Sotheby’s London sells the ‘Space Travellers’ watch for £3.2 million, making George Daniels’ legendary timepiece the most valuable English watch in history.
After 10 suspenseful minutes of competition between four bidders, the masterpiece of horology went to an anonymous bidder. Attendees at the Sotheby’s London auction were wowed by the showstopper as it beat its previous sale record of £1.3 million from back in 2012.
George Daniels (1926–2011) was undoubtedly the most important horologist of the 20th century. He made history as the first and only watchmaker to receive a CBE and MBE for his invaluable services to the industry. He was the inventor of the Daniels revolutionary ‘Co-Axial’ escapement—a development that allowed it to run unaffected by the deterioration of its lubricant.
The watch was created circa 1982 with Daniels’ independent double-wheel escapement. This watch was of particular personal significance to Daniels; he was even known to wear it himself from time to time. Now, the Space Travellers watch is one of the British watchmaker’s greatest triumphs—with ornate mechanisms and incomparable ingenuity built in. Named after the moon landing in 1969, Daniels lovingly described the piece as a watch one would need to take on a package tour to Mars.
The 18k yellow-gold watch is beautifully crafted and is one of only two ever made in this format. The timepiece combines features of mean-solar and sidereal time tracking, the latter being reckoned from the movement of the Earth in relation to the positioning of the stars rather than the sun. The inclusion of the chronograph—stopwatch and display watch capabilities—makes this particular work stand out from other timepieces within its category. Its glazed case backing exhibits the intricate mechanisms inside, showcasing the methodical turns and harmonious clicking of the wheels as it functions the device.
Daryn Schnipper, senior vice president and chairman of the international watch division, commented on the Sotheby’s London auction: ‘It is not possible to overstate the importance of George Daniels’ contribution to horology. Despite having only ever made a relatively small number of timepieces in his lifetime, Daniels’ work and his legacy continue to be critical to the craft of watchmaking. The landmark price achieved today is both a tribute to Daniels’ genius and the supreme quality of this watch. The Space Travellers watch is no doubt one of Daniels’ finest timepieces and one can only be mesmerised by the beauty of its dial and the complexity and wonder of its movement.’
The George Daniels Education Trusts was set up to encourage and financially support students and apprentices in all aspects of horology with the help of bursaries and grants.
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