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Escape from the bedding factory


Doing battle with a gramophone spring
George Daniels Master watchmaker
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The other thing one found in empty houses was gramophone motors. This was an age when the electric gramophone was coming in and you'd get electric pick-ups and amplifiers and that sort of thing, and it was a great age for do-it-yourself radio mechanics, electricians, radio frame builders. And I decided one day that I would pluck up enough courage to take the spring out of the barrel of the gramophone motor so that I could examine it more closely. And I don't know why I thought I could examine it more closely. I suspect it was just traces of destructive interference that all boys have you see. I just wanted to find out what was in it. And I got this spring out and it was enormous. It was about six feet long and two inches wide and very powerful and I didn't know how I was going to get it back, but I thought, it's got to go back. And so I hooked in the outer edge, which seemed the sensible thing to do, and then I began to wind in these coils, and after I'd got half a dozen coils in the barrel, I realised that I was running out of strength and I wasn't going to be able to hold this spring any longer, and if it took command of the situation, it could probably wreck the drawing room you see. So I had to pluck up all my courage and strength and grab this spring and switch my mind off to everything but getting that spring back in that barrel. And eventually to my enormous relief I got it in, but I would never take one out again after that.

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.

Duration: 1 minute, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008