With auction prices soaring, now is definitely a good time for an auction house to offer rare timepieces from the world’s best independent watchmakers. So I was happy to see one of the George daniels Millennium wristwatches are presented in the sale on June 16, 2021 at Bonhams.
The 37 unique pocket watches that Daniels made in his lifetime are special because they were made by two hands of the master and because each one represented a new technical experience. The Millennium timepiece is extraordinary in this respect because it is the only timepiece that it has produced in small series. But also because of the movement inside, which was not done by Daniels (although it was heavily modified by him).
In 1999, acceding to the wishes of some of Daniels’ friends and clients to own a timepiece signed by him, Daniels created the Millennium 37mm wristwatch, a 50-piece series based on an Omega blank containing the first product. Omega, extra-flat and coaxial exhaust, invented by Daniels.
Daniels knew he would need help to complete this series, and the 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 been auctioned off, with Sotheby’s setting a record for the sale of one to its April 2017 auction where a white gold model sold for £ 187,500 including buyer’s premium. Only two or three of the 50 were white gold (sources vary).
Previously, Sotheby’s had sold four Millennium watches in the The George Daniels Horological Collection November 2012 Sale: one prototype, two versions in yellow gold and one model in white gold. At that time, the prototype was hammering £ 91,250; the white gold model sold for £ 145,250; and the two yellow gold variants sold for £ 85,250 and £ 115,250 respectively (all including the buy-in premium).
In September 2017, a yellow gold version appeared at Sotheby’s raising an estimate of £ 80,000 to £ 120,000; it sold for £ 200,000 including commission.
And now a yellow gold copy has appeared at Bonhams with an estimate of £ 250,000 to £ 300,000 which, as I professed in my original article advertising this watch for sale, is not unreasonable in the current climate for watch auctions. And, indeed, the watch reached £ 519,000 (€ 605,813) including premium, setting an auction record for a British-made wristwatch.
For more information, please see www.bonhams.com/enchères/26684/lot/45.
Quick Facts George Daniels Millennium Wristwatch
Case: 37 mm, yellow gold
Dial: silvered gold, guilloché, handmade, gold hands
Movement: Omega automatic blank containing the extra-thin co-axial escapement made by Omega invented by George Daniels, modified by Daniels and Smith, gold plated, engraved and guilloche, rotor in 18k gold
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; Dated
Year of manufacture: 1999
Note: accompanied by a letter of provenance dated February 28, 2014 and correspondence from George Daniels dated 1999 and 2007
Auction estimate: £ 250,000 – £ 300,000
Price reached: £ 519,000 (€ 605,813)
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George Daniels Co-Axial Anniversary Edition by Roger Smith at Bonhams auction 2016 (updated with result)
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