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A Grand Complication: The Race to Build the World's Most Legendary Watch
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A Grand Complication: The Race to Build the World's Most Legendary Watch

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  73 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
New York Times bestselling author Stacy Perman chronicles the thrilling pursuit between two ambitious men in the early 1900s to possess the most complicated timepiece in history.

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
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 19th 2013 by Atria Books (first published February 5th 2013)
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Oct 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book details a competition between two men over their shared passion for clocks and watches with unique features, known as complications. Standard complications include date, moon phase, stopwatch, but increase in complexity to such things as a night sky view, to minute repeaters which played a tune on the hour, half, and quarter hours. The history of the two men and their families is discussed as well as a history of clock-making and the creation of the great houses of horology. It would h ...more
Gabe Labovitz
May 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed this story even more than I expected. Besides a historically accurate depiction of the competition between Henry Graves Jr. and James Ward Packer, Perman introduces us to the beginnings of electricity production and selling, automobiles and the gilded age of massive wealth accumulation from about the 1880s to the great depression in 1929. And, of course, horology. The only quibble I have is I would have liked a little more discussion/description of the mechanics that go into making the ...more
Arvind Balasundaram
May 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a well-written account of two wealthy men - James Ward Packard and Henry Graves, and their feverish obsession to acquire the grandest, most mechanically complex timepiece that could be conjured up and actually manufactured.
The work begins with a historical background of both men and their families, and how each began to acquire timepieces from the great watchmaking houses of the day - the likes of Patek Phillipe, Vacheron Constantin, and others. The reader is exposed to the lengths the
Greg Wilson
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
A good read, but this is only going to be of interest to a specialized audience: one interested in the history of complex mechanical watches. To my delight this book introduced me to Ward Packard and the Packard Motor Car Company, one of the two principal watch collectors focused on in the book (the other is Henry Graves, an investment banker). While I would have appreciated a better explanation of some of the "complications" (read: features) that these watches had/have, it was nevertheless inte ...more
Oct 11, 2014 rated it liked it
It's much more about the race to buy the world's most legendary watch (particularly in the early twentieth century, though to some extent throughout history) than to build it, which was okay but not what I expected. Setting it up as a "race," in any event, seems kind of like the author trying to impose a history on the actual events: one of the two protagonists of the ostensible race didn't come off as particularly competitive about the whole thing; he just wanted a really complex mechanical wat ...more
David R.
Jun 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Perman takes a long look at some of the most complex, customized timepieces ever built, and the two wealthy scions who commissioned them and in so doing launched both a race to outdoor one another, and ultimately to which watch fetched the most at auction after their deaths. The book is a little short on the art of mechanical timepieces and long on "society", but sheds light on a highly niched collecting mania.
Jul 05, 2013 rated it liked it
I'mhavinga tough time getting into this book. it 's much more about the lives of two wealthy men and their fierce competition to own the most complicated and expensive watches and pocketwatches than itis about the timepieces themselves.
Maybe later in the book, the pace and details of the timepieces will become more important.
Apr 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Great read. Incredibly interesting to see how far two titans take their wealth and push the boundaries of what famed watchmakers can do. A must read for watch nuts and/or anyone who is interested in the conspicuous consumption (or in Graves' and Packard's cases, inconspicuously conspicuous consumption, as they never flaunted or spoke of their watches) of the early 20th century.
May 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history, dave, technology
If you are looking for a book about technology and how it was advanced, this is not the book for you. The author focuses completely on the obsessions of these men and the book becomes too much of a soap opera.
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book as a history of industrial enterprise, a snapshot of how American society was in the 19th, 20th centuries as well as the technical aspects relating the the main subject. A comprehensive study of horological collecting is difficult, however this book provides a good one.
Barry Mann
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
I love watches, was hoping to hear more about the history of actually creating new watch complications, and how they work. This wasnt it.
Gary Schroeder
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Dec 18, 2013
Amanda Way
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Bob Muens
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Nov 15, 2013
Robert Hollander
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Apr 19, 2013
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Feb 03, 2016
Bodhi Gerfen
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Jul 25, 2013
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Hugh Kim
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Mary Connolly
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Apr 11, 2017
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Chris Clark
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Stacy Perman is a business journalist.

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