By Brecken Branstrator
Legendary watchmaker George Daniels’ most complicated pocket watch, the Grand Complication, is expected to sell for more than $1.5 million at Phillips next month.
Geneva—Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo is preparing to celebrate one of the most talented watchmakers of the 20th century—the late George Daniels.

Daniels was self-taught and could create a complete watch by hand, including the movement, case and dial, according to a website dedicated to him. To do this, he had to master the 32 individual disciplines required to make a watch.

He is, perhaps, most famous for inventing the co-axial escapement, which revolutionized mechanical watchmaking and which Phillips called “the greatest horological invention of the past 250 years.”

The British watchmaker completed 27 watches (not including prototypes) throughout his career.

He died in 2011.

Next month, two of his masterpieces will be offered at auction.

Daniels’ Grand Complication pocket watch, which Phillips said was the most complicated pocket watch he made as well as being one of his final timepieces, will headline its “Geneva Watch Auction: Nine” on May 11.

He fully created the piece himself in 1987. According to Phillips, it’s the only Daniels timepiece to feature an instantaneous perpetual calendar with retrograde date and minute repeater, both mechanisms made to his own design.

It also combines most of the complications incorporated in his earlier watches—moon phase, differential screw mechanism for the reserve of winding, bimetallic centigrade thermometer and a Daniels keyless pendant and bow, among other features—and the Daniels co-axial escapement.

Phillips said the pre-sale estimate on the Grand Complication is more than $1.5 million.

Also hitting the auction block is Daniels’ Anniversary wristwatch, pictured below.

20190409 GD Anniversary

Daniels set out to produce 35 handmade watches to celebrate the 35th anniversary of his invention of the co-axial escapement.

According to the watchmaker, this particular piece “is a culmination of over 40 years of watchmaking and unashamedly takes inspiration from several pieces in my body of work.”

The 18-karat gold 40 mm case houses a Daniels Calibre that was new and original at the time of its creation in 2010, fitted with a calendar and power reserve complication.

Both George Daniels watches are part of the curated “Independents’ Atelier” selection of pieces in the Phillips watch auction, which coincides with a special exhibition to celebrate independent watchmaking.

The one-of-a-kind “Independents’ Day” horological exhibition, open to the public, features masterworks by 13 watchmakers: Akrivia, Louis Cottier, De Bethune, Philippe Dufour, Laurent Ferrier, Charles Frodsham, Greubel Forsey, F.P. Journe, MB&F, Derek Pratt for Urban Jürgensen, Roger W. Smith, Urwerk and Kari Voutilainen.

Specifically, the exhibition focuses on timepieces from the 20th and the 21th centuries, such as Philippe Dufour’s tryptic: Simplicity, Duality and Grande Sonnerie; the Oval Tourbillon with detent escapement by Derek Pratt for Urban Jürgensen; and the world time wristwatch prototype by Louis Cottier, which is pictured below.

20190409 Louis Cottier

The Independents’ Day exhibition will take place from May 9-12 at Hôtel La Réserve in Geneva, showcased alongside the timepieces of “Geneva Watch Auction: Nine.”

Phillips said the watchmakers will be present to meet and chat with enthusiasts and collectors.

Small discussion sessions with the watchmakers also will be held throughout the exhibition period (registration will be required), and a panel discussion is scheduled for the evening of May 10.

“Geneva Watch Auction: Nine” will take place May 11 and 12.

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