Sotheby’s London, July 6 2017
Sold for £464,750
Sotheby’s completed its four-part sales series entitled ‘The Celebration of the English Watch’ with this 78-lot auction that was fittingly rounded-off with the sale of a piece made by George Daniels for the noted collector Edward Hornby, whose interest in horology began in 1935 with the purchase of a Breguet for £40.
Back then, the community of UK-based Breguet owners was nothing if not a small one, and one of its lynchpins was the late Sam Clutton whose extensive collection was maintained by Daniels.
Clutton inevitably introduced Hornby to Daniels, and in his book ‘The Adventures of Edward Hornby’ the latter recalled how Daniels subsequently ‘chose’ him to be one of the buyers of the first six watches he had planned to make from scratch – later informing Hornby that it would cost ‘a great deal’ but that he was ‘going to have one, just the same.’
The watch in question turned out to be this twin-barrel, spring detent chronometer with retrograde hour, one minute tourbillon which Hornby bought from Daniels in 1971 before acquiring a double-wheel chronometer four years later.
Hornby sold the majority of his watch collection in 1978, but kept both Daniels watches until his death. The tourbillon subsequently appeared at Sotheby’s in 1999.
In the sale catalogue Daniels himself recalled a unique timing trial conducted by Hornby, writing: “Concerned that the tourbillon could not equal his new quartz watch, he ran the two together.
“The test lasted eight months before the battery went flat and he cheerfully awarded the honour to the tourbillon. Its daily variation rate at room temperature averaged 0-3 seconds per day.”
At the 1999 auction bidding stalled at £85,000, £15,000 short of its low estimate. Since then, of course, the values of all Daniels watches have soared – as demonstrated by the fact that, this time, the watch exceeded its high estimate by more than 30 per cent.
This time around the watch was presented with a Sotheby’s catalogue from the 1978 sale of Hornby’s collection as well as the handwritten, signed letter from Daniels detailing the delivery of the completed watch, dated 1st January 1971.