This week, the world of horology lost one of the shining lights of our ancient profession. George Daniels died at his home on the Isle of Man in England on October 21. Dr. Daniels defied the contemporary logic of the late 1960’s by diving into the practice of building watches, every piece of his own design and construction, by hand, in his own workshop. The rest of the world was in a mad dash to embrace the quartz watch revolution, fascinated by the idea of precision timekeeping on the wrist for mere dollars and cents. Most everyone assumed the age of mechanical watches had come to an end.
George Daniels was inspired by the work of arguably the greatest watchmaker in history, Abraham Louis Breguet, who lived and worked in Paris in the late 1700’s. Breguet was a pioneer in the development of metallurgical and mechanical technology to enhance the accuracy of watches. Like Dr. Daniels two hundred years later, he gained the attention of Royalty, both earning the coveted distinction of being horologist to the Crown. George Daniels had the rare opportunity to examine some of Breguet’s watches while doing repair work for London clock and watch dealers.
Doctor Daniels built on the groundbreaking work of Breguet, mastering the manufacture of extreme complications in his watches. He soon gained the attention of connoisseurs and collectors worldwide. He built and assembled all of his watches by hand in his atelier on one of the Channel Islands. He published a number of scholarly treatises in the field of horology, one of which, “Watchmaking” has become a classic, original editions fetching high sums. Most importantly, George Daniels inspired dozens of similar artisan/craftsmen who, in his footsteps, are producing one of a kind, hand built watches for an appreciative clientele. His legacy is assured as his watches will undoubtedly be studied and treasured for generations to come, and as his successors continue to push the envelope of precision mechanical timekeeping.