George Daniels was one of the few in the world who could construct a watch entirely by hand. That means no computer programs or CNC machines. Just old-fashioned tools to cut plates, make balance wheels and springs and even dials and hands. Amazing.
Daniels may have temporally left us but his legacy lives on for the inspiration he provides novice and experts alike. Roger Smith learned at the knee of the master. After impressing Daniels with a handmade pocket watch, a young and eager Smith was invited by Daniels to move to his home on the Isle of Man to make the hundred limited edition Millenium wristwatches for Omega that bore Daniels’s name. Smith still resides there making watches entirely by hand like his mentor taught him.
Daniels was first and foremost obsessed with accuracy. He refused to believe that the introduction of quartz would kill off the mechanical watch. In fact, he dedicated his life to demonstrating a mechanical watch could compete quartz. One of his most important contributions to horology is the co-axial escapement, a mechanism that improved accuracy through its remarkable design. For over 125 years the Swiss Lever commanded the stage as the most reliable escapement for a watch but its weakness was the necessity for lubrication.
The co-axial escapement dispenses with lubrication by separating out the locking function from the impulse through the use of 3 pallets instead of the two in the Swiss Lever system. The co-axial design takes advantage of radial friction instead of sliding friction at the pallets, which reduces friction and increases accuracy over a period of time by using a push to advance the escape wheel rather than a slide.
It’s hard to believe this genius breakthrough was turned down by all the brands until Omega wisely licensed the co-axial escapement for use in their watches. Slowly but surely the brand is incorporating this amazing invention into their whole lineup, including the Ladymatic, which also shows that they are taking advantage of the untapped women’s market to make serous watches.Cartier is also devoting time to women’s complicated pieces, such as the Promenade d’une Panthere, as is Van Cleef and Arpels with the Poetic Wish and Corum with the Mystery Moon.
Here we have a rare video of George Daniels from 1999 called “The Daniels Wristwatch” produced by the BBC for the Millenium. He speaks about his journey in horology and his philosophy. A young Roger Smith makes an appearance. It’s a must see. Really.