His contributions to watchmaking will never be forgottenMaster watchmaker Dr. George Daniels died
The master watchmaker Dr. George Daniels CBE died on Friday 21 October 2011 at his home on the Isle of Man. Dr. Daniels had worked in his profession for more than sixty years and in the course of his life was presented with more honours than any other horologist.
George Daniels was a past Master of the Clockmaker’s Company in London and past President of the Horological Institute. He was awarded the Tompion Gold Medal of the Clockmaker’s Company, the Gold Medal of the British Horological Institute, the Gold Medal of the City of London Guild and the Kullberg Medal of the Stockholm Watchmakers’ Guild. In 2010, he was made a CBE by Queen Elizabeth II for his contributions to watchmaking.
Dr. Daniels will always be remembered for his invention of the Co-Axial escapement. He was confident that the Co-Axial escapement would change mechanical watchmaking forever. In an interview in 2009 he said that he thought it unlikely that there would ever be another breakthrough as dramatic as his invention. He said, “Different materials may be used in the construction of certain parts of the movements but these won’t affect a watch’s fundamental performance in the way the Co-Axial escapement does.”
Finding a partner who could industrialize the escapement proved challenging. He presented it to the world's leading watch companies but only Nicolas Hayek, the late Chairman of the Swatch Group, saw the potential of the invention and in the early nineties acquired the technology and engaged Daniels to work with OMEGA's technicians.
OMEGA produced its first movement fitted with a Co-Axial escapement in 1999 and introduced its proprietary Co-Axial calibre built around the escapement in 2007. Today, with very few exceptions, all of OMEGA's mechanical watches are equipped with Co-Axial movements.
When George Daniels was asked if he thought that in time, the Co-Axial would be the most widely used escapement in the construction of new mechanical watches, he said, “The watch industry is by nature very conservative and slow to adopt new things. But basically, every maker who continues with other escapements will ultimately be trampled by the Co-Axial for the very simple reason that it’s better. OMEGA have been able to show that the Co-Axial escapement can be serially produced on a large scale so while it will take some doing to convince the mechanical watch industry, it’s just a matter of time.”
Daniels’ legacy includes not only the Co-Axial escapement but a number of popular books about watchmaking and some remarkable timepieces. He was one of the only watchmakers in the world who could create every part – including the screws – by hand.
George Daniels was asked in 2009 if he was surprised by the renewed popularity of the mechanical watches. His answer was characteristically clear, “Not at all,” he said. I have often said that I’ve never been in doubt that the mechanical watch would survive. My mantra has long been that the survival of the mechanical watch is ensured by its qualities: it is historic, technical, intellectual, aesthetic, useful and even amusing. These properties have sustained the popularity of mechanical watches through the ages and are bound to carry it well into the future. One of the real benefits of the Co-Axial escapement: it will play a major role of extending the popularity of mechanical watches into the 21st century and beyond.”
When George Daniels was asked if he was pleased with OMEGA’s series production of the Co-Axial escapement, he said, “When OMEGA made the commitment to produce the Co-Axial escapement at a series production level I was very pleased. They were brave enough to take on this revolutionary technology in the face of a lot of criticism and scepticism from the rest of the industry. At the time, there was no praise for OMEGA and there was certainly none for me.”
He added, “We collaborated for several years on the specification of the components to define the forms of the special tools needed for production. Working with others was a new experience for me and I very much enjoyed the relationship that developed between OMEGA, its technicians and me.
The end product is most satisfying to see working and it is of course a thrill for an inventor to see his aspirations fulfilled so perfectly.”
Dr. George Daniels was one of the most important figures in the history of horology and OMEGA was privileged to work closely with him on industrializing the Co-Axial escapement he was so rightfully proud of. He will be missed by the entire industry and his contributions to watchmaking will never be forgotten.