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Why I started the George Daniels Educational Trust


My honorary livery dinner as master
George Daniels Master watchmaker
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The master always had a dinner, the big dinner of the year. It's usually a very important occasion, full of pomp and ceremony, and for my livery dinner I had the Lord Mayor and his Lady Mayoress, Lord Denning and Lady Denning, and Lord Beecham, whether or not Lord Beecham was married I don't know, I can't remember. But the evening was going very well and we were all having a wonderful time because these are very lavish sorts of dinners, and of course that was 20 years ago. So it was a very lavish dinner in those days. And during the course of the evening the Lord Mayor makes a speech, in which he compliments the Clockmakers' Company, and he described how Tompion had written a letter to his case maker saying he wanted a case made, a particular style from pollarded oak and all the fittings to go on it, and the case was duly made and he went from some other aspect of his speech, and these speeches are always designed to pay a compliment you see. To mention the subject... [unclear], And so then it came to Lord Denning's turn. Now my wife had sat next to Lord Denning through the evening and she had got a Daniels watch in her hand and she carefully explained to Lord Denning that this watch was no ordinary watch, it was completely handmade by her husband who had done everything. He had done engine turning and the dial and the hands and the screws and springs and everything. And Julie knew how to describe watches. I mean she'd been seeing me make them all those years, and so Denning was very interested in all this and he came to making his speech and he had a wonderful country brogue, which he would put on on special occasions. And he stood up and said, 'Your master, is better than Tompion. He doesn't send down the road for a case, he makes it himself'. So, the liverymen all cheered. I shouldn't give those fake accents you know.

So that was a great evening for me and the next day I got a letter from Lord Denning in which he thanked me for his dinner and he wanted to give a present to a QC friend who was retiring and could I get him a carriage clock trade price, which I could without any trouble. So, that was a quid pro quo. It's funny, life is a quid pro quo, it's always six of one and half a dozen of the other.

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, Lord Denning, Jeremy Hugh Beecham, Lord Beecham, Thomas Tompion, Alfred Thompson 'Tom' Denning

Duration: 3 minutes, 1 second

Date story recorded: May 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008