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Becoming an agent for Breguet Paris in London


The Clockmakers' Company and an historic document
George Daniels Master watchmaker
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The Clockmakers' Company is a livery company and I think livery companies are exclusive to the British Isles. Some countries, notably France and Germany, did have guilds which were much the same thing. And the Clockmakers' Livery Company had a huge collection of very important antique clocks, watches and so forth, and especially some of the best pieces of the greatest makers, who on the whole were English. All the great makers were English, and the scientific makers were English. So I was very happy to be able to get my hands on these pieces and learnt a tremendous amount from them and lived a very tranquil existence. I was surprised lately to be shown a bill for some work I did in 1960. A man had just bought a chronometer from a friend and he said, 'Just a moment I've got an important document that goes with this machine, I'm going to get it for you'. And so he disappeared into his strong room and came out with this sheet of paper, which said, 'To restoring marine chronometer at £2 an hour, George Daniels'.

So I wasn't charging very much money, but of course it was early days and money was worth a lot more then. But there it is, that invoice is known as an historic document now. It gives away what I was up to at the time.

George Daniels, CBE, DSc, FBHI, FSA (19 August 1926 - 21 October 2011) was an English watchmaker most famous for creating the co-axial escapement. Daniels was one of the few modern watchmakers who could create a complete watch by hand, including the case and dial. He was a former Master of the Clockmakers' Company of London and had been awarded their Gold Medal, a rare honour, as well as the Gold Medal of the British Horological Institute, the Gold Medal of the City of London and the Kullberg Medal of the Stockholm Watchmakers’ Guild.

Listeners: Roger Smith

Roger Smith was born in 1970 in Bolton, Lancashire. He began training as a watchmaker at the age of 16 at the Manchester School of Horology and in 1989 won the British Horological Institute Bronze Medal. His first hand made watch, made between 1991 and 1998, was inspired by George Daniels' book "Watchmaking" and was created while Smith was working as a self-employed watch repairer and maker. His second was made after he had shown Dr Daniels the first, and in 1998 Daniels invited him to work with him on the creation of the 'Millennium Watches', a series of hand made wrist watches using the Daniels co-axial escapement produced by Omega. Roger Smith now lives and works on the Isle of Man, and is considered the finest watchmaker of his generation.

Tags: The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, livery companies, guilds

Duration: 1 minute, 43 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008