Industry News Watches

The Most Expensive British Wristwatch Ever Sold at Auction

George Daniels x R. W. Smith Millennium

At the Sotheby’s Important Watches Auction in Geneva on November 5th a new world record was set for the most expensive British wristwatch ever sold at auction. It’s the double-signed George Daniels x R. W. Smith Millennium, which sold for a staggering CHF 2,177,500 (approx. £2,000,000). It’s worth noting that there have been some George Daniels pocket watches that have reached higher prices – one this summer reached 5 million – but today we’re looking strictly at wristwatches.

George Daniels and Roger W Smith are two titans of the British watch industry (check out our conversation with Smith all about The Daniels Method here) crafting some of the most spectacular timepieces that this humble horological island has ever produced. They are the ultimate example of a master and apprentice working together to produce genuine masterpieces. This Millennium holds a special place within the pantheon of their work as it was the only timepiece that the pair ever double-signed. It’s also the first wristwatch to ever bear the R. W. Smith signature before the eponymous brand was even created.

By his own account on Instagram, Smith found its sale quite an emotional thing due to its connection to George and the fact it broke the record for most expensive R. W. Smith ever sold. In breaking that record it also becomes the most expensive British watch ever sold as well, slotting into the top 100 most expensive auction watches with only Rolex, Patek Phillipe, Philippe Dufour, Audemars Piguet, F. P. Journe, and Urwerk having wristwatches sell for higher hammer prices (not accounting for inflation). The official top 100 most expensive auction watches changes constantly, especially with revelations such as £3 million Omega Ref. 2915-1 being a fake, so the Millennium slots in at roughly the 70-75th most expensive at time of writing.

George Daniels x R. W. Smith Millennium
George Daniels x R. W. Smith Millennium

What about the wristwatch itself? It’s a 37mm diameter piece with a white gold case and sapphire exhibition caseback that reveals the automatic, gilt brass co-axial movement. The dial is a gorgeous engine turned guilloché piece in a Clous de Paris style and brushed chapter rings. In terms of complications, it’s a classy suite of hours, minutes seconds and pointer date all featuring blued hands. It was produced in 2001 as the final piece in the Millennium series.

Rolex Full Spec Military Submariner Reference 5517
Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Quantième Perpetuel Reference 25554BA

The signed George Daniels x R. W. Smith Millennium wasn’t the only watch to do very well at the Sotheby’s Geneva auction. A second George Daniels, the Anniversary Number 01, fetched CHF 736,600, a Rolex ‘Full Spec’ Military Submariner Ref. 5517 reached CHF 482,600 and an extremely early Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Ref. 25554BA went for 330,200 CHF. An impressive auction to be sure, made all the more impressive by the amazing performance of Britain’s premier watchmakers.

More details at Sotheby’s.

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About the author

Michael Sonsino

As Digital Editor for Oracle Time, Michael needs an eye for detail, which makes it a good thing that his twin joys in life are miniatures and watches. He's a lifelong fan of fine timepieces, especially those of a more historic nature - if it has a twist of Art Deco, all the better. Recent purchase: Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-Interpretation. Grail watch: Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921.