- George Daniels
- Daniels/Thomas Mercer: A mahogany two-day marine chronometer
- brass and mahogany
Sotheby’s London, The George Daniels Horological Collection, 6th November 2012, lot 1
Clerizo, M., George Daniels, A Master Watchmaker and His Art, 2013, pp. 50 & 51 & col. ills. pp. 4-5
Sotheby’s, George Daniels Retrospective Exhibition Catalogue, London, 2006, pp. 9-10
This piece would have been a challenging undertaking for the novice Daniels as he was working as a watch repairer by day and had only recently completed his horological studies at evening class. Moving from repairing-to-making is a huge leap and he would have had to refine many different skills in order to achieve his objective, which was to attain a chronometer rating and approval from Frank Mercer.
Interestingly, the piece is signed G.W.Daniels, and on spying the chronometer in his vault in 1998, I mentioned that I did not realise that he had a middle name. He replied that he did not but felt that William sounded better than just George!
This piece is a wonderful snapshot of an unsure George gaining a taste for making and perhaps the first sign of a man who could see no boundaries to what he could achieve.
[The above extract was written by Roger Smith]
As his first horological timepiece, this marine chronometer marks an important milestone in the career of George Daniels. Made shortly after completing his watch repair course at Northampton Polytechnic in 1952, this was a seminal period in Daniels’ life when his ambitions craved a challenge beyond his work as a watch repairer. At the time, he had considered the production of a marine chronometer as the "ultimate manufacturing exercise" [Daniels, All in Good Time, p.52].
It was following a lunch given by the British Horological Institute that George Daniels had the opportunity to meet Frank Mercer, head of the chronometer firm, Thomas Mercer of St Albans. Frank Mercer had a reputation for being irascible and strongly opinionated and Daniels knew that he risked being quickly sent on his way. To Mercer's amazement, Daniels insisted that he wanted to make a marine chronometer whereupon Mercer proceeded to question the young Daniels on the subject of chronometers. Impressed by his answers, Mercer invited Daniels to visit his St Albans' factory. It was here that Mercer agreed to sell Daniels the two-day marine ébauche with plates, bridges, wheels and gears - but, crucially, without the escapement, case, dial or hands - that form the present timepiece. Such a project would have been a daunting task for any novice since the work required the production of the detent – a skilled operation even for a highly experienced horologist. The detent is not only delicate and fragile but the extreme accuracy of its construction is critical to ensure the success of the chronometer's timekeeping; a process made all the more fraught by the hardening and tempering process which can easily damage, distort or break it. Daniels carried out the work on a table in his rooms, his fireplace a makeshift forge. In order to make the traditional mahogany casing, Daniels salvaged wood from a Victorian sideboard. Daniels took the chronometer to show Mercer upon its completion, later recollecting Mercer’s astonishment at his achievement, Daniels said: "He never thought I would do it but I knew I would." [Clerizo, George Daniels, p. 51]
Interestingly the dial is uniquely signed G. W. Daniels because George, at that time, liked to add the middle name William, even though it was not one of his given names.