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.
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion
Eighty degree temperatures and outdoor installations at the annual Art Basel Miami Beach called for bright, elevated beachwear. See more street style pictures on WWD.com. #theyarewearing #ABMB (📷: @lifeinreverie)
Following September’s emotional tribute to her brother Gianni, Donatella Versace wanted to bring the spring show’s deep sense of intimacy to her @versace_official pre-fall collection. Donatella found inspiration in Versace Palazzo in Milan and from Gianni’s opulent apartment. Archival patterns and new motifs were splashed on silk shirtdresses and fitted jersey frocks. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com. #wwdfashion
Demna Gvasalia continues to shake up the Paris fashion calendar — and experiment with new runway timetables for his @vetements_official brand. WWD has learned that Vetements plans to stage its next coed show for the fall 2018 season on January 19 during Men’s Fashion Week in the French capital. Details about the timing and venue have not been confirmed — stay tuned on WWD.com to catch the latest. #wwdnews (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
@zacposen's go-to holiday gift? Cookies! "I'll usually bake cookies and send them as a gift," said the designer, who recently released his cookbook "Cooking With Zac: Recipes from Rustic to Refined." Get the recipe for his Brown Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies via link in bio 🍪🍪🍪 #wwdeye #cookingwithzac
For @monsemaison’s pre-fall 2018 collection, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim honed in on the brand’s many signatures — men’s wear, which was tweaked and feminized through deconstruction, proportion play and lots of bare shoulders. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)
On Friday night, @yohjiyamamotoofficial received the Design for Asia Lifetime Achievement Award in Hong Kong. The 75-year-old designer has been celebrated for many years and is best known for his dark and avant-garde tailoring. “In my long career, in design, architecture, [I’ve been to] so many parties, this is the very first time that I have such a warm feeling, I really appreciate this,” Yamamoto said. #wwdfashion (📷: @dominiquemaitre)