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Live from London: George Daniels Space Traveller I Sells for US$4.56m

A world record price.

The George Daniels Space Traveller I, one of the most important watches of the 20th century, has just sold at Sotheby’s in London for  £3.62m, or about US$4.56m, all fees included.

That makes the Space Traveller I the most expensive watch sold in 2019 so far – though it will doubtlessly be eclipsed by the Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime in steel for Only Watch – and the most expensive watch ever by an independent watchmaker.

A big boost to Sotheby’s market share in watch auctions, the record-setting Daniels was the final lot in the first auction of Masterworks of Time, the sale of a collection of over 800 pocket watches owned by Erivan Haub, the late German supermarket tycoon.

The last time the Space Traveller was sold was in 1988, where Haub paid  220,000 Swiss francs for it at Sotheby’s in Geneva. Prior to that, the watch was been sold by London antique watch dealer Bobinet in 1982 to a collector by the name of Jay Lennon. In almost forty years, the Space Traveller has had only three owners.

The auction

Having concluded just over an hour ago, the auction took place on a pleasant summer’s day in London, but it was slow going in the half-filled room. The average age of the attendees was notedly higher than that for a wristwatch auction, reflecting the niche nature of pocket watch collecting.

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But a crowd started to form as soon as it came to the Space Traveller, and the atmosphere perked up. Bidding started out as a tussle between an absentee bidder (whose bid was just under a million pounds), and a prominent London-based collector standing at the back of the room.

Soon a gentleman in a grey suit standing nearby joined the fray. He was Andrew Crisford, a friend of Daniels and the owner of Bobinet, which first sold the Space Traveller in 1982. Holding a mobile phone to his ear, Mr Crisford was presumably bidding on behalf of someone.

The two were soon joined by a phone bidder, represented by Sotheby’s watch department chairman Daryn Schnipper, who jumped in at £1.75m. From there onwards it was Mr Crisford against Ms Schnipper’s client, who was speaking English.

But just as Sam Hines, the head of Sotheby’s watch department, was about to bring down the hammer at £2.45m for Ms Schnipper’s client, a surprise bid came from Daniella Carrington of Sotheby’s, causing a stir in the room.

Bidding for an English-speaking client, Ms Carrington quickly upped the ante. Her determined buyer soon made a £150,000 increment, three times the £50,000 demanded by the auctioneer, taking the watch to £2.70m.

Then it was a brief battle between the two phone bidders, with Ms Carrington’s client clinching the watch for an even £3.00m.

With fees that is exactly £3,615,000, eclipsing the record of £3.20m set by the Space Traveller II in 2017, sealing Daniels’ status as the preeminent independent watchmaker of our time.


Update July 2, 2019: Articled amended to note the man in the grey suit is Andrew Crisford of Bobinet.

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George Daniels passes away

Record prices achieved at the George Daniels auction

The George Daniels auction by Sotheby's in London just concluded yesterday with spectacular results.

The 369-Year Old Watch in Mint Condition

By Jehan Cremsdorff.

A “new old stock” Rolex or Patek Philippe from the 1950s is a marvel. So this Jehan Cremsdorff pocket watch – which was made around 1650, making it almost 370 years old – is miraculous. So incredible is the Cremsdorff that for pocket watch collectors, the last time it was sold was a landmark event; the watch was the “Bao Dai” or “Paul Newman” or Grandmaster Chime “Only Watch” of the 1980s.

Part of the epic collection of pocket watches owned by a late German billionaire, which also includes the George Daniels Space Traveller I, the Cremsdorff watch is an incredible object that has been mysteriously well preserved over the centuries, with only minimal restoration to the enamel.

Though little is known about him, Jehan Cremsdorff was a watchmaker active in Paris during the late 17th century. Its immensely elaborate enamel work indicates Cremsdorff probably made the watch for a royal or noble client; the identity of the original owner is lost to time, but the watch came from Sweden when it was first sold publicly.

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Made of thin sheets of gold, the case is entirely enamelled, inside and out, an artistic accomplishment that was done by a now unknown Parisian enameller.

The outer case is decorated with champleve and relief enamel, forming a remarkably intricate and vivid flower motif. And for good measure the outer case is also set with diamonds on both sides.

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The inside faces of the case are finished in a brilliant turquoise enamel that’s been painted by hand, depicting motifs based on woodblock prints by Abraham Bosse, a 17th century Parisian artist.

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The Cremsdorff watch is so elaborate, and large – the case is 76mm in diameter – and technically rudimentary, that it does not seem like a timekeeper, at least in any modern sense.

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Opening the watch reveals the full plate movement with a verge escapement, which was invented in the 13th century.

Though primitive in comparison to modern day watches, 17th century timepieces with such escapements could probably keep time to within a half hour a day, an acceptable performance all things considered.

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But the watch is a significant cultural object, being an important example of early human endeavours in timekeeping. It is one of the best preserved 17th century timepieces anywhere in the world, and also one of the most elaborately decorated.

In fact, the only comparable watches are found in major museums, like the Goullons watch in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or royal collections, the watch made for Queen Christina that sits in Stockholm’s Royal Palace being an example.

The last time the Cremsdorff came to market, which was at Christie’s Geneva in 1986, it sold for a staggering 1.87m Swiss francs, or about US$1.00m at the prevailing exchange rate. The watch was purchased by the wife of the late, current owner, who acquired it as a gift for her husband. To put the sum in context, that would have purchased dozens of Patek Philippe 2499s at the time.

But times have changed and the Cremsdorff is being offered at Sotheby’s Treasures auction in London on July 3, 2019, with an estimate of just £700,000-1.0m, or about US$900,000-1.3m.

Update July 10, 2019: The watch was purchased by a representative of the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva for £2.175m, or about US$2.734m, including fees.


 

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Introducing the F.P. Journe Astronomic Blue for Only Watch 2019

The double-faced, celestial watch.

A young Francois-Paul Journe created his sixth ever watch in 1987; it was an “astronomic planetary watch”, a pocket watch with faces on each side. Over three decades later that has been reimagined as the Astronomic Blue, a prototype grand complication made for Only Watch 2019.

Mentioned by Mr Journe in an interview late last year, the Astronomic Blue is a hand-wound wristwatch with astronomical functions on two faces, as well as a minute repeater and tourbillon with remontoir d’egalite. The complications total 18, and are powered by a movement made up of 758 parts, making it more complex than the Sonnerie Souveraine.

fp-journe astronomic planetary 1987 pocket watch

The astronomic planetary watch of 1987, signed “Journe à Paris”

Like the preceding F.P. Journe watches made for Only Watch, namely the tourbillon and split-seconds, the Astronomic Blue has a tantalum case and mirrored blue dial like that found on the Chronometre Bleu.

The case is 44mm in diameter and 13.75mm high, making it comparable in size to the discontinued Sonnerie Souverain and recent Tourbillon Souverain Vertical.

Remembering 1987

As with many of Mr Journe’s early creations, the pocket watch was inspired by both Abraham-Louis Breguet and George Daniels, a quality that is echoed in the Astronomic Blue.

Like the George Daniels Space Traveller, the front shows sidereal and mean solar time on two symmetrically arranged sub-dials, while the reverse has a ring-type annual calendar and equation of time indicator, which is reminiscent of the Daniels Grand Complication.

fp journe Astronomic Blue only watch 1

The reverse is partially open-worked, and also reveals the cal. 1619, as well as the tourbillon regulator and remontoir d’egalite, or constant force remontoire. Also visible on the back is the governor for the minute repeating mechanism.

Notably, the layout of the movement shares distinct similarities with that of the Chronomètre Optimum, a calibre that Mr Journe has mentioned is a potential base for other complications. That being said, according to the company, the movement of the Astronomic Blue is an entirely new calibre.

fp journe Astronomic Blue only watch 2

Because this is a prototype, the movement is unfinished, although the bridges and base plate are made of 18k red gold, as it is with standard F.P. Journe watches. The production version of this watch, which will be offered with in a steel case as is the norm for F.P. Journe striking watches, will be available in approximately a year’s time.

The Astronomic Blue (ref. AST) has an estimate of 300,000-600,000 Swiss francs, and will be sold on November 19, 2019 at Christie’s Geneva. The rest of the Only Watch catalogue is available on onlywatch.com.


Update July 2, 2019: The production version of the watch will be available in mid-2020.

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Tudor Introduces the Black Bay Ceramic One “Only Watch”

Tudor's first ceramic diver.

Continuing the tradition of one of a kind dive watches for Only Watch that started in 2015, Tudor has just unveiled the Black Bay Ceramic One.

Entirely clad in matte black but composed of several different materials, the Black Bay Ceramic One is starkly different from any other Tudor dive watch.

The 41mm case is made of ceramic, while the bezel is black-coated titanium fitted with a ceramic bezel insert. Both the case back and crown and black-coated steel, but the back is unusual – it’s the only Tudor watch with a display back aside from the little loved North Flag. The sapphire back reveals the MT5602 movement, a “manufacture” calibre with 70-hour power reserve and silicon hairspring.

Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One only watch 2

The dial is all-black to match, with the markings and text printed in glossy back to distinguish them from the matte black dial surface. The hands and hour markers are filled with black Super-Luminova, which will glow green in the dark, albeit dimly.

Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One only watch 3

And the strap is rubber, but lined on the top with matte black alligator, which is the same construction as the rubber-calf strap found on the recently launched Black Bay P01.

The Black Bay Ceramic One (ref. M7921/001CN) has an estimate of 4,500-5,500 Swiss francs. If past Tudor watches made for Only Watch are anything to go by, it will blow right past the estimate straight out of the gate and probably finish just over 300,000 Swiss francs.

It’ll be sold on November 9, 2019 at Christie’s in Geneva. Visit onlywatch.com for the rest of the Only Watch 2019 line-up.


 

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