George Daniels (watchmaker)
George Daniels, CBE, DSc, FBHI, FSA (19 August 1926 – 21 October 2011) was considered by many the best horologist in the world during his lifetime  and was famous for creating the co-axial escapement. This has been used by Omega in their highest-grade watches since 1999. Daniels was one of the few modern watchmakers who could create a complete watch by hand, including the case and dial. To be able to make all of a watch, he had to learn to make watchcases and to engine turn, so that he could make the dials. Daniels hand-made 37 watches completely by himself and made a series of 50 wristwatches with Roger W. Smith, made starting with the Omega basic movement.
In 1944, Daniels entered the British Army; he already had an interest in watches and did some repairs for army friends. On leaving the army in 1947 with a gratuity of £50, which he spent on tools, he got a job as a watch repairer. Having studied horology at night classes, he became a Fellow of the British Horological Institute. After a few years, he had become known by some of the top watch dealers and collectors, including Sam Clutton who got him interested in the great French watchmaker Breguet. The work of Breguet interested Daniels so much that he concentrated on the repair and restoration of his watches for many years. By the 1960s, Daniels was the leading expert on Breguet and was often involved in advising on his work.
Daniels's watches have very clear and clean dials, usually with subsidiary dials interwoven with the main chapter ring. Daniels's first watch was sold to Sam Clutton for £2,000 in 1970, and it is understood[by whom?] that he bought it back from Clutton five years later for £8,000. It sold recently at an auction in the United States for $US285,000. He then built a watch more accurate than quartz, losing less than a second in a month.
After much experimenting, he patented a type of watch escapement called the co-axial escapement, which avoids the need to oil the escapement and has reduced friction to a very low level (since oil produces problems due to thickening). The co-axial escapement was subsequently put into production by Omega, and has been described as the most important horological development in the last 250 years.
Watchmaking, which Daniels wrote and was published in 1981, is considered one of the best books on making watches.
By the time of his death he is said to have "completed 24 of the most extraordinary and technically advanced watches ever made".
He was a Master of the Clockmakers' Company of London and was 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. Already a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE), Daniels was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours. Daniels was a member of Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants’. In 2007, Daniels was given an Award of Doctor of Science honoris causa by City University London.
Daniels was a collector of classic cars. His collection included:
- 1908 Itala 100 hp Grand Prix Car: won the 1908 French Grand Prix and 1910 Brooklands All-comers Plate (fastest lap at 101.8 mph)
- 1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback by H.J. Mulliner: ex-Frank Taylor of Taylor Woodrow Construction
- 1929 4½-litre Bentley Tourer by Vanden Plas: ex-Maharaja of Bhavnagar
- 1907 Daimler 45 hp Roi-de-Belges Tourer: built for the Earl of Craven
- 1929-32 Bentley 4½-Litre Supercharged Single-Seater: know as Bentley Blower No.1, developed and driven by Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin, it set the Brooklands Outer Circuit Lap Record at more than 137 mph in 1931
- 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 : Formerly Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin Le Mans Works car and owned by Italo Balbo
On 6 November 2012 some of Daniels' collection, including some pieces he made, was sold by Sotheby's in a 134-lot sale. The auction raised over £8 million for the George Daniels Educational Trust, which helps students seeking higher education in the fields of horology, engineering, medicine, building or construction. The most expensive item was his 'Space Traveller’s Watch' which sold for £1,329,250.
- Watches, Clutton, Cecil and George Daniels, B. T. Batsford, Ltd., London, 1965
- English and American Watches, George Daniels, 1966
- The Art of Breguet, George Daniels, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1974 ISBN 0-85667-004-9
- Clocks & Watches in the Collection of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, Clutton, Cecil and George Daniels, Sotheby Parke Bernet, London, 1975 ISBN 0-85667-019-7
- Watchmaking, George Daniels, Sotheby's, London, 1981 ISBN 0-85667-150-9 (2011 edition ISBN 0-85667-704-3)
- The Practical Watch Escapement, George Daniels Isle of Man, 1994
- All in good time: reflections of a watchmaker, George Daniels Isle of Man (UK), 2000
- Father time: Why George Daniels is the world’s best horologist
- Roger W. Smith
- All in good time : reflections of a watchmaker, George Daniels Isle of Man (UK), 2000.
- "George Daniels". The Economist. 26 November 2011. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
- "George Daniels". London: Telegraph. 24 October 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-30.
- Edwards, Mark (2 November 2012). "Dr George Daniels: 'Watchmaking god's' collection auctioned". BBC. Retrieved 2 November 2012.
- Omega site bio
- George Daniels
- The London Gazette: . 31 December 2009.
- Isle of Man watchmaker Dr George Daniels is awarded CBE
- "Watchmaker George Daniels's world-class classic car collection". PaulFraserCollectibles.com. Retrieved 2012-02-29.
- "STANDING ROOM ONLY AT SOTHEBY’S LONDON AS THE GEORGE DANIELS HOROLOGICAL COLLECTION TOTALS £8,285,139". Sotherby's. 6 November 2012.
- http://www.danielslondon.com/ George Daniels Official site.
- George Daniels tells his life story at Web of Stories
- The Art of Watchmaking - George Daniels
- http://www.omegawatches.com/index.php?id=332 Short biography and photograph
- BBC obituary
- George Daniels Biography by Michael Weare