A Grand Complication by Stacy Perman
The Race to Build the World's Most Legendary Watch

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A Grand Complication is an interesting walk through an historic time...Anyone who owns a pocket watch handed down through generations should read this book and take a close look at the history behind their family heirloom.
-NY Journal of Books

Synopsis

Two wealthy, powerful men engage in a decades-long contest to create and possess the most remarkable watch in history.

James Ward Packard of Warren, Ohio, was an entrepreneur and a talented engineer of infinite curiosity, a self-made man who earned millions from his inventions, including the design and manufacture of America’s first luxury car—the elegant and storied Packard. Henry Graves, Jr., was the very essence of blue-blooded refinement in the early 1900s: son of a Wall Street financier, a central figure in New York high society, and a connoisseur of beautiful things—especially fine watches.

Then, as now, expensive watches were the ultimate sign of luxury and wealth, but in the early twentieth century the limitless ambition, wealth, and creativity of these two men pushed the boundaries of mathematics, astronomy, craftsmanship, technology, and physics to create ever more ingenious timepieces.

In any watch, features beyond the display of hours, minutes, and seconds are known as “complications.” Packard and Graves spurred acclaimed Swiss watchmaker Patek Philippe to create the Mona Lisa of timepieces—a fabled watch that incorporated twenty-four complications and took nearly eight years to design and build. For the period, it was the most complicated watch ever created. For years it disappeared, but then it surfaced at a Sotheby’s auction in 1999, touching off a heated bidding war, shattering all known records when it fetched $11 million from an anonymous bidder.

New York Times bestselling author Stacy Perman takes us from the clubby world of New York high society into the ateliers of the greatest Swiss watchmakers, and into the high-octane, often secretive subculture of modern-day watch collecting. With meticulous research, vivid historical details, and a wealth of dynamic personalities, A Grand Complication is the fascinating story of the thrilling duel between two of the most intriguing men of the early twentieth century. Above all, it is a sweeping chronicle of innovation, the desire for beauty, and the lengths people will go to possess it.
 

About Stacy Perman

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Stacy Perman is an award-winning journalist and the author of the New York Times bestseller In-N-Out Burger. The recipient of a MacDowell fellowship, she is a former writer with Business Week and Time. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. She lives in New York City.
 
Published February 19, 2013 by Atria Books. 354 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Computers & Technology, Science & Math, Professional & Technical, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for A Grand Complication
All: 3 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Robert H. Frank on May 03 2013

It’s a story artfully told and illustrated with rich historical detail. Perman is especially astute when surveying the battle for scarce slots atop the social hierarchy.

Read Full Review of A Grand Complication: The Rac... | See more reviews from NY Times

WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by John Steele Gordon on Feb 22 2013

Ms. Perman unfortunately spends far too much time detailing the homes and lifestyles of her two protagonists...it doesn't have much to do with the watches that obsessed them both and are the heart of the story.

Read Full Review of A Grand Complication: The Rac... | See more reviews from WSJ online

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Judith Reveal on Feb 19 2013

A Grand Complication is an interesting walk through an historic time...Anyone who owns a pocket watch handed down through generations should read this book and take a close look at the history behind their family heirloom.

Read Full Review of A Grand Complication: The Rac... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

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