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The watches of Winston Churchill

Last updated on May 29, 2024

This post was inspired by the recent news that one of Winston Churchill’s prized timepieces will be available for sale by Dawsons Auctioneers on the 23rd of May 2024. This is just one of a number of significant watches that Churchill owned during his lifetime. Strictly speaking, not all of these watches are “antique”. As Conservative Prime Minister of Britain twice, between 1940 and 1945 and then again between 1951 and 1955, Churchill was one of the most prominent figures of the twentieth century. Although Churchill is best remembered for his wartime leadership, Churchill was also a Nobel Prize winning writer, historian and painter. His collection of watches is befitting of one of the 20th century’s most influential leaders. In this post, we look at some of the watches of Winston Churchill.

Repeating full hunter pocket watch, 1905.

The antique pocket watch to be auctioned at Dawsons is a Sir John Bennett minute repeating full hunter pocket watch dating from 1905. The watch was given as a gift to Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), by Herbert Henry Asquith (British Prime Minister 1908 – 1914) in 1905. The watch is engraved, “To Winston with gratitude H. H. Asquith Xmas 1905”. The gift was believed to acknowledge Sir Winston’s “bold move” in 1904 when he famously crossed the floor to the Liberal party, due to a disagreement with the Conservative leadership over its stance on tariff reform. Churchill formally rejoined the Conservative Party in 1924 upon becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Repeating full hunter pocket watch, 1905. © Dawsons Auctioneers.

The watch was made by renowned watchmaker Sir John Bennett, clockmaker to the Greenwich Observatory, and is of exceptional craftsmanship. In addition to the personal inscription, the 18-carat gold case cover features an engraving of Churchill’s coat of arms, without the honour of the order of the Garter which was not bestowed to Churchill until 1953. Additional specifications include a keyless wound movement, a minute-repeater complication, a white enamel dial, and gold central spade and whip hands with a blued second’s hand spinning in the background. A button on the side of the watch activates the minute repeater complication which chimes the hours, quarters and minutes.


The watch appears to be in good working order, although no long-term tests have been conducted and accuracy cannot be guaranteed. A full service is advised on all watches and pocket watches once purchased. The watch chimes accurately but the minute repeater has not been tested fully. The watch case has surface scratches & wear consistent with age. There are some deeper scratches on the front and inside the case. The glass crystal lens is intact. The enamel dial is free from major cracks. The case back and front close correctly and tightly. The condition report may not mention mechanical replacements or imperfections to the movement, case, dial, pendulum, separate base(s) or dome. Additionally, the authenticity or originality of individual components, such as wheels, hands, crowns, crystals or screws cannot be authenticated.

The watch will go under the hammer at the Dawsons auction house, in Maidenhead, Berkshire, with an estimate of £20,000-£30,000 on 23 May 2024.

*** Auction result ***

The watch was auctioned by Dawsons on the 23rd May 2024, lot 234, which reached a sale price of £76,000, well above the estimate.

The Victory Watch

A group of prominent Swiss citizens gave Winston Churchill the yellow gold Victory Watch in 1946 in acknowledgement of his strength and leadership during World War II. It is one of four individual Victory Watches created for the Allied Leaders after the Second World War, the other recipients were Charles de Gaulle, Joseph Stalin, and Henry Truman.

The Victory Watch.
The Victory Watch.

The Victory Watch was designed by the leading watchmaker Louis Cottier, in partnership with the manufacturer Agassiz and Co. Cottier, invented the intricate “Heure Universelle” (World Time) complication, the same complication that was used in this watch. As a result, this vintage piece is an important and rare example of Cottier’s work. Cottier also made the same complication for other highly regarded manufacturers such as Patek Philippe, Rolex and Vacheron Constantin.

The 46 mm watch features a distinctive enamel dial showing St. George slaying the dragon, with a trident as the hour hand. On the perimeter of the enamel dial are the names of 44 cities, and a black and white 24-hour chapter ring with a day and night indication. The city of London, marking home time, is placed at 12 o’clock and distinguished from the other cities by its gilt colouring. ‘V’ for Victory is proudly engraved on the back of the case together with a personalised dedication: “1939 – Prime Minister Winston Spencer Churchill – 1945”.

Victory Watch case back.
Victory Watch case back.

The Victory Watch sold at auction at Sotheby’s on the 22nd of September 2015 for £438,000, which was eight times the low estimated price.

Rolex Datejust

The Rolex Datejust was launched in 1945, to commemorate the company’s 40th Anniversary.  It was the first automatic waterproof chronometer wristwatch with a window displaying the date at 3 o’clock on the dial. The date automatically changed at midnight.

Rose gold Rolex Datejust.
Rose gold Rolex Datejust.

Because of Churchill’s role in leading the Allied Forces to victory during World War II, Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, gave Churchill the 100,000th Rolex Chronometer. The watch given to Churchill was a Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust in 18k rose gold with a fluted bezel, white dial and jubilee bracelet. The 100,000 Rolex Chronometer was produced in 1947. There was correspondence between Wilsdorf and Churchill in late 1947. Winston Churchill gladly accepted the kind gift of the Rolex and in his letter of acceptance, Churchill specified his wrist size and asked that his coat of arms be engraved on the back of the Rolex Datejust in rose gold. Churchill received his engraved Rolex Datejust in 1948.

Lemania chronograph

Churchill received another Swiss made watch in appreciation of his leadership during the Second World War. This was an 18k yellow gold Lemania chronograph, which was a gift from the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland. Lemania was a respected Swiss watchmaker, founded in 1884, in L’Orient, Switzerland (Vaud). In 1932, Lemania merged with Omega and Tissot to form the SSIH group. Lemania was well known for its quality movements and produced the Calibre 321 used in the Omega Speedmaster.

Lemania chronograph.
Lemania chronograph.

In 1946, Churchill had been staying in Switzerland at the Villa de Choisi in the Canton of Vaud. During an official visit to the city of Lausanne, Churchill was greeted by an adoring populace who gifted him with the Lemania watch. It is inscribed “Le canton de Vaud A son hote illustre Mr. Winston Churchill aout-september 1946”. Translated it says, “From the Canton of Vaud to its famous guest Mr. Winston Churchill August-September 1946”. Note, that this predates the Rolex Datejust by over a year. Churchill kept the watch for the remainder of his life.

The Lemania watch was auctioned at Sotheby’s on the 25th of April 2017. The watch wasn’t perfect. As well as the normal patina you would expect for a watch of its age, it had a replacement pusher button. Based on the photographs, it is an obvious replacement which detracts from the originality of the piece. However, that didn’t get in the way of the sale. The pre-auction estimate was between £15,000 and £25,000, and it sold at auction for an impressive £162,500.

The “Turnip”

Possibly, the most well-known of Churchill’s watches is the timepiece that was affectionately known as the “Turnip”. No one truly knows where the nickname comes from, but it is widely assumed that the name refers to the size and shape of the watch. To be specific, the “Turnip” is a yellow-gold minute repeater with a split-seconds chronograph, and a white enamel dial, which was made by the Maison Breguet in the late 19th century. Despite, its inauspicious nickname, the watch was clearly a favourite of Churchill’s. It remained a faithful and reliable timepiece throughout his life and he was rarely seen without it.

The minute repeater complication allowed the watch to chime the hours, quarters and minutes. The split-seconds chronograph allows time recordings for two events that have the same beginning but which do not stop at the same time. The aim of this function is to be able to calculate two different time fractions having the same origin. There are references to Churchill using the minute repeater complication. However, there is no online evidence that he used the split-seconds chronograph frequently.

The "Turnip".
The “Turnip”.

This iconic pocket watch, also known as no. 765, was commissioned in 1890 by John Spencer-Churchill, the 7th Duke of Marlborough and bestowed eventually to his grandson, the influential Sir Winston Churchill, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The Breguet no 765 is still owned by the Churchill family. It is on permanent display at the Imperial War Museum in London, exhibited in the Churchill War Rooms.

Churchill wore the watch attached to a heavy gold Albert chain. The chain held a number of fobs. There was a small round gold case for holding gold Sovereigns, a V for Victory emblem, a silver head of Napoleon (of whom he was a great admirer) and a garnet-stone set in a gold heart (the gift from his wife Clementine on their wedding day in September 1908). On his 90th birthday, Clementine gave him another gold heart, which was just eight weeks before he passed away.

One Comment

  1. Pete Pete

    Churchill was one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. I didn’t realise he had such an impressive collection of watches.

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