Los Angeles native Stacy Perman, the author of “In-N-Out Burger,” a New York Times bestseller, has just published her third book, “A Grand Complication: The Race to Build the World’s Most Legendary Watch” (Atria Books).
Her narrative concerns the competition between two extremely rich men, Henry Graves Jr. and James Ward Packard, who were surreptitiously vying to see who could create the world’s most extraordinary watch, a contest that lasted from 1900 to 1928. Packard was a largely self-made man who had commercialized the incandescent light bulb and manufactured the first luxury cars in the U.S., making his fortune from his myriad inventions, while Graves, a financier, was the scion of an established New York family with a vast fortune that came from railways, coal and banking.
The book’s title is derived from the term of art “complications,” which, in watches, means anything beyond the general timekeeping functions of marking the seconds, minutes and hours. Among them are perpetual calendars and maps that enable celestial navigation — the latter are considered, in watch-collecting circles, to be “supercomplications.” The star of the book, which appears on its cover, is the watch known as the Graves Supercomplication, shown at left, which has 24 complications and took Patek Philippe almost eight years to create. In a 2009 Sotheby’s auction, it brought $11 million from an anonymous buyer, later revealed to be Sheikh Saud bin Mohammed bin Ali Al-Thani of Qatar.
To research the book, Perman combed libraries and archives in the U.S. and Switzerland and attended auctions for watches. One particular pleasure, she notes, was to bring to life the two main characters in her book. “Henry Graves was a big mystery,” she says. “He kept a very, very low profile.” She writes of him, “Henry was confident, discreet and pathologically private. He grew up a bon vivant, entitled and cloistered, with the ability to differentiate friends from sycophants, keeping his circle tight.” A trustee of a Byzantine family trust outlined in the will of his father, Henry Graves Sr., Graves Jr., graduated from Yale, then became a bank vice president.
By contrast, while Packard was the son of a successful Warren, Ohio, entrepreneur, he was a mechanical genius whose remarkable practical gifts were evident very early on. One of Ward Packard’s many automobile innovations was the H-slot gearshift for cars, and, over the years, Packard cars debuted the steering wheel, double windshield wipers and air-conditioning in passenger vehicles. Packard, an engineer, contributed ideas and details to the designs of the watches he commissioned from Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin.
Part of Perman’s original interest in this story had to do with the fact that, after the Great Recession began in December 2007, extremely luxurious mechanical watches, manufactured before World War II, didn’t just hold their value, but increased in price at auction. With their intricate workings, and the far-above-estimate prices they have been fetching, these pieces “remain difficult for most people to attain,” she says.
In honor the @CFDA’s announcement of @iamnaomicampbell receiving the Fashion Icon Award at the 2018 #CFDAAwards, which will take place on June 4, here’s a #tbt of the supermodel on @michaelkors’ runway in 1991. #wwdfashion #wwdarchive (📷: George Chinsee)
“I was making the guacamole when my scout saw me,” says model @stuckinteenage on being discovered just six months ago while working at @chipotlemexicangrill. Since then Williams has signed with @dnamodels, walked in her first show at @calvinklein and landed on the cover of @vogueitalia – a high point of any model’s career. To read @lisajlockwood’s full interview with the model on her experiences thus far, head to WWD.com – link in bio. (📷: George Chinsee)
“I love the idea of dialogue, period. It’s where I’ve always gotten my inspiration from: hearing other women speak, their journeys and their paths,” said @hereisgina, who delivered the keynote speech during @sxsw for @createcultivate in partnership with @fossil. For her two panels, Rodriguez chose female empowering, female-led and female entrepreneurs to focus on. Head to WWD.com to read more about her thoughts on Time’s Up, growing up in a family of women and why we “need a girls’ club.” #wwdeye #sxsw (📷: @jgreenery)
Leading luxury brand are shaking things up to keep up with streetwear. Case in point: the arrival of @mrkimjones as artistic director of @diorhomme. Jones, who succeeds @Kris_Van_Assche, is seen as one of the handful of designers who can actually straddle the luxury and streetwear worlds — which could lead to even more changes at established brands. What could this mean for the rest of the menswear landscape? Head to WWD.com to find out what experts predict #wwdfashion (📷: @franckmura)
“It’s like buying groceries. You’re going to buy the best mango, the best mozzarella, the best things. You have to, or others are going to take it all,” said @gabrielahearst on why she uses only the finest fabrics. Last week, Hearst received her first @cfda nomination for Womenswear Designer of the Year, and earlier this month she opened a permanent showroom in Paris. To read @jessiredale’s interview with the designer and find out why this is shaping up to be a big year for her, head to WWD.com. #wwdfashion (📷: @francoisgoize)
“It’s an interesting thing, playing a younger version of your mother. It’s an interesting concept. I adore my mom and love her in every capacity, but it was just something that had never crossed my mind,” says @anniemstarke on playing a young Joan Castleman in “The Wife.” The same role will be played by her mother Glenn Close. Read more about her growing up in the film industry as the daughter of producer John H. Starke and Close and what she has planned for the future #wwdeye (📷: @nataliamantini)
@asics is launching a new streetwear sneaker inspired by its latest ambassador, @steveaoki. The Hyper-Kenzen x Aoki, which will launch at @footlocker stores exclusively tomorrow, is a slip-on style that incorporates the brand’s proprietary Gel technology through beads integrated into the midsole for comfort and endurance. Read the full story on WWD.com.