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Keeping beautiful time - Horologist George Daniels

Late on a May morning in 2008, the Isle of Man endured a fierce downpour, leaving pools of water on the lawns of Riversdale, George Daniels's estate. By noon, the water shimmered like silk in the sunlight.

The 82-year-old Daniels savored the sight from his massive drawing room windows. I had asked a question about how he planned his first watch in 1968, one of 23 pocket watches and two wristwatches that mark him as the greatest practitioner of the art of watch making since its golden age ended in the early 19th century.

As he frequently did, Daniels thought for a few moments before answering. Just as frequently, his responses ignored the narrow focus of my questions and shifted the discussion to a broader context.

"It helped in my case that I didn't fully understand my circumstances, the difficulty of what I was trying to do," he said. "I think now that was my greatest talent. All my life I have never really fully comprehended my circumstances. Therefore I have never been beaten by the circumstances."

Daniels's circumstances were against him from the start. Born in England in 1926, to parents who were violent, neglectful and poor, Daniels was one of 11 children.

The family often moved. In one apartment, the 5-year-old Daniels found and opened a broken pocket watch. The movement mesmerized him. Days later, he removed the back from the family alarm clock. The effect was the same. His lifelong relationship with things mechanical had begun.

In the 1960s, he became the world's leading restorer of golden-age watches. . .

He went on to create his own watches and to invent the first successfully mass-produced escapement in more than 200 years.

Then he wrote Watchmaking, and changed the world of watchmakers.

You can read the whole piece in the Wall Street Journal.

Daniels died in October of last year. In his will he assigned Riversdale and all his car and watch and clock collections to the George Daniels Educational Trust, which will aid students of horology, engineering, medicine, and building construction.

To our great benefit, Brits truly loved mechanical things.


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