The man considered by many to be the greatest watchmaker of the modern era has died. Dr. George Daniels passed away peacefully at his home in Ramsey, Isle of Man, on Friday. He was 85. During his 60-year career, Daniels created many new inventions, the most famous of which is the co-axial escapement adopted by Omega. Daniels was appointed an MBE in 1981 and CBE in 2010 for his services to horology. His book, titled simply Watchmaking, is a standard reference in the field.
In an 2010 interview with the BBC, Daniels said “In my career I wanted to make English watches the most superior, which they always were, and we have achieved that here on the Isle of Man.”
Daniels created his watches from scratch, starting with blocks of metal stock. Unlike most watchmakers who work with teams of apprentices, Daniels worked on his own – an undertaking that involved mastering more than 30 separate skills. The watches could require more than 2500 hours to complete, or more than one year working full-time.
In an interview with WatchTime‘s Mark Bernardo conducted last year, Daniels proved that he could still challenge the establishment. For example, asked whether he believed new materials like silicon bring something to watchmaking, Daniels replied: “I don’t believe they’re necessary, no. There is no evidence that they are. Clocks and watches have been made of brass and steel for a thousand years, and they’re still running perfectly. We don’t need these things. I don’t accept these materials as being the least bit useful in haute horologie.” Daniels also told Bernardo “Tourbillons in wristwatches aren’t very useful for anything, really. [The accuracy is] all dependent on the hairspring and the escapement.”
Daniels received the Gold Medal from the British Horological Institute and he inspired generations of young watchmakers, including fellow Isle of Man resident Roger Smith. In July, 2010, famed watchmaker F.P. Journe hosted a dinner in Daniels’ honor.
Daniels also had a great interest in old cars. He told the BBC: “Old motor cars are every bit as interesting as old watches. My two passions in life are watches and old sports cars – I can see great merit in both. Each is full of mathematics, physics, and judgement, calculations which all add to the challenge and ultimately the enjoyment.”