The George Daniels $4.5-million pocket watch explained
A George Daniels pocket watch has smashed all records for an English-made watch.
It went under the hammer recently for a whopping $4.5-million dollars. But why?
When you’re entering the world of ultra expensive watches (we’re talking $1 million +) there are two things that affect the price. One is if the piece is an exceptional piece of horological art, either due to its aesthetic or mechanical design. The other, is if the watch standas as a piece of horological history, making it important to the watch industry itself.
Some piece, like this George Daniels pocket watch, has both these qualities.
The George Daniels ‘Space Traveller I’ is now the most expensive independent timepiece ever sold at auction. Independent meaning it isn’t part of a larger group, such as Swatch Group, LVMH or Richemont.
This watch was so named after the watchmaker himself - the late George Daniels - once quipped that it was "the kind of watch you'd need on your package tour to Mars".
He said this because while some watches purely tell the time, this pocket watch goes one better and charts the sun, moon and stars.
Daryn Schnipper, chairman of the International Watch Division at Sotheby’s, commented: “George Daniels was a revolutionary – a visionary who enabled today’s independent watchmakers to rise and thrive. The record price achieved by the ‘Space Traveller I’ is both a tribute to his genius and the supreme quality of this watch.”
The timepiece itself is seen as the magnum opus of Daniel’s 23-handmade pocket watches. It’s functions include hours, minutes and seconds (how boring), as well as an annual calendar, sidereal time, age of moon, moon phase and equation of time.
For those unawares, an annual calendar function allows the watch to show the hour, day, date and month, with the first month being adjusted for 30 or 31 days. This is unlike a perpetual calendar though which can also magically figure out pesky February and leap years.
Sidereal time is measuring time against the motion of the earth relative to its distance to the stars.
The age of the moon function is the method to count the number of days since the last new moon.
Moon phase records the shape of the moon as viewed from Earth.
Equation of time is the difference between the time displayed like it would be in a sundial and the time displayed by any modern clock.
If it sounds astronomically complicated, you'd be right? That’s why it went for $4.5 million.
Schinipper added: “One of finest timepieces of the 20th century, the ‘Space Traveller I’ was also of huge significance to George, as it was conceived to honour the astronauts he so admired. Having worked closely with him during my first decade at Sotheby’s, I can’t help thinking that he would have been amused to see his watch resurface on the market and achieve such a great price, half a century after Apollo 11’s moon landing. To me, this sale is testament to George’s unparalleled contribution to the field: ‘one giant leap’ for watchmaking.”