THURSDAY 01 AUGUST 2019
Today the Science Museum announced an intricate British-made watch, the Space Traveller II, has gone on public display for the first time in a museum.
Handmade by watchmaker George Daniels in 1982, the Space Traveller II was named in honour of the Moon landings. It became the most expensive British-made watch ever sold in 2017, selling for £3.2 million in an auction, and has now been loaned by a private donor for display in the Clockmakers’ Museum at the Science Museum.
The Space Traveller II can be seen in an exhibit about George Daniels, the famous British watchmaker who helped revive independent watchmaking in the late twentieth century. The watch is a new addition to the Clockmakers’ Museum, which displays the world’s oldest clock and watch collection, assembled by the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers. Daniels was Master of the Company in 1980 and heavily involved with the Museum’s collection.
Daniels made two similar watches (known as Space Traveller I and II). The first was sold soon after its completion, while the second watch was used by Daniels until his death in 2011.
The Space Traveller II is an 18ct gold-cased watch with a silver engine-turned dial. Fitted with Daniels’ independent double-wheel escapement, the watch can display both mean solar and sidereal (star) time. The watch also shows the phase of the moon, an annular calendar, the equation of time and features an ingenious chronograph (stopwatch) which functions with either solar or sidereal time via the flick of a lever.
Sir Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group said: ‘It is fitting that this stunning and intricate watch, which Daniels named in honour the 1969 Moon landing, is now on display for our visitors as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of humanity’s achievements in space.’
Anna Rolls, Curator of the Clockmakers’ Museum said: ‘It is a real privilege for the Clockmakers Museum to be able to display this iconic watch to the public. It is incredible to think that Daniels made almost every part of it by hand, whilst accomplishing such technical and aesthetic achievements in its design.’
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.
A note on astronomical timekeeping
Our system of timekeeping is governed by the Sun, with a day marking the time taken for the Earth to make one rotation on its axis. However, when comparing the time on a watch with the time recorded by a sundial, the difference could be as much as 16 minutes at various times in the year.
This shortening or lengthening of the apparent solar day (the time measured by a sundial) is caused by two factors: Earth’s elliptical orbit and Earth’s axis not being perpendicular to the plane of its orbit. Creating a mechanical timekeeper which can follow these changing daylengths is complicated, so they are averaged over a year to give mean solar time (the time measured by a watch). The difference between mean solar time and apparent solar time is known as the equation of time.
The Space Traveller II displays both mean solar and sidereal time, a timekeeping system based on Earth’s rate of rotation and used by astronomers to locate celestial objects. Sidereal time is 3 mins 56s faster per day than mean solar time. Viewed from the same location, a star seen at one position in the sky will be seen at the same position on another night at the same sidereal time.
About the Science Museum
As the home of human ingenuity, the Science Museum Group’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Welcoming over 3 million visitors a year, the museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, inspiring visitors with iconic objects, award-winning exhibitions and incredible stories of scientific achievement. More information can be found at sciencemuseum.org.uk.
About the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers
The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers was founded by a Royal Charter of King Charles I in 1631. In 1814 the Court of the Company established the Clockmakers’ Collection, which is now the oldest collection of clocks and watches in the world. The Collection contains more than 1000 English and European watches, 80 clocks and 25 marine timekeepers, together with a number of rare horological portraits. The majority of items in the Collection date from between c.1600 and c.1850, but also includes the best of modern British work.