Dr. George Daniels CBE (1926 – 2011) is considered by many to be the greatest watchmaker since Abraham Louis Breguet. Through his endeavours to save the mechanical watch industry, which was being overwhelmed by the introduction of the quartz movement, he inspired a new generation of independent watchmakers. Having been born into a large family and experiencing a difficult home life, Dr. Daniels was to discover a whole new world when he opened the back of a watch he found when he was just five years old. His single minded enthusiasm for horology took him from a life of extreme poverty to great wealth and international acclaim.
Dr. Daniels produced only 25 unique mechanical watches in his life time, having laboriously mastered the individual skills necessary to make almost every component by hand. Not only are his watches admired for their amazing craftsmanship but also for their additional complications, the most famous being the Space Travellers’ Watch which includes mean-solar and sidereal time as well as equation of time and chronograph. This iconic watch was sold by Sotheby’s in the sale of the George Daniels Horological Collection on 6th November 2012 for a world record auction price of £1,329,250. The entire proceeds of that important auction part funded the George Daniels Educational Trust, set up on his death to provide post graduate training for watchmakers, engineers and medics.
His ambition to revolutionise the watch industry led to his invention of the Co-Axial escapement. The Co-Axial, which overcame the problem of the accuracy of a watch being compromised by the deterioration of its lubricant, is the first noteworthy advance in escapement technology since Thomas Mudge’s lever escapement of 1754.
Dr. Daniels made his first watch in 1969 for his friend and mentor Cecil Clutton. It was with Cecil Clutton’s encouragement and guidance that he embarked on his career as a specialist watchmaker. Each watch typically involved 2,500 hours of work and he was very particular about his customers. Daniels himself stated; ‘I never made watches for people I didn’t care for’.
The present watch, which was called a ‘pocket chronometer’ by George Daniels, was the first to include the Slim Co-Axial escapement. With its single barrel, fixed Daniels escapement and a mechanism whereby the seconds hand moves in complete seconds, it is of the simplest and most elegant design. It is also one of the few to employ the stunning combination of gold chapter rings with engine-turned silvered dials.
Andrew Cristford, Introduction to The George Daniels Retrospective Exhibition, Sotheby’s, p.17-18.
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