George Daniels - The Geneva Watch Auction: XVI Geneva Saturday, November 5, 2022 | Phillips
  • Manufacturer: George Daniels
    Year: 1992
    Model Name: Spring Case Tourbillon
    Material: 18K yellow gold
    Calibre: Manual
    Bracelet/Strap: Leather
    Clasp/Buckle: 18k yellow gold George Daniels pin buckle
    Dimensions: 40mm Diameter
    Signed: Case, dial, movement and buckle signed.

  • Catalogue Essay

    In the watch collecting sphere there are grails and then there are watches made with the same ethereal fabric as dreams. The timepieces made by George Daniels most certainly fall within this realm.

    We are delighted and honored to offer for the first time in public, the present unique spring case tourbillon, one of only two wristwatches fully hand made by Daniels himself.

    The arrival on the auction market of this exquisite gem, exactly 30 years after it was completed, is an epiphanous moment. The historical, cultural and technical importance of the watch make it one of the most important wristwatches ever made by an independent watchmaker and would be a crown jewel in the collection of the connoisseur.

    George Daniels (1926-2011) was the founding father of independent watchmaking in the second half of the 20th century. His contribution to the art of watchmaking can be seen in his gloriously handcrafted creations, that incorporate the various inventions he made. Daniels’ influence on the following generations of watchmakers is undeniable. Many cite him as their inspiration, often stating that his book Watchmaking led them to their own illustrious careers.

    Nothing destined young Daniels to become one of the most prominent names in watchmaking, yet, an encounter with a pocket watch at the age of five would not only change his life but watchmaking as we know it today. The movement of that watch opened up unfathomable possibilities in the small child’s brain and magic happened.

    Daniels set up his own workshop shortly after World War II repairing watches and, in his spare time, restoring cars. A major turning point in his life came in 1960 when he met Cecil ‘Sam’ Clutton. Sam
    was, like George, a connoisseur of vintage cars, but he was also a man with an impressive antique watch collection, and with many connections to other collectors and institutions. These connections provided superb watches, by some of the greatest past makers - including Abraham-Louis Breguet - for Daniels to study and work on. Daniels held Breguet in exceptionally high esteem, citing him as his single most important influence. Over time he became a renowned expert on Breguet ’s work and wrote the definitive book on the subject, The Art of Breguet.

    The widespread arrival on the market of inexpensive electronic and quartz watches in the late 1960s led Daniels – thankfully briefly – to consider abandoning watch repair in favor of car restoration. Determined to prove the continued relevance of mechanical timekeeping, Daniels embarked on his first watch creation in 1968; a gold and silver cased one-minute pivoted detent chronometer tourbillon with retrograde hour indication. The elegant form, simplicity, and legibility of the dial were to become distinctive characteristics of the Daniels oeuvre.

    For Daniels a watch had to have historic, intellectual, technical, aesthetic, amusing and useful qualities, a mantra that he applied to all his creations.

    From the outset, Daniels closely adhered to these prerequisites when designing and constructing his watches. He frequently repeated this mantra when discussing his pieces and explaining what he was trying to achieve. The case, dial and movements of his watches were to be instantly recognizable as a Daniels, each was to be hand-made to the highest standards, and the movements were to incorporate interesting and innovative mechanical features.

    Daniels rarely worked on commissions and sold watches only when they were finished. The connoisseur chosen for his very first watch was Sam Clutton who said of it “That one man could have the intellectual ability to design such a mechanism; the technical ability to execute it with an exactitude second to almost none of the great masters of the past; and the artistic ability to endow it with such a strikingly elegant appearance; seems an almost incredible assembly of talent and perseverance”.

    Daniels’ creative genius eventually led him to his first escapement invention – the Double wheel chronometer. This escapement had the advantage that impulse is delivered directly to the balance, with no lubrication, which in turn gives long term stability of rate. Daniels’ first watch in this series went to Seth Atwood for the Time Museum. Further iterations were constructed, culminating in two iconic watches known as the “Space Travellers”. Utilizing the two-trains that were required for the escapement, both watches displayed mean-solar and sidereal time.

    The design and reliability of the Double wheel chronometer escapement became the inspiration for Daniels second escapement invention – the Co-axial. Legend has it that Daniels awoke in the middle
    of the night in 1975 with the exact image of what this escapement was to look like.

    Considered as one of the greatest innovations in horology of the past 250 years, the Co-axial is a modification of the lever escapement with some features of the detent escapement. It functions with a system of three pallets that separate the locking function from the impulse, avoiding the sliding friction of the lever escapement. This makes lubrication of the pallets theoretically unnecessary and thereby minimizes one of the shortcomings of the traditional lever escapement.

    The Co-axial was fitted to seven Daniels pocket watches created between 1979 and 1994. During this period Daniels approached the Swiss watch industry with a view to incorporating the escapement, as an alternative to the lever escapement, in a wristwatch. In 1999, Omega triumphantly launched the Co-axial at the Basel Fair, subsequently investing significantly in it to enable mass production. It is now used in virtually every Omega model in the current wristwatch collection, and has been further refined and developed by them, and separately, by Daniels’ protégé Roger Smith for use in his superlative watches.

    Even though Daniels had spent the larger part of his career crafting unique pocket watches he successfully took to making wristwatches in the early 1990s, first on his own and later in conjunction with Roger Smith.

    Simple in its appearance, the present unique watch is technically impressive; from both its movement and dial display but also to its surprising ‘cabriolet-style’ sprung case. The watch features elegant hand guilloché silver dials - in the classic Daniels manner with eccentric gold chapters showing hours, minutes, interlaced seconds, and a subsidiary for power reserve indication. A day and date calendar and the visible tourbillon are unveiled on the reverse dial.

    The ingenious two-part case has an inner section holding the movement, which is hinged to the outer, so that when released by a pusher in the band it springs open to reveal the reverse dial. To affect this neatly, the winding crown is cleverly positioned between the lugs.

    The tourbillon which had, by then, become a signature element of Daniels work rotates in one minute, and features his slim Co-axial escapement. Daniels was so pleased with this wristwatch that it became his daily wearer. He reluctantly parted with it in 2005 after a friend eventually persuaded him to sell it. The double-dialed watch is now being offered in public at auction for the very first time.

    During his life time and by his own hand, George Daniels made twenty-three pocket watches and just two unique wristwatches. In addition, and in collaboration with Roger Smith, two further tourbillon wristwatches and two production series of wristwatches; the Millennium (see Lot 141) and Anniversary (See Lot 30) watches have been made.

    The spring case double-dialed wristwatch is a tour de force. Ahead of its time both technically and aesthetically, it also provided much amusement to Daniels when he was wearing it – perfectly fulfilling his mantra of what a watch should be. He would often say “I bet you’ve never seen one of these before” and then, triggering the button in the case it would flip open to reveal the calendar and tourbillon. Audiences were left amazed and speechless by the Master and his Art.

    We would like to thank David Newman of The George Daniels Educational Trust, Richard Stenning of Charles Frodsham & Co. and Roger Smith for their precious input toward the cataloguing of this


A unique, historically important double sided yellow gold wristwatch with power reserve, day and date

40mm Diameter
Case, dial, movement and buckle signed.

In Excess of CHF1,000,000/$1,020,000/€1,030,000

Sold for CHF4,083,500

Contact Specialist

Alexandre Ghotbi
Head of Watches, Continental Europe and the Middle East
+41 22 317 81 81

Tiffany To
Head of Sale, Geneva
+41 22 317 96 63

The Geneva Watch Auction: XVI

Geneva Auction 5 - 6 November 2022