George Daniels Millennium Wristwatch Hammers For World Record £519,000/€605,813 At Bonhams Auction
With auction prices soaring, it’s definitely a good time for an auction house to be offering rare timepieces by the world’s best independent watchmakers. So I was pleased to see one of George Daniels’ Millennium wristwatches come up at the June 16, 2021 sale at Bonhams.
The 37 unique pocket watches Daniels made over the course of his lifetime are special because they were manufactured by the master’s own two hands and because each one represented a new technical experiment. The Millennium timepiece is extraordinary in that light because it was the only timepiece he made in a small series. But also because of the movement inside it, which was not made by Daniels (though it was heavily modified by him).
In 1999, acceding to the wishes of some of Daniels’ own friends and clients to own a timepiece signed by him, Daniels created the 37 mm Millennium wristwatch, a series of 50 pieces based on an Omega ébauche containing the first Omega-produced, extra-flat, co-axial escapement, which Daniels invented.
Daniels knew that he would need help to complete this series, and independent English watchmaker Roger Smith – the only “apprentice” Daniels ever took – was the obvious choice. The pair made these Millennium watches over a three-year period, which they finished in the ornate English style.
Millennium timepieces have occasionally shown up at auction, with Sotheby’s setting a record for the sale of one at its April 2017 auction when a white gold model sold for £187,500 including buyer’s premium. Only two or three of the 50 were made in white gold (sources vary).
Previously, Sotheby’s had sold four Millennium watches in the November 2012 sale of The George Daniels Horological Collection: a prototype, two yellow gold versions, and one white gold model. At that time, the prototype hammered for £91,250; the white gold model went for £145,250; and the two yellow gold variations went for £85,250 and £115,250 respectively (all including buyer’s premium).
In September 2017, a yellow gold version appeared at Sotheby’s carrying an estimate of £80,000-£120,000; it sold for £200,000 including commission.
And now a yellow gold example turned up at Bonhams carrying an estimate of £250,000 – £300,000, which, as I professed in my original article announcing this watch for sale, isn’t unreasonable in today’s watch auction climate. And, indeed, the watch hammered for £519,000 (€605,813) including premium, setting an auction record for a British-made wristwatch.
For more information, please see www.bonhams.com/auctions/26684/lot/45.
Quick Facts George Daniels Millennium wristwatch
Case: 37 mm, yellow gold
Dial: silver-plated gold, guilloche, handmade, gold hands
Movement: automatic Omega ébauche containing the Omega-produced, extra-flat, co-axial escapement invented by George Daniels, modified by Daniels and Smith, gold-plated, engraved and guilloche, 18-karat gold rotor
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date
Production year: 1999
Remark: accompanied by provenance letter dated February 28, 2014 and correspondence from George Daniels dated 1999 and 2007
Auction estimate: £250,000 – £300,000
Price achieved: £519,000 (€605,813)