Sotheby’s London, April 26 2017
Sold for £187,500
Modern watches which rise dramatically in value are relatively few and far between, but a prime example of one that has is the George Daniels ‘Millennium’. Most QP readers will be familiar with the story, but for those who aren’t it goes like this: In the late 1990s, Dr. Daniels decided to make a series of watches to mark the forthcoming millennium, each of which would be fitted with an Omega-supplied ebauche equipped with the watchmaker’s now-celebrated Co-Axial escapement and hand-finished in his Isle of Man workshop.
Initially, only a dozen Millenniums were planned which Daniels had intended to offer for sale to friends – but, once word was out, many more potential customers came forward so it was decided to up the edition number to 50.
In order to complete the task of making them within a time frame appropriate to the ‘Millennium’ title, Daniels recruited Roger Smith (now a celebrated watchmaker in his own right) as his first and only apprentice.
It is believed that 47 yellow gold Millennium watches were actually produced, plus seven in white gold, five of which had silver chapter and calendar rings and two of which (including the one pictured here) had yellow gold chapter and calendar rings at special request. Regardless of the combination pricing, it is said, was somewhat arbitrary – i.e., if the good doctor liked you, the cost was around £20,000. If he wasn’t so keen, it was more like £30,000.
In either case, most people probably wish they had bought one, not only because they represent one of the few expressions of the true, hand-made English wrist watch, but because values have been rising steadily ever since.
A decade ago, for example, the benchmark figure was £86,900. Then, at the Sotheby’s sale of the Daniels horological collection in 2012 a year after his death, a white gold example (with silver chapter rings) drew £145,250. That was topped by Bonhams in 2012 when one sold for £157,250 – and now Sotheby’s has taken back the record with the sale of this example, which had the added draw of having been consigned by the noted horological author Alan Banbery who had owned it from new.