The documentary traces the extraordinary horological work of Dr. George Daniels CBE and his protégé Roger W. Smith, and the fascinating relationship between two of the most renowned watchmakers of our time.
Dr. Daniels had a lifelong passion for the intricate details and inner workings of watches that led him to become one of the most revered innovators in the horological sphere. The Watchmaker’s Apprentice contains the last interview conducted with Dr. Daniels, just months before his death, and provides an unprecedented insight into his workshop, astounding collection of vintage cars and beautiful home.
Dr. Daniels painstakingly designed and constructed his horological creations by hand from start to finish, sometimes down to even making his own tools – a feat which requires multiple skills that no other watchmaker has mastered completely. He invented the coaxial escapement, the most important horological development for 250 years. His invention was adopted by Omega and helped revolutionize the performance of high-end watches.
During his lifetime Dr. Daniels sold his watches only to select clients and today, his timepieces sell for in excess of £1 million.
This exclusive evening at the Manx Museum will include the opportunity to see the ‘Space Travellers Watch’ one of Dr. George Daniels most famous creations.
Dr. Daniels was on a trip to Zurich where he met an important collector for dinner. The collector nudged him and said ‘what do you have in your pocket’, so he took out his watch, a gold Daniels pocket watch with independent double-wheel escapement. The collector said he had to have the watch and asked him to sell it to him. Dr. Daniels said it was not for sale but the collector persisted. Dr. Daniels thought this was an enormous compliment as he did not even ask the price, and so sold him the watch. Dr. Daniels immediately regretted selling this watch and therefore decided to make another which would be an improvement on the first both in terms of complication and accuracy. Having not fully exploited the first watch, the second watch would have separate calculations for each train, it was therefore possible to indicate both mean-solar and sidereal time. In the 18th century to check the accuracy of your watch you had to have a precision clock which was set by a star. This watch by means of having solar and sidereal time could make the calculation for you, the difference being 3.555 minutes per day.
To try and improve the calculation of the train which allowed for an error of 0.8 seconds per year Dr. Daniels contacted a friend at Cambridge University to ask if they knew of a mathematician interested in watches. He got a response almost immediately and extraordinarily enough the mathematicians name was Professor Daniels. The professor was able to calculate a better ratio of 0.28 seconds per day, which Dr. Daniels was very happy with.
Dr. Daniels used to say to people, ‘when you are on your package tour to Mars you need a watch like this, and when using the telephone for long distance calls you could switch the chronograph into sidereal time to cut your bills by 3.555 minutes per day’. Originally the watch had been referred to as the Daniels squared (2) because of the assistance he received from Professor Henry Daniels but Dr. Daniels did not think this was good enough so named it the ‘Space Travellers Watch’ in honour of the American landing on the moon which was the greatest space exploratory journey of the century.
The title subject of The Watchmaker’s Apprentice, Roger Smith, was the only man Dr. George Daniels considered worthy of shadowing him and continuing his life’s work. As an eager young student, Roger W.as inspired by Dr. Daniels’ visit to his watchmaking school in Manchester, so much so that he later boldly walked into Dr. Daniels’ Isle of Man workshop with his own handmade watch. Daniels, unimpressed, sent him home with his rejected timepiece. Five years later, Roger returned to present him a new watch. This time Daniels was satisfied, and so began the relationship of master and pupil, one built on mutual respect and friendship, made more interesting because of their entirely disparate personalities.
This special evening at the Manx Museum will include a screening of The Watchmaker’s Apprentice, the opportunity to meet Roger W. Smith and see the ‘Space Travellers Watch’ one of George Daniels most famous creations.
Admission to this exclusive event is by ticket or VIP invitation only. Tickets cost £20, available now from the Manx Museum and manxheritageshop.com. The evening commences at 6pm until 9pm in the National Art Gallery at the Manx Museum. Canapes and refreshments will be served.
Manx National Heritage extends special thanks to the private collector, Roger W Smith and all those who have made this evening possible.
Image Caption (left to right): British Watchmaker the late Dr. George Daniels CBE and his protégé Roger W Smith.