Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London

//Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London

Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London

hero.jpg?ixlib=rails 1.1 Auction Report: Sotheby's To Offer The Daniels 'Space Traveller' Watch, September 19th In London Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London  hero

I don’t remember when I first heard about the Space Traveller watch but it was some time ago probably in the very late 1990s, when I first became familiar with Dr. Daniels’ work. At the time, it seemed the most interesting and romantic watch I’d ever seen and despite the passage of twenty or so years, I’ve never really fallen out of love with it.

The Daniels Space Traveller pocket watch, also sometimes called  Auction Report: Sotheby's To Offer The Daniels 'Space Traveller' Watch, September 19th In London Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London 20010454 copy

The Daniels Space Traveller pocket watch, also sometimes called “The Double Daniels.”

The Space Traveller was completed in 1982, and Dr. Daniels wrote about the impetus for its construction in his memoir, All In Good Time:

“The existence of this watch is attributable to Theodor Beyer, the proprietor of Chronometry Beyer of Zurich … he is a most serious collector of watches, and has two Daniels in his collection. One of these he acquired at dinner one evening in Zurich. During the course of the meal he demanded to see what I was wearing. I showed him my watch and he asked if he could buy it. It was my own watch and I declined to sell, but … he was adamant that he would not go home without it. I relented because the fascination of someone with his experience of watches was a compliment … and I could, after all, make another.”

Daniels Space Traveller solar and sidereal seconds Auction Report: Sotheby's To Offer The Daniels 'Space Traveller' Watch, September 19th In London Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London 20010458 copy

The Space Traveller shows both mean solar and sidereal time, including sidereal and mean solar seconds.

The result was the Space Traveller. The movement is one of the most fascinating anyone has made since Breguet: two separate going trains, driving a single balance, with Dr. Daniels’ independent double-wheel escapement (itself derived from, and an improvement upon, Breguet’s double escape wheel chappement naturel.) One train tells sidereal time and the other, mean solar time. The usual way to show mean solar and sidereal time in a single watch is to basically put two watches in one case; one balance is regulated for mean solar time, and the other for sidereal time.

solar vs. sidereal time Auction Report: Sotheby's To Offer The Daniels 'Space Traveller' Watch, September 19th In London Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London Sidereal time

Illustration showing the difference between solar and sidereal time; source, Wikipedia.

A mean solar day of 24 hours is based on an average of all local solar days, which can vary by about a quarter of an hour plus or minus, from 24 hours; the difference is known as the Equation of Time and it’s due to the eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, as well as the inclination of the Earth’s axis. A solar day, in turn, is the amount of time it takes for the Sun to return to its zenith position in the sky. A sidereal day, on the other hand, is defined as the amount of time it takes a star to return to its zenith position. This is actually less than 24 hours. The reason for this is that the Sun is near enough that over 24 hours, as the Earth rotates, it also moves along its orbit far enough that for the Sun to return to the zenith position, the Earth must actually rotate slightly more than one full revolution. A star, however, is so far away that this parallax effect doesn’t occur, so a sidereal day is slightly shorter about 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.0916 seconds.

“This is the first oilless escapement watch as completed in tribute to the American astronauts’ moon-landing. I call it the “Space Traveller’s Watch” or, in acknowledgement of Henry’s part, ‘Daniels Squared.'”

George Daniels, All In Good Time

In most watches that show both solar and sidereal time, there are basically two watches in one case: one train and balance for solar time, and another train and balance, with the balance regulated for sidereal time. However, Dr. Daniels used the more difficult solution: calculating separate gear trains for a single balance. He wrote:

“The use of a solar/sidereal timekeeper was an eighteenth-century innovation used for checking mean-time clocks. There were then no time signals and the only way to note the time was by observation of the stars. The resulting observation then needed to be converted into mean-time, which required a tedious calculation every day the star was visible. In principle, by making a watch to show both sidereal and solar time, it was only necessary to observe one’s chosen star and the watch would automatically indicate the mean-time equivalent. The leading exponent of the art in the eighteenth century was George Margetts, who calculated his trains to within 1.8 seconds per year. But his method made it impossible to set the watch accurately and to read the information precisely (Margetts also used a cylinder escapement, which would accumulate a considerable error over a fairly short period of time. Ed.) My system provided ease of setting by stopping one or both trains independently … in addition, it had (an) Equation of Time, calendar, and the moon’s age and phase.”

Astronomical watch by George Margetts, 1802 Auction Report: Sotheby's To Offer The Daniels 'Space Traveller' Watch, September 19th In London Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London Lot 44   George Margetts

Astronomical watch by George Margetts, 1802, showing solar and sidereal time (the latter via a star chart) with cylinder escapement.

“I felt it necessary to improve on Margett’s error and did in fact calculate the trains to within 1.27 seconds, which was an improvement, however unnecessary. But still I felt there might be a better solution. To this end, I contacted a friend at Cambridge in the hope of finding an horologically inclined mathematician to settle the matter so work could start. He introduced me to Henry Daniels, FRS, who not only specialized in mathematics, but was an able watch-repairer and who, for good measure, was up to concert standard on the concertina. He produced a better solution within days, and modestly claimed he had found the answer in a book. His solution was within 0.4 seconds, and could be applied reasonably simply to my design.”

Diagram showing the gear ratio calculations for the solar and sidereal trains. Below, the moonphase train, which is driven by the sidereal time motion work, and the Equation of Time, which is driven by the mean solar time motion work. Auction Report: Sotheby's To Offer The Daniels 'Space Traveller' Watch, September 19th In London Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London Daniels   SPACE TRAVELLERS WATCH 2

Diagram showing the gear ratio calculations for the solar and sidereal trains. Below, the moonphase train, which is driven by the sidereal time motion work, and the Equation of Time, which is driven by the mean solar time motion work.

“This is the first oilless escapement watch as completed in tribute to the American astronauts’ moon-landing. I call it the “Space Traveller’s Watch” or, in acknowledgement of Henry’s part, ‘Daniels Squared.'”

Movement of the Daniels Space Traveller/Daniels Squared, showing the dual going trains and single balance. Auction Report: Sotheby's To Offer The Daniels 'Space Traveller' Watch, September 19th In London Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London 20010449 copy

Movement of the Daniels Space Traveller/Daniels Squared, showing the dual going trains and single balance.

Daniels Space Traveler movement closeup Auction Report: Sotheby's To Offer The Daniels 'Space Traveller' Watch, September 19th In London Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London 20010469 copy

One of the most interesting features of the watch is that it also includes a chronograph, which can record either solar or sidereal time at the user’s discretion. The dual train, single balance design presented some tremendous technical challenges; Daniels’ heir, the English watchmaker Roger Smith, describes some of these in the essay for the listing at Sotheby’s:

“In 2012, I was fortunate enough to have been given the opportunity to refresh the piece which resulted in a complete strip down of the movement … the mechanism was like no other that I have seen before, or since. The level of creativity is out of this world … one of the stand-out features for me are the two escape wheels, which drive the common balance. This George’s unique double-wheeled escapement but with this piece, the sidereal train has an escape wheel of fourteen teeth, whereas the solar train has just thirteen. The geometric difficulties that this feature creates are mind boggling and I am sure the very idea would have stopped most makers in their tracks. For George, however, it was simply another challenge that had to be overcome.”

“Another interesting feature is the chronograph mechanism which allows the user to switch between recording solar or sidereal seconds. In order to achieve this the maker developed a clutch system which was the genesis for his unique compact chronograph mechanism which would feature in two further watches.”

Auction Report: Sotheby's To Offer The Daniels 'Space Traveller' Watch, September 19th In London Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London Daniels   SPACE TRAVELLERS WATCH

Auction Report: Sotheby's To Offer The Daniels 'Space Traveller' Watch, September 19th In London Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London Daniels   SPACE TRAVELLERS WATCH functions

Auction Report: Sotheby's To Offer The Daniels 'Space Traveller' Watch, September 19th In London Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London Daniels   SPACE TRAVELLERS WATCH  reverse

Auction Report: Sotheby's To Offer The Daniels 'Space Traveller' Watch, September 19th In London Auction Report: Sotheby’s To Offer The Daniels ‘Space Traveller’ Watch, September 19th In London Daniels   SPACE TRAVELLERS WATCH

The Space Traveler is a watch that you can’t imagine anyone else taking the time and trouble to make; it’s the product not only of great imagination and persistence, but also immense stubbornness. I think it’s fair to say that most people would have been perfectly happy with a sidereal time going train calculated to within 1.27 seconds per year, but as the saying goes, intolerance is the handmaiden of perfection. The last time the Space Traveler was up for auction was in 2012 (also at Sotheby’s) and at that time, the final price including buyer’s premium was 1,150,000, or about $1,525,682 at the current exchange rate; that was just short of twice the high estimate.

The high estimate from Sotheby’s for the September 19 auction is 1.2 million1.8 million but of course a much better result is possible and would certainly be justifiable given the absolutely unique nature of the watch, and what it represents horologically. I won’t be bidding, alas, but if I were collecting at this level, I wouldn’t hesitate to de-acquisition pretty much everything else for the sake of having a shot at the Space Traveler.

The complete Sotheby’s listing is right here, along with (a lot) more info about the remarkable Space Traveler, or, Daniels Squared, pocket watch.

By | 2017-09-21T04:59:46+00:00 September 21st, 2017|Blog|0 Comments

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