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Each Daniels watch is different


The business of selling watches
George Daniels Master watchmaker
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It would take something like 2000 hours to make such a watch, and so of course one could only make one each year because there are other things that need attending to. If one runs a business there are all the administrative problems to deal with, and the Inland Revenue and VAT all had to be dealt with. And interesting that when I built the first watch, we didn't have VAT, we had purchase tax and it was quite a lot of money. I can't remember exactly, but I think it was about 25% or something on the cost of the thing. And so on the advice of Queenman [sic], the jeweller in London, I got my solicitor, who was an expert on tax, and I explained to him that I didn't really want to charge my customers this... what did I call it... the tax... purchase tax. I didn't want to charge them purchase tax and what could he do about it? Well, we went along to see the purchase tax people and we had a long discussion there and we were asked to come back again the following week and we went back and they looked at the watch and they agreed with me that I didn't make these watches as a business, I made them because it amused me to do so, and if there was a customer, I was perfectly entitled to sell it. And so, delighted with this ruling, I didn't have to charge my customers the purchase tax.

All that changed when we got round to VAT and then everything had to be charged VAT, but those lucky early customers, although they were not only early on that score, they were doubly lucky because I think they paid on the average about £5000 for their watches and they're selling now at £150,000, £200,000, £300,000. So, they were good investments from their point of view.

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: VAT, value added tax, purchase tax, Inland Revenue

Duration: 2 minutes, 19 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008