Sotheby's Shellacs Shifty Sheik

New York and London - A member of the Qatari royal family just pledged the world’s most expensive watch, pictured here, and other collectibles valued at almost $83 million to Sotheby’s to cover debts owed to the auction house.

Art collectors of Art Kabinett social network know that auction houses are delighted to take expensive property in lieu of payment.

Sheik Saud Bin Mohammed Bin Ali Al-Thani, a cousin of the Emir of Qatar, provided Sotheby’s with items from diamond jewelry to tribal art and four vintage watches made by Patek Philippe of Geneva, Switzerland, the auction house said in an Oct. 12 filing with the New York Department of State.

Al-Thani has been hit with two lawsuits since the end of September, one of which alleges the sheik failed to pay for $19.8 million of ancient Greek coins that he bid on in January.

A U.K. court said Al-Thani appears to have left at least 11 auction houses and dealers unpaid in the last 18 months, including $42 million owed to Sotheby’s. The court has imposed a freeze on his London assets.

Al-Thani formerly ran Qatar’s National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage, spending as much as $1.5 billion on artwork and collectibles during the decade ending in 2005.

Shifty Sheik

In early 2005, Al-Thani was placed under house arrest in Doha, Qatar, under suspicion of misusing public funds, according to published reports. A few years later, the sheik re-entered the art market.

By August 2011, he was named one of the world’s top 10 collectors, having spent a few hundred million dollars on art during the preceding two years.

Last January, he successfully bid on coins owned jointly by American and British dealers, including a $3.25 million single gold piece from the Ancient Greek city of Pantikapaion. Al-Thani hasn’t paid for any of them, thus forcing the British asset freeze.

Sotheby's Cache

In the New York filing, Sotheby’s disclosed a six-page list of about 240 collectibles that Al-Thani had pledged to the auction house’s lending unit:

The trove includes a dozen pieces of jewelry, almost 80 tribal works of art from African and Polynesia, artifacts from Ancient Rome, antique books, illustrations and other printed works by 95 authors, and “a highly important Faberge Imperial Easter Egg.”

Graves Watch

Also on the list is the Graves Super-complication, shown above. In 1928, Henry Graves Jr, a New York banker, commissioned Patek Philippe to develop a revolutionary timepiece.

When the watch was delivered five years later, it had more than 900 parts and a record 24 complications. Graves paid 60,000 Swiss francs, or $265,000 in modern currency. In 1999, it was purchased at auction for $11 million.

The amazing device offers a star chart showing changes in the night sky over Manhattan and a minute recorder that plays the same melody as Big Ben. You can view it on today's homepage Featured Video.