A nineteenth century watch has fetched $2.25 million at an auction in New York.
That was the astonishing price the Stephen S. Palmer Patek Philippe Grand Complication watch sold for at the Important Watches sale held last week at Christie's Auction House, NY.
A gold open-face minute repeating perpetual calendar of split seconds chronograph clock watch, with grande and petite sonnerie and moon phases, the Patek Phillippe Grand Complication No. 97912 was the most expensive watch Christie's has ever sold, and the highest-priced watch at auction this year.
The sale included the original documents that accompanied the watch when Palmer purchased it in Geneva, including the bill of sale, according to Peter Kern, a member of the Palmerton Area Historical Society.
Kern, who was cordially invited by Christie's and provided with a reserved seat in the front row, said there were a dozen telephone operators who took calls from Hong Kong, Turkey, London, Dubai, NY, and various other places throughout the world.
Apparently, the watch was sold by a private collector who had acquired it many years ago, he said.
"They said it was a magnificent specimen," Kern said. "It's a remarkable piece."
Kern said the bidding for the watch started at $600,000, and went up by $100,000 increments within the next 30 seconds to $1.7 million, and then to $1.8 million. At that point, he said one of the bidders asked for a $50,000 increment, to $1.85 million.
A counterbid offer raised it to $1.9 million, the final price that was hammered down, said Kern, who added that a $350,000 buyer's premium raised the total sale to $2,250,000.
"When the hammer came down, there was a loud applause," he said. "They consider this a once in a generation occurrence."
Kern noted that there were other similar watches that looked the same, but were priced between $50,000 to $100,000 because they did not have the pedigree or the condition.
As for the auction, Kern described it as "remarkable," and noted there were 364 watches auctioned during a four-hour period. Of those, many were in the $10,000-$20,000 range, and there were a number that were less than $5,000, he said.
Kern said the Palmerton Area Historical Society has received a complimentary copy that will go in its archives. It will be available for review over the next several weeks at the Palmerton Area Heritage Center.
A prominent industrialist, Stephen S. Palmer made his fortune during the Gilded Age when America's economy was expanding into factory production, railways, mining and applied technology.
In 1897, Palmer was appointed President of the New Jersey Zinc Company. As president, he created the Mutual Relief Association, which financially assisted employees and families in cases of medical issues and accidental death.
Committed to education, Palmer engaged in building schools and encouraged the continued education of his workers.
In 1900, Palmer traveled to Geneva, where he purchased the pocket watch. The watch bears the monogram "SSP" on the back. Watches had to be preordered because just adding the monogram took several days.
Two collectors pushed Patek Phillippe to make the complicated timepieces: Henry Graves and James Ward Packard of automotive fame. The watch has been described as rewriting the history of Patek Phillippe.
When Palmer bought the watch, it was one of three purchased that day. He had an older Patek Phillippe watch that he used as a partial exchange.