At 2,177,500 CHF ($2,422,142) Roger’s own watch and the only timepiece he double-signed with George Daniels has now become the most valuable Roger Smith wristwatch ever sold at auction…Geneva, 5th November 2023
November 5th - Geneva: For an auction season which had started cautiously, what became very apparent at Sotheby’s “Important Watches” auction was that for historic watches, the discerning collectors were willing to make a suitably historic exception.
Heralded by Sotheby’s as the ‘Most Important Pair of Watches Ever to Come to Auction’, there was no doubt that, as bookends to the most important horological collaboration of modern times, the last ever Millennium watch and the first ever Anniversary watch had an elegant symmetry to their histories as much as their aesthetics.
The Millennium series was the first collaboration between George and Roger and was developed and built over three years in celebration of the Swiss watch industry’s adoption of the co-axial escapement. It also bridges the transition period for Roger as ‘The Watchmaker’s Apprentice’ to establishing his own workshop.
Completed in 2001, this final example from the Millennium series of watches was specially assigned to Roger by George.
Roger explains; “It was a unique chance to own a watch by my great mentor, but I also wanted to commemorate my own work on the Millennium watches, so I asked George for permission to co-sign the dial. George readily agreed and, in so doing, this watch became not only the first watch I had signed, but would end up being the only watch we ever co-signed.”
Some time later, Roger made the difficult decision to privately sell the watch to a collector in order to help fund the next stage of his business.
Offered by that same private collector, this was the first time the ‘Daniels/Smith’ white gold Millennium had been presented to auction.
From the same collector came the watch which completed this historic pairing; the first of the Anniversary series of watches created by Roger and George. Coming in 2012, the Anniversary watch represented the moment when the names Roger Smith and George Daniels could bear equal weight and significance in the creation of a watch.
To mark 35 years since the invention of the co-axial escapement, George had decided to create a new series of wristwatches. However, unlike the Millennium wristwatches which had used the Omega base calibre in celebration of the escapement’s adoption, the Anniversary would have an entirely new wristwatch calibre designed and wholly made in the Isle of Man. The ‘Daniels Anniversary’ would be limited to just 35 pieces, marking the 35 years since the co-axial’s invention. Presented by Sotheby’s was the very first Anniversary wristwatch from the series, prominently numbered 1 to the backplate.
A telling aspect of Roger’s graduation to being the equal of his great master, was his proposal to adopt his own single-wheel evolution of the co-axial escapement. Of perhaps greater significance was George’s ready willingness to accept what he recognised as a genuine improvement to his original invention.
It was fitting that such a historic pairing would go on to achieve a record price.
Mikael Wallhagen, Head of Watches, Sotheby’s Geneva said; “Perhaps the most important pairing of wristwatches ever to come to auction, they signalled the shape of our sale”.
Reflecting on the sale, Roger concluded; “My Millennium watch had only ever had one owner apart from me in twenty-two years, and to bring it to this auction, on behalf of the current owner, has been special… and a little emotional. I am delighted to know it has gone to the home of a collector I know was very keen to acquire it to wear as his own everyday watch rather than keeping it in a safe – which is music to my ears!”