Auction Results

Churchill gift pocket watch more than doubles estimate at auction


Pocket watch given by Henry Asquith to Winston Churchill.
Image courtesy of Dawsons.

A pocket watch given to Winston Churchill by fellow Prime Minister Herbert Asquith has sold for well over double its estimate at auction.

The 1905 18-carat gold pocket watch realised £76,000 at a sale in Maidenhead yesterday, May 23, after listing with a £20,000 to £30,000 estimate. 

The watch commemorates one of the most famous moments of Churchill’s career when he “crossed the floor” by leaving the Conservative Party to join the Liberal Party on May 31, 1904. 

Herbert Henry Asquith, then an opposition Liberal Party MP, gave Churchill the watch the following Christmas. It is inscribed: “To Winston with gratitude H. H. Asquith Xmas 1905.” 

This highly personal message between two political titans adds huge value to this watch.

Asquith was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in a minority Liberal government from December 1905. The party won a landslide election victory in 1906 and Asquith served as Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916. 

Churchill was first elected to parliament in 1900, aged just 25, as a Conservative MP for Oldham (a two-member constituency). 

Churchill was a free trade enthusiast and fell out with his party over their protectionist policies. 

After quitting the Conservatives he ran and won as a Liberal in the 1906 General Election in Manchester North West. 

The watch was sold by Dawsons at auction in Maidenhead. 

Their watch specialist Edward Langmead told the BBC: “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.

“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.”

Herbert Henry Asquith was to be Prime Minister just three years after he gave the watch.

The watch was made by Sir John Bennett, a London watchmaker, and is a minute repeating, full hunter pocket watch. A yellow metal case of 18 carat gold encloses a white enamel dial with a seconds sundial. 

It is engraved on the front with the then current Churchill coat of arms (Churchill was awarded the order of the Garter in 1953) and inscribed with Asquith’s message on the back. 

The watch was sold with good provenance. It was given as a gift to the Earl of Enniskillen by his wife in 1983. A note from Nancy, Dowager Countess of Enniskillen confirmed the Churchill connection when she passed it on to another family member. 

Winston Churchill is easily the most collectible British political figure and among the most collectible Britons of all time. 

Even a smoked cigar, if it can be categorically linked to Churchill, can realise hundreds or even thousands of pounds at auction. One made £1,700 in 2017.

Significant letters or signed books can make 10s of thousands. Earlier this year a signed copy of his novel, 1900’s Savrola, was listed for sale at $47,500. His paintings have sold for over $1 million 15 times.

Asquith does not have that sort of profile, but is still a collectible historical figure. A short signed note of good quality recently made $200. 

Linking the two Prime Ministers, and one of the most important moments of Churchill’s life, through this extraordinary gift makes this a once-in-a-lifetime buy that is likely to provide a good return even on this high price.  

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