The ‘GEORGE THOMPSON’ GRANDE COMPLICATION PATEK PHILIPPE, NO.174.480
Especially made for George Thompson, an Anglo/American entrepreneur, Patek Philippe no.174.480 is one of the most important and unusual pocket watches manufactured by the Geneva watch making company. Completed in 1914, the watch was delivered on 18th October, 1915.
Double dialled watches by Patek Philippe are exceptionally rare and little more than a handful are known. Among their number are arguably two of the most important and famous vintage Patek Philippe watches publicly known: the legendary Henry Graves no.198.385 (sold Sotheby’s, 1999 for US$11,000,000); the James Ward Packard, no.198.023. The Graves and Packard together with an example of the Calibre 89 are currently exhibited at the Patek Philippe Museum. Completed over a decade before the first of these watches, the George Thompson undoubtedly played its part in the development of highly complicated Patek Philippe watches. The fact that so few double dialled watches were made by the company, is testament to the immense amount of work that went into their development and production.
The Thompson watch was custom made, the dials are unique and, like many of the most famous Patek Philippe watches, bears its patron’s name. With the mechanical complications of perpetual calendar, phases of the moon, split seconds chronograph with register, minute repetition and double dial work, it is a watch of exceptional ingenuity and quality.
As the perpetual calendar dial is reserved solely for this function, its clarity is exceptional. George Thompson’s name is displayed around the base of the moon-phase dial, reflecting the symmetry of the calibrations of moon age above it.
The time dial is interesting for its 30-minute register sector. As it is a sector, rather than a full circular calibrated dial, it creates a much clearer dial surface. This clarity reflects that of the perpetual calendar dial and it may well be that George Thompson specifically requested a highly complicated watch with an empahsis on the ease of its use.
Of the important double dialled watches made by Patek Philippe, only the 'Henry Graves' and the 'George Thompson' watches are double open-faced. It is also interesting to note that both bezels of the 'George Thompson' watch are engine turned, which is a highly unusual feature.
Offered by the direct descendants of George Thompson, the watch remains in outstanding condition and retains its original wooden fitted presentation case, Certificate of Origin, spare main springs and glasses.
The three most famous double dialled watches are detailed below, together with the present watch.
198.385 The Henry Graves Super Complication, 1932
Sold Sotheby’s New York, 11.12.99 US$11,000,000
198.023 The James Ward Packard Sky-Chart Grande Complication
Patek Philippe Museum
174.480 The George Thompson Grande Complication, 1914
47.643 The 1878 Paris Exhibition Watch
Patek Philippe Museum
George Thompson was born in Devonshire, England, on September 28th 1840. Following graduation from university, Mr Thompson worked for the London based private bank of Willias, Percival & Company. In the 1870s the bank collapsed and it is understood that his father advised him to move to America. By the early 1880s George Thompson had emigrated to the United States, first settling in New York and then moving to Joliet, Illinois and finally, in 1885, St Paul, Minnesota. Having already changed careers from banking to journalism, he worked for the St Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press, later becoming editor and owner. He was married to Abigail (neé Wheeler) of Joliet, Illinois.
Interestingly George Thompson was an accomplished mathematician, a field in which he excelled at school. It was perhaps this interest which fired his enthusiasm for mechanical complexity and ultimately led to the commission for this watch.
Diameter 54mm, depth 15mm (excluding glasses)