Winston Churchill’s Pocket Watch Is Headed to Auction

On their face, political junkies and horologists don’t have much in common. But a watch coming to auction later this month might change that.

A pocket watch gifted to Winston Churchill in 1905 may fetch more than $37,000 when it goes under the hammer at Dawsons Auctioneers in the UK on May 23. The timepiece was given to Britain’s most famous prime minister by Herbert Henry Asquith, who would go on the become the country’s first Liberal prime minister. It was a token of appreciation for Churchill, then a Conservative, having crossed the aisle to back the Liberals.

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A close-up of the watch's face
A close-up of the watch’s face

“There are certain moments in life when you feel truly connected to history and having the opportunity to delve deep into Sir Winston Churchill’s past, both politically and personally has been a privilege,” Edward Langmead, a watch specialist at Dawsons, said in a statement. “To hold a Minute repeating pocket watch with the Armorial bearings of Sir Winston Churchill, believed to be a gift from another former Prime Minister, H. H Asquith in 1905, is nothing short of surreal.”

The timepiece is known as a “full hunter” pocket watch, whose name comes from fox hunters who found it useful to be able to open their watch with one hand while holding the reins of their horse (or hunter) with the other hand. Sometimes these cases with hinged covers are called “Hunter Cases,” even on modern wrist watches. The front of the 18 carat gold case cover is engraved with Churchill’s coat of arms, while the inside features the inscription “To Winston with gratitude H. H. Asquith Xmas 1905.” Other specs include a keyless wound movement, a minute-repeater complication, a white enamel dial, and gold central spade and whip hands with a blued seconds hand spinning in the sub-dial at 6 o’clock.

The engraved message to Churchill
The engraved message to Churchill

Estimated to hammer for anywhere from £20,000 to £30,000 ($24,992 to $37,488 at current conversion rates), the pocket watch was originally bought by Asquith from the well-known watchmaker Sir John Bennett. While it was then given to Churchill, it eventually came to be owned by the Cole family: Nancy Henderson Cole, the Countess of Enniskillen, gifted it to her husband, David Cole, the Earl of Enniskillen, on his 65th birthday. It’s since been passed down through the Cole family to its current owner, who has decided to bring the timepiece to auction.

With a backstory nodding to Churchill’s important political contributions, the pocket watch is a rare opportunity to own a little piece of that British history.

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