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The future for watchmaking


The elegance of the pocket watch
George Daniels Master watchmaker
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We were talking about the elegance of watches and I think there's no doubt that the pocket watch is much more elegant than the wristwatch for the simple reason that there's less clutter.  The components, for example, of a chronograph wristwatch are very close together and the watch looks very cluttered with spikes protruding all the way round it, whereas in a pocket watch, which is much larger, that doesn't happen. And then the pocket watch offers a greater pleasure in its feel. Breguet described some of his watches as savonettes. A savonette is a piece of soap, and many of these watches do resemble a piece of soap. They're round, they're gently tapering at the edges and very smooth to hold and you can caress them with your fingers. They're nice to feel. Just as some people carry stones sometimes in their pockets. They find a stone they like and it's got a comforting shape and pocket watches can offer that pleasure and the weight and the proportion are very important in the feel of the watch, it's nice to feel the watch. That doesn't really happen in wristwatches, as I said, they're too small and too many bits poking out of them. The lugs, the strap lugs and so forth. So the pocket watch has the advantage in elegance. Unfortunately it's... while it's very nice to wear a pocket watch in a waistcoat, not many people wear waistcoats now. I'm bound to say that I don't think very highly of anyone who walks down Bond Street without wearing a waistcoat, and those who do of course have the pleasure of their watch to amuse them. They can be wonderfully amusing things on occasion and many is the time I've sat at ponderous wordy meetings, totally boring and calculated only to assist the progress of the speaker, and I pull my watch out and examine the works. It's a great comfort and helps pass a boring time. Again, you can't do that with a wristwatch, it's too small.

There was an occasion in Guildhall in London where the Lord Mayor was due to appear to show he'd duly been elected at 12 o'clock and at five past 12 I felt he ought to be reminded of this and I had a Tompion repeater in my pocket and I pulled it out and pressed the plunger and it struck 12 healthy ringing blows right throughout the whole of Guildhall and it was a most interesting talking point. Everyone enjoyed it, and you see that's something which... pleasure which only horologists can have because harness makers and knitting needle manufacturers and carriage makers and the like don't make that kind of noise. They just have to wait till the Lord Mayor is ready to speak to them, but we horologists can command him to appear. He has to come; it's too embarrassing not to come.

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: Bond Street, Guildhall, Lord Mayor of London, Tompion repeater, Thomas Tompion, Abraham-Louis Breguet

Duration: 3 minutes, 38 seconds

Date story recorded: May 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008