George Daniels World's Best Horologist
November 18, 2011 6:17 AM   Subscribe

"When you make something as small and complex as a watch, you can't do a little and put it down and come back the next day and do a bit more. You work until you are exhausted, then pack it in for the night and start again the next day, always working to maximum capacity, or the watch wouldn't get done."

George Daniel opened his first watch when he was five years old. He improved his acquaintance during his army service when he made extra cash repairing watches for his fellow soldiers. After the war he took night classes in horology and worked on watch repair, becoming fascinated with the works of Breguet.

In 1970, he built his first pocket watch from scratch, mastering thirty four separate crafts to do so - an unheard of feat until then. He made thirty six more watches, each unique, each an improvement on its predecessor. He also made fifty wrist watches in conjunction with his apprentice Roger Smith.

Along the way, he invented the coaxial dual escapement, enabling gear watches to operate with a minimum of oil and putting it’s accuracy nearly on par with the battery powered quartz operations. It is considered the greatest innovation in watch gearing in 250 years and is now standard on Omega watches.

He discusses watches and other things in various videos from the ever interesting web of stories dot com.

George Daniels, MBE, OBE, died last month at age eighty eight.
posted by IndigoJones (16 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
posted by mrbill at 6:55 AM on November 18, 2011

Fascinating man; I wasn't expecting that last sentence.

posted by TedW at 6:56 AM on November 18, 2011

I could watch that video all day. Fascinating!
posted by jillithd at 7:08 AM on November 18, 2011

posted by milestogo at 7:09 AM on November 18, 2011

Great post! What a fascinating story.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:58 AM on November 18, 2011


unrelated but of possible use to the audience here, I looked for years for someone qualified to repair the chronograph from a crashed Messerschmidt 109 that my grandfather brought back from WWII, I finally found someone and will gladly pass on his details. Well worth the couple hundred for his services. Turns out good watchmakers are hard to come by.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:19 AM on November 18, 2011

Omega's promotional video about the Co-Axial Escapement is pretty great.
posted by Nelson at 8:21 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


posted by saveyoursanity at 8:31 AM on November 18, 2011

I'm convinced that things like the antikythera mechanism demonstrate that, at specific times in history, an intellect will come along which is capable to leaping ahead, vastly beyond the boundaries of what is known, and what people believe can be done, to accomplish things that are so alien as to be completely unappreciated by people living at the time.

And only centuries, or even millenia later can people begin to understand what was created, and what the implications might have been had it been understood.

And that watch? It fires every WANT neuron in my head.
posted by quin at 8:36 AM on November 18, 2011

Great post. Another interesting bit of mechanical watch technology is the escapement-free Seiko Spring Drive.
posted by exogenous at 8:43 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Great post, wonderful tribute. Thanks, IndigoJones.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:40 AM on November 18, 2011

I do a bit of watch restoration, by NO means am I a watchmaker. I have had a couple of the Omega coaxials apart... putting them back together taught me just how much I do not know about watches. I can't even imagine making those parts from scratch, nuch less designing that escapement in the first place!
And then there's the gyrotourbillon.
posted by drhydro at 10:43 AM on November 18, 2011

His book on watchmaking looks fantastic.
posted by reynaert at 12:15 PM on November 18, 2011

I love seeing anyone at the top of their craft immersed in what they do. Thanks so much for this story!

posted by DarlingBri at 5:20 AM on November 19, 2011

I just want to put "horologist" on my business card.
posted by Mcable at 6:16 AM on November 19, 2011

The first team who builds a nanomechanical clock should name it after him.
posted by XMLicious at 9:22 AM on November 19, 2011

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