Short gold graduated, double-link chain with gold and blued-steel double-ended key
In addition to his passion for watches and vintage cars, space exploration held a particular fascination for George Daniels. It was during interviews with Michael Clerizo that Daniels revealed:
“When I was a boy, going to the moon was the stuff of science fiction. The astronauts who went were brave chaps, the technology was the most advanced in the world and if the opportunity presented itself I would have liked to have gone with them.” (Clerizo, M., George Daniels, A Master Watchmaker and His Art, 2013, p.134)
The ‘Space Traveller’ was conceived as a timepiece to honour the astronauts that Daniels so admired. Daniels was determined that his watch would be one that could be of theoretical use to an astronaut, he therefore set out to devise a watch that displayed, simultaneously, both mean-solar and sidereal time. Traditionally the standard of time used by astronomers, sidereal time is based on the amount of time it takes the Earth to turn on its axis: by measuring the Earth’s transit of a fixed star, one is able to measure the actual time it takes for the Earth to turn on its axis. This period of time is known as a sidereal day, which is approximately 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.1 seconds. In the 18th century, to check the accuracy of your watch, you had to have a precision clock which was set to a star. By incorporating Daniels’s highly accurate independent double wheel escapement and displaying mean-solar and sidereal time to separate subsidiary dials, as well as a calculation for the equation of time shown within a sector to the top of the dial, Daniels dispensed with the need to check his watch against an independent sidereal time displaying clock or watch. The equation of time indicator shows the difference between apparent solar time (the time as indicated on a sundial) and mean time (the average of solar time). Since the Earth has an elliptical orbit, the difference between mean and solar time ranges from +14 minutes, 59 seconds to -16 minutes, 15 seconds. Solar time agrees with mean time on or about 15 April, 14 June, 1 September and 24 December.
During the 18th century, George Margetts was a leading figure in the design and execution of watches and clocks displaying solar and sidereal time. Daniels’s study and understanding of Margetts’s work inspired his own, but Daniels was determined to make improvements on Margetts’s contributions. Margetts’s solar/sidereal trains were calculated to be accurate to within 1.8 seconds per year, whilst this might seem a tiny variation, Daniels carried out his own experimentations and calculations that improved the trains to within 1.27 seconds per year. Resolved to improve the calculations yet further, Daniels contacted a friend at Cambridge University to ask if they knew of a mathematician interested in watches. He received a response almost immediately and extraordinarily enough the mathematician’s name was Professor Daniels. The Professor was able to calculate an improved ratio for the trains that would lead to a variance of just 0.4 seconds per year. George was thrilled with this result and, as a result, initially planned to name the watch Daniels Squared. However, George did not feel the name did justice to the watch and he subsequently re-named it the “Space Traveller” in honour of the American landing on the moon which was the greatest space exploratory journey of the 20th century.
George Daniels began working on his Space Traveller watch in 1979, the same year that he was elected Master of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. Original design drawings for the solar and sidereal trains which are dated for the year 1980, show that planning was already at an advanced stage at the beginning of the new decade. In 1982 the watch was sold to Bobinet who in turn sold the watch to the collector Jay Lennon. In 1988 the watch was sold at Sotheby’s in Geneva, subsequently entering the private collection from which it is now offered. One of the most important watches of modern times, the “Space Traveller” is arguably Daniels’s most famous and coveted watch. Indeed, Daniels was so fond of his “Space Traveller” that, regretting his original agreement to sell the watch, immediately set out to make one other example; the latter watch known as the “Space Traveller II” would remain his personal watch until his death in 2011 (for that watch see: Sotheby’s London, 19th September 2017, lot 121). The watch’s significance should not be underestimated, as Daniels’s former apprentice the watchmaker Dr. Roger Smith OBE has pointed out, the production of the two Space Traveller watches were the “culmination of thirteen years of making highly original one-off pieces and went on to be the catalyst for many future developments” (see Sotheby’s catalogue for the Space Traveller II catalogue, 19 Sept 2017, p.14). In 2006, Sotheby’s presented a retrospective exhibition of the work of George Daniels. The exhibition included all of the maker’s pocket watches with the sole exception of the present watch. As a consequence, this is not only the first time in more than 30 years that the watch has been offered for sale, it is also the first time since 1988 that the watch has been seen in public.
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