How did I miss that the Chronometre Souverain FP Journe gifted to George Daniels sold at auction last year?
'FP to George Daniels My Mentor, 2010'
In an article this week over on Hodinkee, Logan Baker wrote about the FP Journe Chronometre Souverain as an “entry-level” into the independent watchmaker. The article was nice, but one footnote sent me down a rabbit hole. Here’s the quote:
“[The Chronomtre Souverain] is widely considered to be the simplest and arguably the most direct interpretation of what F.P. Journe holds dear as a watchmaker; so much so that Journe gifted his mentor, the legendary watchmaker George Daniels, with a platinum example in 2010.”
Wait, what? George Daniels’ personal FP Journe, gifted by Journe himself? I vaguely recall having come across this watch before — it was part of the massive auction of George Daniels’ estate in 2012 after the watchmaker died the year prior. Back then, it sold for GBP 44,450. A tidy sum, but — let’s be honest — among the important Daniels pocket watches, wristwatches, and everything else in that auction, it was hardly the headliner of that sale. And back in 2012, Journe wasn’t Journe.
Well, if that Chronometre Souverain flew under the radar back then, the same thing happened last year.
But first: What’s so special about this Chronometre Souverain? Well, like Logan wrote, the time-only watch feels like the purest expression of Journe as a watchmaker. It won the GPHG prize for best men’s watch when it was released back in 2005, and even FP Journe has referred to the model as his favorite. So it makes sense he’d craft a platinum Chronometre Souverain for his mentor. Journe presented it to Daniels in 2010, shortly before Daniels passed.
On the balance bridge, the movement is inscribed FP to George Daniels my Mentor 2010. It was also accompanied by a heartfelt letter in which Journe expressed his gratitude to Daniels for showing how to make watches of artistic rather than utilitarian merit. He writes that upon seeing a Daniels watch, “without knowing it my path in life was determined and I decided in 1997 to make a watch for myself. Thanks to your books such as The Art of Breguet and Watchmaking, I learned patiently on my workbench how to make my first watch.”
Well, in 2021 the Daniels Chronometre Souverain appeared on the auction block again in Christie’s Exceptional Season of Watches sale. But among a sale of complicated Rolexes and Pateks, the Daniels-gifted Chronometre Souverain feels like it slipped through the cracks. It sold for HKD 3.25m (~$416k), towards the bottom half of its HKD 2-6m estimate. But not much was written about it at the time. Hell, I missed it. So here I am, months later, highlighting a beautiful, important piece of horological history.
Sure, the Chronometre Souverain is beautiful for what it is: a pure expression of timekeeping by a modern master of his craft. But this one is also beautiful for what it represents: a teacher passing the torch to his pupil, and the student recognizing he wouldn’t be where he is if not for that mentorship. And modern watchmaking wouldn’t be where it is today without that mentorship either.
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