Breitling grand complication pocket watches set world record

The “Breitling Masterpieces,” a spectacular set of four Grande Complication pocket watches that commemorate this year’s centennial of aviation, sold in auction this month for CHF1,010,000 (US$770,992). The price, 26% higher than the pre-sale estimate, is a world record for Breitling, the 119-year-old Swiss watchmaker.

The “Breitling Masterpieces” were auctioned by Antiquorum in Geneva, Switzerland, on Oct. 11. The selling price represented one of the nine world records established that night.

The four different more-than-a-century-old movement blanks for the timepieces were found in Breitling’s archives. Each caliber is housed in an 18k gold case, with a 22k medallion on its back commemorating the Wright Brothers’ first flight on Dec. 17, 1903. It took three years to complete the handcrafted watches. The four come in a burled walnut and maplewood box inspired by the Wright brothers’ biplane, which is depicted in marquetry work on the cover.

These four Grande Complication models are “a unique collection that won’t and can’t ever be reproduced,” says Brietling USA spokesperson Lisa Roman. However, she noted, Breitling—best known for its high-tech precision pilot’s wristwatches–does plan to make other Grande Complication pocket watches. Work began two years ago on the Swiss brand’s next example of haute horlogerie: a timepiece equipped with minute repeater, perpetual calendar, moon phases, and chronograph functions. It will be dedicated to the prestigious Bentley car manufacturer, with which Breitling has a brand partnership, and presented for auction in 2004.