Earlier this month, Sotheby’s London sold the George Daniels Space Traveller I, a unique pocket watch for a stellar $4.6 million, making it the most expensive English watch to ever sell at auction.
It surpassed the previous English record held by the other George Daniels Space Traveller, which went up for auction twice in the past decade — the previous record was set by the Space Traveller II back in 2017, when it went for a whopping $4.3 million USD, and previously in 2012 for approximately $1.4 million USD.
There’s little question that George Daniels is one of the greatest watchmakers of all time and arguably the greatest watchmaker of the twentieth century, so it’s always nice to see his pieces fetch big prices when they do come up for sale. While the Space Traveller isn’t, strictly speaking, the most complicated watch Daniels ever made, it is the most iconic and emblematic of his unique approach to watchmaking. For a serious horological enthusiast, it just doesn’t get much better than this.
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 time, this pocket watch goes one better and charts the sun, moon and stars.
Space Traveller II was Daniels’ personal watch and he wore it regularly until his death in 2011. He was obsessed with the idea of space exploration and wanted to keep an example of such a special watch for himself.
Space Traveller I on the other hand was made for a client in 1982. It changed hands once in the mid-’80s and then was sold at Sotheby’s Geneva in 1988 for CHF 220,000. Since then, the watch has remained in the same private collection, from which it was consigned through Sotheby’s London for sale.
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.”
As far as I can tell, this is the first time the watch has been seen publicly in about 30 years.