Roger Smith’s Career-defining, Handmade Pocket Watch Number Two Will Come Under the Hammer in New York

The English watchmaker’s masterpiece will be sold publicly for the first time at The New York Watch Auction: EIGHT
Roger Smith’s Career-defining, Handmade Pocket Watch Number Two Will Come Under the Hammer in New York
April 13, 2023
Roger Smith’s Career-defining, Handmade Pocket Watch Number Two Will Come Under the Hammer in New York

Phillips in Association with Bacs and Russo has announced the first public sale of Roger Smith’s Pocket Watch Number Two. The masterpiece will go under the hammer at The New York Watch Auction: EIGHT, located at 432 Park Avenue, on June 10 and 11. 

Roger Smith’s Pocket Watch Number Two is a significant timepiece in history, symbolising a landmark achievement in the industry. In fact, it is regarded as the cornerstone of the English watchmaking Renaissance in the twenty-first century. 

Roger Smith Pocket Watch Number Two

In the history of watchmaking, there has never been any other singular watch that has completely defined the life of such a renowned watchmaker. Smith was only 22 years old when he presented George Daniels, one of the greatest watchmakers of the twentieth century, with his first handmade pocket watch, hoping to secure an apprenticeship. 

However, Daniels recommended that he try again as the piece looked “handmade”, and not “created”. Undeterred, Smith spent the next five years perfecting his second pocket watch, featuring a perpetual calendar and tourbillon with spring-detent escapement. When he presented the watch he “created” to Daniels, the master watchmaker declared, “You are now a watchmaker.” Smith was accepted as his only apprentice. Without this watch and Daniels’s acceptance of it, the brand of Roger Smith would not have existed. 

Roger Smith pictured with George Daniels, 2000s, Credit Roger Smith

The watch in question is estimated to be worth in excess of US$ 1 million. A global tour of London, Singapore, Los Angeles, Geneva and Hong Kong will precede the auction. In an official statement, Paul Boutros, Phillips’s Head of Watches, Americas, said, “Roger Smith’s Pocket Watch Number Two epitomises a ‘make or break’ moment for both Smith himself and subsequently for all of contemporary English watchmaking.” He added, “It is, without any doubt, one of the most important and impressive timepieces made by any contemporary independent watchmaker or brand, and consequently, one of the most important watches in the world.” 

From 1992 to 1997, Smith devoted himself to improving on this second pocket watch, adding a perpetual calendar that made it even more “complicated" than the first watch he made. The second version comprised components, hand-created from raw materials. Inching closer to completion, he realised that the newer components were superior to the older ones and decided to remake all of them. Finally, after remaking the watch five times, his efforts culminated in the stunning pocket watch that the world can see today. The timepiece is housed in an impressive, handmade 18 ct gold case, measuring 66.5 mm in diameter. 

Roger Smith in his Workshop on the Isle of Man, 1990s, Credit: Roger Smith

In his career, spanning more than six decades, as a watch and clock maker, Daniels had only one apprentice: Roger Smith. Shortly after approving Pocket Watch Number Two, Daniels called Smith to assist him in completing a series of watches to celebrate his co-axial escapement, adopted by Omega for the Millennium series. In 2001, the Millennium series was completed and Smith decided to strike out on his own and created his own wristwatch. In 2011, after Daniels’s death, Roger Smith inherited his Isle of Man workshop as well as all current and future Daniels wristwatch and pocket watch servicing needs. Over the past two decades, Smith has been more than just an heir to this throne; he has advanced contemporary British watchmaking. Smith was invited to be part of the GREAT Britain campaign in 2012, illustrating the grandeur and innovation of contemporary British watchmaking. 

A close up of the dial of the Pocket Watch Number Two

Smith’s execution of the dial of Pocket Watch Number 2 clearly sought to experiment with every possible skill set described in Daniels’s book, Watchmaking, revolving around dials and engine-turned cases. The watch is equipped with four different types of engine-turning: barleycorn for the outer portion of the main dial; basket weave for the seconds dial displaying the moon phase; clous de Paris within the calendar dials; and a wave-and-trough pattern that delineates the hours and minutes sectors. The hour and second rings are straight-grained, engraved and filled with ink. A small cartouche below the moon phase displays ‘R.W. Smith’ and discretely at 12 o’clock, ‘No. 2’ is engraved. 

The most exceptional components of the movement are visible.

Beneath the quintessentially Breguet dial lies the exquisite double-barrel spring detent escapement and tourbillon carriage. The movement is created from a single brass plate with a type of distinctly English finish, called frosting, and then immersed in an acid bath and gilded. Instead of being curved, the finishing on the edges is straight. When the watch is opened to view the movement, only the most exceptional components are visible. The winding mechanism remains hidden. 

Roger Smith has made only three pocket watches in total. His Pocket Watch Number One, deemed insufficient by George Daniels, was disassembled — only the movement remains at the workshop in the Isle of Man. Pocket Watch Number Three was made as a private commission and remains in private hands. Pocket Watch Number Two stayed in Smith’s possession till 2004, when it was sold to fund the launch of his eponymous brand. 

The watch has never surfaced publicly until now and it is being offered by an important collector. It made its public debut on April 13, during the London Exhibition of The New York Watch Auction: EIGHT’s international highlights tour, with a special panel discussion featuring Roger Smith. 

Image Credits: Phillips