George Daniels Co-Axial Anniversary Edition By Roger Smith At 2016 Bonhams Auction (Updated With Result)
Thirty-five years after inventing the co-axial escapement, George Daniels partnered with Roger Smith to release a very limited edition of 35 wristwatches powered by a new English-style caliber beating to the rhythm of his co-axial escapement.
That was six years ago, in 2010. Now the first one of these rare timepieces is being auctioned by Bonhams on September 19, 2016 as part of The Robert White Collection.
Many watch enthusiasts think of Daniels in conjunction with his co-axial invention thanks to Omega’s effective marketing; Omega bought and arduously industrialized the new escapement for use in its watches.
However, during his lifetime Daniels did more than invent a revolutionary escapement; in fact, one of Daniels’s lifelong passions was to make complete, fully handmade watches. Daniels didn’t so much make unique piece watches on commission from collectors, but first decided what interested him and then found a patron or collector to for pay for it.
Daniels didn’t make anything except unique piece complications until 1999.
“Perhaps my greatest pleasure was the success of the co-axial,” he explained to me a few years before his passing in 2011 at age 85.
In 1999, acceding to the wishes of some of Daniels’s own friends and clients to own a timepiece signed by him, Daniels created the Millennium wristwatch: this was a series of 50 pieces based on an Omega ébauche containing the Omega-produced extra-flat co-axial escapement. Daniels knew that he would need help to complete this series, and Roger Smith – the only apprentice Daniels ever took – was the obvious choice.
Co-Axial Anniversary Edition
Smith explained to me in an early 2010 interview that Daniels approached him at the age of 84 in a very “fired up” manner to do another Millennium-style project to celebrate 35 years of the co-axial.
Smith related at the time that the watch would have a more classic Daniels style. “This new watch will be no compromise,” he explained. “It should have the same feel as a Daniels; it will represent a seamless connection to the work he did in his prime.”
The finished timepiece drew on Daniels’s complete body of work: Daniels and Smith worked together to create a new English-style caliber, finished and styled to Daniels’s exacting standards. Smith executed the complete manufacture in his small, high-tech workshop on the Isle of Man, nonetheless signing the watch with George Daniels’s name.
The co-axial principle
The co-axial escapement is considered a milestone breakthrough of the mechanical renaissance. Not only was its design created to require no lubricant, but it also represents the first new working escapement to perform as least as well as the standard Swiss lever escapement.
Telltale regarding its importance is certainly the fact that the Swatch Group (Omega’s parent company) took on the monumental task of making it suitable for use in serial movements – a mission that took a decade and millions of Swiss francs to accomplish.
Currently, it is only in use in Omega watches and in a slightly modified version in Roger Smith’s timepieces.
Its key advantage over the lever escapement, according to the two English watchmakers at home on the Isle of Man, lies in the highly efficient method with which energy is transmitted from the mainspring to the balance wheel.
Simply put, the standard lever escapement achieves this final delivery of energy in a long sliding or “pulling” action, while the co-axial achieves its delivery by a simple “pushing” action, “similar to the motion used to impel a gate or door to swing open,” Smith says.
This important difference in the way energy is transmitted means that the co-axial escapement is unaffected by any deterioration in the condition of an applied lubricant, whereas the lever escapement’s proper function is totally reliant upon the quality and type of lubricant used.
Co-Axial Anniversary Edition: only 35 individual pieces
The appearance of this 40 mm 18-karat pink gold timepiece is not dissimilar to a 68 mm pocket watch that Daniels crafted in 1994, one that he retained in his own collection until his passing.
A unique element of Daniels’s pocket watches was that he made the cases himself, a fact confirmed by the “GD” hallmark found on them. The new wristwatches are also marked with “GD,” though they were not made by the 84-year-old legend’s own hand.
“George has given us permission to use his hallmark, and we will be making the cases to his design, standard, and specification,” Smith explained back in 2010.
The dial, like the original pocket watch, comprises solid silver that has been guilloché by hand and embellished with inlaid 18-karat pink gold chapters. The matching pink gold hands have the signature Daniels shape.
One major difference between the movement of the small-series wristwatch and the unique piece pocket watch that stood as its model is the absence of the four-minute tourbillon and the chronograph in the new wristwatch.
The wristwatch’s manually wound, English-style movement, finished in frosted gold plate to Daniels’s exacting standards, displays the hour, minutes, and seconds. It also contains a calendar and an “up-and-down” power reserve display. It goes without saying that its regulator comprises a co-axial escapement and a free-sprung balance spring.
Bonhams sale of Robert White collection
The first one of these rare timepieces arrives at auction in the September 19, 2016 sale of Robert White’s collection of cars, motorbikes, watches, airplane memorabilia, and other items at Bonhams. White (1953-2015) was the founder of one of Great Britain’s leading photographic retailers; he started his business with a small camera shop in Poole, where he was born.
The sale contains only 12 watches: the Daniels Co-Axial Anniversary Edition and eleven different Rolex models.
“It is of no surprise that Robert White, an enthusiast of mechanics and engineering, possessed one of these rare, beautiful wristwatches,” says Jonathan Darracott, global head of watches at Bonhams. “Taking up to two years to make, the wait list for ordering is [was] years. They attract connoisseurs of horology who appreciate the handcraftsmanship involved.”
White’s Daniels Co-Axial Anniversary Edition is being offered at an estimate of £70,000-£100,000. Proceeds from the sale of his collection will help to fund essential improvements in cancer diagnosis and treatment in Dorset and be used to build new cancer facilities at Poole and Dorset County hospitals.
Update: this watch realized a hammer price of £224,500 (€262,573) including buyer’s premium.
Case: 40 mm, yellow gold
Dial: hand-engine-turned silver with inlaid 18-karat pink gold chapters; Daniels signature hands in pink gold
Movement: manually wound with co-axial escapement and free-sprung balance
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, power reserve indication
Limitation: 35 individual pieces plus four possible sets of four watches containing one each in yellow, red, and white gold and platinum (manufactured only upon request; specific number actually produced not released)
Price: original price was £142,000 excluding tax; update: this watch realized a hammer price of £224,500 (€262,573) including buyer’s premium at this auction