Legendary watchmaker George Daniels’ Space Traveller II, widely considered to be the finest of the 24 timepieces that Daniels completed in his lifetime, has been put on display at London’s Science Museum. You’ll find it within the Company of Clockmakers collection thanks to a private loan to the museum. It’s notable for many reasons, not least of which is that when it sold at auction in 2017 for £3.2 million (approximately $4.2 million), it set a record for British-made watches that went unbroken until Daniels’ Space Traveller I went for £3.6 million (approximately $4.7 million) this July.
Daniels did not single-handedly save fine watchmaking as some of the more excitable collectors seem to believe, but he did provide both an intellectual framework and a fierce passion that inspired both collectors and watchmakers (F.P. Journe once gave him a watch simply engraved “to my master”). Space Traveller II illustrates the vision that Daniels brought to his watchmaking.
The inspiration for both Space Traveller watches was the 1969 Apollo Moon landing, which is why the dial shows both mean solar time (the time apparent from the Earth’s rotation in relation to the sun, which we read on clocks and sundials) and sidereal time (which corresponds to the Earth’s rotation around the sun). Space Traveller II was made or, at least, started by Daniels for his own use shortly after the first watch was sold in 1982 and was the watch he wore most up until his death in 2011. It features his ’compact chronograph’ mechanism as well as a clutch to switch between solar and sidereal modes.
The watch is part of an exhibit about George Daniels in the Clockmakers’ Museum collection (appropriately enough he was Master of the company in 1980 and a winner of its rarely awarded Gold Medal). It’s in good company too, as the museum collection includes some 600 watches, 30 clocks and 15 marine timekeepers, ranging from the 15th century to the present day, including Harrison’s H5.
The Space Traveller II will be on public display for a minimum of three years at the Clockmakers’ Museum, which is free to enter and located on the second floor of the Science Museum.