An outright record for any British watch was the headline set by Pocket Watch No. 2 at another historic auction by Phillips in Association with Bacs & Russo in New York City on Saturday morning, 10th June.New York City, 10th June 2023
In the build up to the auction, there was intense speculation and interest in the watch. For Roger, there was a tacit understanding that the price achieved would be a statement about his place in modern watchmaking, for Pocket Watch No. 2 is without doubt the cornerstone of his career.
The story of the watch has been told many times, notably in the Netflix feature documentary “The Watchmaker’s Apprentice”, which followed Roger’s quest to become accepted by the man who become his guiding light, George Daniels. Its five year build by Roger; then a young man for whom every challenge was new, is an inspiring tale of tenacity and dogged determination. Had Roger failed in his quest, it is hard to speculate on not only his own fate, but of Britain’s watchmaking renaissance in the last two decades.
The weight of expectation for ‘Lot 12’ was therefore enormous; an estimate of $1m had been reported in the media, but knowing that auction houses tend to be conservative, this gave little indication of the eventual record sale price.
Roger was in attendance at the auction - in fact, prior to the sale he had checked in on the pocket watch. Ever a pragmatic horologist at heart, he had posted on his Instagram a distinct satisfaction that the watch was not only running in perfect order but demonstrating an amplitude as lively as the day he completed its build 26 years ago - and without a service in all that time!
On the day, he was able to witness at first hand an intense bidding war which saw the price rise inexorably to its eventual record price of $4.9m.
"It really is a profound moment for me," Roger said after the sale. "For the watch to have received such interest has also been very humbling. This certainly represents a major milestone in my own horological journey, but I also hope it is a meaningful statement for British watchmaking, too.”
A milestone it really is, as evinced by the huge impact it has had for so many. Paul Boutros, Phillips’ Head of Watches, Americas commented; “Roger Smith’s Pocket Watch Number Two can be considered as nothing less than the cornerstone of modern British Watchmaking, and we were truly honoured to have been entrusted with its sale. The record-breaking price it achieved at Phillips is certainly a testament to its enduring importance. With its clear influence by the master horologist George Daniels alongside aesthetic details that are distinctly Roger’s own, this unique timepiece is truly in a class of its own. During its world tour in London, Los Angeles, Geneva, Hong Kong, and New York, the international community was in awe of both the watch and the remarkable story of excellence, tenacity, and perseverance behind it.”
Prior to the auction, Roger was quoted as saying "It's the most important watch I've made, without a doubt.”
With a record price exceeding all expectations, the importance of Pocket Watch No. 2 will continue for many years to come.