Lot 119
  • 119

George Daniels

20,000 - 30,000 GBP
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  • George Daniels
  • Daniels/Thomas Mercer: A mahogany two-day marine chronometercirca 1952
  • brass and mahogany
  • width 190mm
• gilded fusee movement with maintaining power, cut bi-metallic compensation balance, helical spring, Earnshaw-type spring detent escapement • 4-inch silvered dial signed G.W. Daniels, London, Roman numerals, subsidiary dials for seconds and up/down indication with Arabic numerals, gold hands • the brass bowl gimballed in a plain mahogany box with hinged lid • with a tipsy winder and hand setting key  


George Daniels' Personal Collection
Sotheby’s London, The George Daniels Horological Collection, 6th November 2012, lot 1
Private Collection


Daniels, G., All in Good Time, Reflections of a Watchmaker, 2013, pp. 51-52 & plate 3
Clerizo, M., George Daniels, A Master Watchmaker and His Art, 2013, pp. 50 & 51 & col. ills. pp. 4-5
Sotheby’s, George Daniels Retrospective Exhibition Catalogue, London, 2006, pp. 9-10


Dial in very good original condition, some light dirty towards the edges. Movement in very good original condition but may benefit from a clean and fresh oil. Case has some old minor scuffs and marks but otherwise good. With a tipsy winder, hand setting key and case key. The watch has not been tested to determine the accuracy of its timekeeping. Please note that Sotheby's does not guarantee the future working of the movement and that a service night be required at the buyer's discretion.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. All dimensions in catalogue descriptions are approximate. Condition reports may not specify mechanical replacements or imperfections to the movement, case, dial, pendulum, separate base(s) or dome. Watches in water-resistant cases have been opened to examine movements but no warranties are made that the watches are currently water-resistant. Please note that we do not guarantee the authenticity of any individual component parts, such as wheels, hands, crowns, crystals, screws, bracelets and leather bands, since subsequent repairs and restoration work may have resulted in the replacement of original parts. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. In particular, please note it is the purchaser's responsibility to comply with any applicable import and export matters, particularly in relation to lots incorporating materials from endangered species.NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

**Please be advised that bands made of materials derived from endangered or otherwise protected species (i.e. alligator and crocodile) are not sold with the watches and are for display purposes only. We reserve the right to remove these bands prior to shipping."

Catalogue Note

This piece was George’s first attempt at producing a piece of horology under his own name. The chronometer was purchased as a kit from Mercer’s and was superbly finished and assembled by George in circa 1952.  The finished piece is photographed with the moustached maker in his biography ‘All in Good Time’.

This piece would have been a challenging undertaking for the novice Daniels as he was working as a watch repairer by day and had only recently completed his horological studies at evening class. Moving from repairing-to-making is a huge leap and he would have had to refine many different skills in order to achieve his objective, which was to attain a chronometer rating and approval from Frank Mercer.

Interestingly, the piece is signed G.W.Daniels, and on spying the chronometer in his vault in 1998, I mentioned that I did not realise that he had a middle name. He replied that he did not but felt that William sounded better than just George! 

This piece is a wonderful snapshot of an unsure George gaining a taste for making and perhaps the first sign of a man who could see no boundaries to what he could achieve.

[The above extract was written by Roger Smith]

As his first horological timepiece, this marine chronometer marks an important milestone in the career of George Daniels. Made shortly after completing his watch repair course at Northampton Polytechnic in 1952, this was a seminal period in Daniels’ life when his ambitions craved a challenge beyond his work as a watch repairer. At the time, he had considered the production of a marine chronometer as the "ultimate manufacturing exercise" [Daniels, All in Good Time, p.52].

It was following a lunch given by the British Horological Institute that George Daniels had the opportunity to meet Frank Mercer, head of the chronometer firm, Thomas Mercer of St Albans. Frank Mercer had a reputation for being irascible and strongly opinionated and Daniels knew that he risked being quickly sent on his way. To Mercer's amazement, Daniels insisted that he wanted to make a marine chronometer whereupon Mercer proceeded to question the young Daniels on the subject of chronometers. Impressed by his answers, Mercer invited Daniels to visit his St Albans' factory. It was here that Mercer agreed to sell Daniels the two-day marine ébauche with plates, bridges, wheels and gears - but, crucially, without the escapement, case, dial or hands - that form the present timepiece. Such a project would have been a daunting task for any novice since the work required the production of the detent – a skilled operation even for a highly experienced horologist. The detent is not only delicate and fragile but the extreme accuracy of its construction is critical to ensure the success of the chronometer's timekeeping; a process made all the more fraught by the hardening and tempering process which can easily damage, distort or break it. Daniels carried out the work on a table in his rooms, his fireplace a makeshift forge. In order to make the traditional mahogany casing, Daniels salvaged wood from a Victorian sideboard. Daniels took the chronometer to show Mercer upon its completion, later recollecting Mercer’s astonishment at his achievement, Daniels said: "He never thought I would do it but I knew I would." [Clerizo, George Daniels, p. 51]

Interestingly the dial is uniquely signed G. W. Daniels because George, at that time, liked to add the middle name William, even though it was not one of his given names.