By Brecken Branstrator
Legendary watchmaker George Daniels’ most complicated pocket watch, the Grand Complication, sold for about $2.4 million at Phillips’ recent watch auction in Geneva.
Geneva—In a watch auction market dominated by strong performances from a few specific brands or timepieces with celebrity provenance, one creation from a legendary but far more esoteric watchmaker stood out at Phillips’ recent Geneva watch auction.

George Daniels’ Grand Complication pocket watch led the Phillips “Geneva Watch Auction: Nine” sale, held May 11 and 12, going well beyond its pre-sale estimate of $1.5 million when it garnered $2.4 million.

Daniels was a self-taught watchmaker and could create a complete watch by hand, including the movement, case, and dial. 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. 

Phillips said his Grand Complication was the most complicated pocket watch he made and also one of his final timepieces.

He created it entirely 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.

20190409 GD Anniversary

Phillips also auctioned off Daniels’ Anniversary wristwatch, pictured above, which also sold above its pre-sale estimate, going for $452,700.

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

The watchmaker said 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 Daniels’ Calibre movement, which was new and original at the time of its creation in 2010. The Anniversary wristwatch is also fitted with a calendar and power reserve complication.

Phillips’ “Geneva Watch Auction: Nine” sale totaled more than $25.6 million.

Other top lots include a Rolex Ref. 8171, a triple calendar wristwatch with moon phases and two-tone dial and a 38 mm case in 18-karat yellow gold, which garnered $971,600; and a Patek Philippe Ref. 5208P—a rare platinum minute repeating single-button chronograph wristwatch with instantaneous perpetual calendar and moon phases—that went for $804,900.

There also was a Rolex Ref. 6241 chronograph wristwatch in 14-karat yellow gold with a Paul Newman “John Player Special” dial that sold for $793,000.

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