value, status and prestige to all those who own them – just think about luxury cars, yachts, private jets or the whole high fashion and big brand world. The luxury watch category certainly attracts those who make luxury their lifestyle. The value of what we have every right to call true works of art sometimes reaches mind-blowing figures, only accessible to élite consumers who are wealthy and can invest large sums of money in these precious jewels. Luxury wristwatches are a status symbol. This is why they are not just flaunted at socialite occasions or large company meetings; a growing number of important sports people who have faced and won heroic challenges are wearing one of these objects on their wrists as a reminder of their weight, their merit, and their virtues.

What makes luxury watches special?
Certainly the materials used to make them play a very important role in their appraisal, increasing their prestige. Secondly, the materials do not just have a visual effect on those who observe them, but also imply greater durability in terms of product life. Just think that some luxury watches, once purchased, can be worn quite happily for a whole lifetime without deteriorating. Luxury watches are close to our myths; when you wear one, you are wearing a cult object.

PATEK PHILIPPE & CO

Delving into this guide, we now want to present one of the top sector companies, which probably most watch connoisseurs and experts know well. We are speaking of Patek Philippe & Co., a company established in 1851 that originated in Switzerland, the motherland of luxury timepieces. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious production schools for timepieces. It enjoys a fame that confirms its value, calibre and technical consistency. The name of the person who established what is considered today as a true reference is Antoni Patek, a man who produced Swiss timepieces and who was already working in Geneva in 1830. In the year it was established, the company exhibited its products at the Universal Exhibition, which was held in the Crystal Palace, London. On that occasion, a Patek watch was purchased by Queen Victoria and her husband.

Other famous clients of the Geneva company include Popes Leo XIII and Pius IX, the sultan Husayn Kamil, Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, Christian IX of Denmark and his wife Louise. In the 2000s the most complicated watch that ever existed emerged, called Sky Moon Tourbillon. It marked history because of its famous two-faced case. Different series are being produced today, each one distinguished by special technical and aesthetic characteristics: Calatrava, Golden Ellipse, Nautilus, Gondolo, Aquanaut. In the wake of the Swiss luxury watch school, the company has aimed its production at mechanical movement watches, and in 1956 it also started producing quartz watches. One of the strong points of Patek Philippe, something that makes it famous among enthusiasts and insiders, is that it personally produces all the internal components of its products.

GRANDMASTER CHIME

When it celebrated its 175 years of business, Patek Philippe created the Grandmaster Chime, considered a work of art to all intents and purposes. It re-established the powers that be in the luxury watch world, it re-invented the concept of luxury, it restored the balances of time. A new symphony, a never-heard melody, a score that had never been played. In this piece, more unique than rare, mechanical genius and the precision of Swiss masters combine in a design with an untamed personality.

To this day, Grandmaster Chime, a work of art and a true piece of history, can be considered the most complicated Patek Philippe wristwatch (twenty complications) and one of the most complicated in the world. This record comes not only from the number of complications and internal parts, of which there are 1366 for the movement and 214 for the case, but also from a long series of characteristics that make it simply inimitable. The big and small striking mechanisms, the repetition of the minutes, the second time zone, the perpetual calendar, are just some of the many examples that we can mention. It is the first twin-faced timepiece by Patek Philippe that can boast a visible double dial: one is dedicated wholly to time and the striking mechanism, the other gives information on the calendar. Mechanisms that drastically reduce accidental handling were also inserted in the mechanism. Patek Philippe produced only seven examples of this model, with a fully hand-engraved pink gold case. One of the models can be seen by the public at the Patek Philippe Museum. The dials are of 18 carat gold, decorated with argenté opals and a guilloché centre. The numerals are Roman. The strap is alligator leather, with large square-shaped scales, fully hand-sewn, dark brown in colour. The deployant buckle, which is also of 18 carat pink gold, is hand engraved.

To sum up what has been said so far, the Grandmaster Chime is the most complicated watch that the Swiss company Patek Philippe has ever made in its multisecular tradition. It has twenty complications, two independent dials and six patented innovations. More than 100,000 hours were needed to develop it, from its realisation to its assembly. The success of this timepiece involved a great number of experts.

Looking at the history of Patek Philippe brand products, it is certainly not the first one worth being noted for its patrimony of internal supercomplications. Just remember that in 1927, Henry Graves Jr, a famous financial expert residing in the USA, commissioned the development of the most complicated pocket watch in the world.

The realisation of the Graves Supercomplication (24 complications) required six years before seeing the light. Another example of the prowess of the Geneva company is the product created to celebrate the move to the New Millennium. The Star Caliber 2000 is one of the most prestigious pieces in the whole luxury watch collection, with more than 1000 components and 21 complications.

THE TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS OF THE WATCH

After this short historical excursion, let’s return to our Grandmaster Chime and enter its technical characteristics more in detail. We will start with the five acoustic functions. At the moment no other example can equalise its characteristics. We find a grande and a petite sonnerie, a minute repeater and two completely innovative patents, a date repeater and an alarm. The last two are patented, because they had never been created before. Last but not least, the watch also shows the phases of the moon.

Regarding the mechanical parts, the caliber 300 movement is the fulcrum of the whole product, a movement with 1366 parts. To obtain this astounding result, which is a combination of the mix and balance between mechanics and artisan-based manual skills, the best watchmaker masters were assisted by expert engineers. Moving to its size, the case has a diameter of 37 mm and a thickness of 10.7 mm. There are also 108 rubies. The case uses 214 components, an excessive number if you think about the commercial standards that often do not have more than 12.

Finally, we would like to point out that the Grandmaster does not have a front and a back in the ordinary sense. The two faces have the same importance; it is therefore possible to wear the watch as pleased, with one of the two faces visible.

We now want to talk about the engravings on the Grandmaster Chime. Completely applied by hand by expert craftsmen, they indicate the main functions of the watch. One can be seen with the word Date and another shows a bell that signals the alarm On/Off button.

But why did this product arouse so much attention in the luxury watch market?

The answer is easy: it is the most expensive watch in the world. Beating the competition and destroying every previous record, it climbed directly to the top of the whole rating. The Grandmaster Chime Ref 6300A was purchased during the Only Watch charity auction by a purchaser who preferred not to reveal their identity for the modest sum of 31 million Swiss Francs, which equates to about 28 million Euros. The previous record for the most expensive wristwatch in the world was held by a Rolex Daytona that belonged to Paul Newman, which reached a price of 17 million dollars. Changing category, the world record for pocket watches is held by Patek Philippe with the Supercomplication commissioned by Henry Graves, sold for 24 million dollars. The sale of the object totalised 80% of the proceeds of the whole auction, organised by Christie’s. The auction is held every two years, and all the proceeds go to the research on Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a very serious genetic disorder that affects children.

The idea for this special charity event came from Luc Pettavino, whose son Paul died as a result of the disorder in 2006. Until today more than 40 million dollars have been collected and donated to the cause. Pettavino cares a great deal about this event, according to him it is a moment when beauty, hope and generosity meet to support a good cause. The engraving on the dial of the example sold at the auction was ‘the only one’, precisely to reaffirm once again the feeling of exclusivity and uniqueness of the watch. In an interview with Le Figaro, Pettavino confirmed that from a research point of view, important steps are taken every day, clinical tests are coming closer to a solution, but the road is still long and incredible results can be obtained with everyone’s help.

In this short guide we wanted to outline the contours of the luxury market, with particular reference to the watchmaking sector, bringing to light one of the top global companies, Patek Philippe. In the second part, instead, the description of the Grandmaster Chime came into play; it isn’t by chance that after having smashed every record from a technical point of view it became the luxury watch for which the highest price in the world was paid, finding a purchaser who was willing to pay 31 million to take it home. Patek Philippe, as its long tradition confirms, is a synonym of quality and elegance. Technique meets precision and design.

Wearing a Patek Philippe watch means having a work of art on your wrist.