Four masterpieces by genius watchmaker George Daniels are expected to promote fierce bidding at Sotheby’s auction in London this September.
By Sarah Jordan
If you are looking for some of the world’s most engaged collectors of luxury and hand-made timepieces, you will undoubtedly find them at Sotheby’s upcoming Fine Timepieces sale in London on September 19. Although the auction will include some not-to-be-sniffed-at pieces by Harry Winston, Omega, Rolex and A. Lange & Sohne, it is four masterpieces by renowned British watchmaker George Daniels that are guaranteed to draw the most attention.
Widely-regarded as one of the finest modern watchmaking masters, George Daniels began creating timepieces in the 1950s and continued almost until his death in 2011. His talents extended to creating entire masterpieces by-hand – a skill that was passed down to his equally illustrious apprentice Roger Smith.
Each of the masterpieces provides a rare glimpse into Daniels’ illustrious career, starting with one of his earliest pieces circa 1952 and concluding with the Millennium wristwatch – one of the last series of wristwatches he ever made. These timepieces, three of which are from his own private collection, reflect the innovation and skill for which Daniels was known.
The sale will be headlined by the Space Travellers’ Watch (Lot 121) – an 18k yellow gold chronograph with Daniels’ independent double-wheel escapement, made in 1982. Daniels is remembered as jokingly referring to this timepiece as the perfect accompaniment to a package holiday to Mars, perhaps because of its celestial array of complications, including mean solar and sidereal time (time reckoned from the motion of the earth relative to the distant stars, rather than with respect to the sun), age and phase of the moon and indications for the mysterious Equation of Time. When combined, the Space Traveller is like a physics degree in watch form, albeit with a stylish and classically elegant aesthetic.
George Daniels created the Space Traveller in honour of the American moon landing, and it is one of only two ever made in this style. It was also personally significant to Daniels himself and was regularly worn as a show piece. Sotheby’s predicts a value of between £1.2 – £1.8 million.
Before the hammer can fall on the Space Traveller, bidders will have the chance to secure two other George Daniels pieces (Lots 119 and 120), including the Mahogany Two-Day Marine Chronometer circa 1952 – the first horological item made by Daniels as a trade watch repairer – with an estimate of £20,000 – 30,000. It may not pack the punch of the Space Traveller but the symbolism of Daniels’ first complete piece of work being a marine chronometer – the most traditionally British of timepieces – is surely too good to pass up.
Next is a Breguet replica weight-driven, three-wheel skeleton clock from 1968, which took pride of place on Daniels’ mantelpiece in his Isle of Man home. The clock features revolving annual Gregorian and Revolutionary calendar dials and day of the week indicator, and has an estimate of £200,000 – £300,000. The Revolutionary Calendar is also known as the French Republican calendar, and was the system introduced by the government after the revolution, from 1793 to 1805. It was entangled with a move towards decimalisation, and comprised twelve months of three ten-day weeks, with the spare five or six days per year added on at the end of the year and known as complementary days.
During the first few years of this period, the Republic experimented wholeheartedly with decimal time, introducing ten hour days each with 100 minutes and in turn, 100 seconds. A decimal hour lasted 144 conventional minutes; a minute was 86.4 conventional seconds long and a second was 0.864 of our seconds. Some clocks were designed to run to this system, but it was abandoned after 1795. This clock runs on traditional base-sixty time.
The final piece on offer is a 18k yellow gold automatic centre seconds Millennium wristwatch from 1999, which was initially made as a series in limited numbers and sold only to Daniels’ close family and friends (Lot 122). Its estimate may be between £80,000 – 120,000, but the highest bidder will secure what Daniels reserved for his nearest and dearest… and you know that has to be good.
More about the Fine Timepieces including George Daniels Masterpieces can be found here.