George Daniels pocket watch stars at Sotheby’s English watchmakers auction


Sotheby’s will complete its series of auctions focused on celebrating English watchmaking with a July 6 sale dedicated to George Daniels, Britain’s most acclaimed horologists of the past century.

The sale, named Part IV: George Daniels: Twentieth Century Innovator, is dedicated to the innovator, and will also sell a range of pieces dating from the 17th century up to one of only 23 pocket watches ever created by Mr Daniels.

“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. Culminating in Daniels, this sale shows just how horologists through the ages have pushed the boundaries of their craft, making the finest of adjustments to improve the accuracy, performance and appearance of each timepiece. We have been honoured to be able to offer such a rare and exceptional range of timepieces through The Celebration of the English Watch series, and we are confident that this final installment is the best yet,” says Joanne Lewis, head of Sotheby’s London Watch Department.


Leading the sale will be the George Daniels Spring Detent Tourbillon Watch (Lot 78). Made in 1970, this gold twin barrel one minute tourbillon pocket watch with spring detent chronometer escapement and retrograde hour hand is a wonderful example of an early watch made by Daniels. Improving the spring  detent escapement  invented by Thomas Earnshaw, Daniels altered the geometry of the mechanism to create a self-starting watch meaning there was no longer a need to shake the watch to start it. Made for English Conservative party politician, Edward Hornby, the watch is accompanied by a hand written letter from George Daniels and is offered with an estimate of £250,000 – 350,000.

Lot 78 George Daniels__

The sale will also feature a number of examples of early watchmaking. A very rare silver hour striking coach watch made by Edward East, circa 1655 (Lot 2) ornately pierced and engraved with flowers and foliage, both on the movement and the case, is offered with an estimate of £30,000 – 50,000. The leading horologist of his day, East was chief clockmaker to King Charles II.

Lot 2 Edward East_£30,000 - 50,000

Another early example dating from the mid-17th century is a silver astronomical verge watch, made by Benjamin Hill, estimate £50,000 – 70,000 (Lot 3). Preserved in outstanding condition, this rare astronomical watch has  a skilfully and clearly arranged dial and a leather outer case intricately decorated with silver piqué work. Previously in the collection of George Daniels, this exquisite watch is further distinguished by its excellent provenance.

Lot 3 Benjamin Hill, Londini_£50,000 - 70,000

Within the 18th and 19th century section of the sale is a 1756 coach watch by Walter Partrige (Lot 23). It is the largest piece offered in the sale and isone of only a handful of English watches of comparable size known to have been created. With an outer case measuring 200mm, it is an outstanding watch of monumental proportions, overwhelming in the scale and detail of its execution. The  watch’s middle case  features a fine silver repoussé scene depicting the Adoration of the Magi – a suitable subject for a ‘coach’ or travelling watch’. The watch is offered with an estimate of £150,000 – 250,000.

Lot 23 Walter Partridge_£150,000 - 250,000

In direct contrast to Partrige’s coach watch is a tiny timepiece, measuring 26.5mm in diameter, believed to be the smallest English pocket chronometer with a spring detent escapement and up-and-down power reserve indication, ever made (Lot 65, estimate: £20,000 – 30,000). Created by John McLennan in 1861, the exceptionally rare miniature gold open-faced pocket chronometer was probably made for the 1862 International Exhibition held in South Kensington, London, and is engraved with the exhibition details.

Lot 65 John McLennan_£20,000-30,000

Another highlight of the sale is a gold pair cased pocket chronometer made by Thomas Earnshaw. Dated 1801 and offered for sale with an estimate of £20,000 – 30,000, the watch illustrates the excellent quality and finish that the maker lavished on his finest watches. The watch features a spring indent escapement, a mechanism invented by Earnshaw and subsequently used by watchmakers, such as George Daniels, including in his Spring Detent Tourbillon Watch.

Lot 47 Thomas Earnshaw_£20,000 - 30,000


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