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Daniels and Smith: The Boys From the Isle of Man

george daniels and roger smith

George Daniels is revered these days as the greatest horologist of the modern age. Some will dispute that, but no one argues the man was a giant in the field of watchmaking (did you know he was also a car nut?). Even though he only made 37 watches himself in his lifetime, his contributions are monumental.

In all, Daniels wrote 7 books on the subject. His techniques are used by countless watchmakers around the world. And of course, he invented the co-axial escapement which Omega then licensed and first produced in 1999, and is now using in most of their current calibres. (An interesting side fact is that Daniels modified a stainless steel Rolex Datejust with a prototype of the co-axial escapement and pitched it to Rolex. Rolex declined to buy the technology, making way for Omega. The prototypical Rolex sold as lot 21 in the November 6, 2012 sale of Daniels' works at Sotheby’s. The pre-auction estimate had been £5,000 – £7,000. It sold for £21,250.)

roger smith watches

Enter Roger Smith. His story is a legend many of us aspire to. Everybody knows it. Smith wanted to be a watchmaker, so he bought Daniel’s book, Watchmaking, and spent a couple of years making his first pocket watch. When it was finished, Smith took it to Daniels to proudly show what he’d done. Far from the result Smith was expecting, Daniels dissed the watch on the spot, saying it looked “handmade” rather than “created.” (yeah, we thought that was a good thing too. But...) Smith took the criticism to heart and went back to work. Five years later he approached Daniels again. Different response this time.

Daniels invited Smith to move to the Isle of Man to apprentice alongside the master. Who among us would refuse that kind of invitation?

roger smith open dial watch

All that took place in the 1990s. The two would work together, collaborating for another decade-plus. They teamed up on a 50-piece series of wristwatches between 1998 and 2001. The series celebrated Daniels’ and Omega’s commercialization of the co-axial escapement.

george daniels roger smith workshop

Alas, in 2011, Dr. George Daniels CBE passed from this Earth, taking with him much of his horological knowledge. But not all… Roger Smith remains on the Isle of Man, where he and his small team of Roger W. Smith Studio horologists (they are not just mere watchmakers, after all) make a dozen or so watches a year in the Daniels tradition.

george daniels watch co-axial escapement

 

-Ed Estlow

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