The Watchmaking Journey of Roger W. Smith

By A Collected Man

It’s hard to talk about independent watchmaking since the turn of the Millennium, without referencing Roger W. Smith. Based on the Isle of Man and the sole apprentice to the late, great, George Daniels, his body of work may be small in number, but it is substantial in its quality and impact.

We think the story of Roger Smith, has for a number of years, been irrevocably tied to that of Dr Daniels. Though the tale of their proximate relationship is known to many, some may not be as familiar with Smith’s path prior to joining Daniels’ workshop, or how he has evolved his craft and vision since first setting-out on his own. We’ve been lucky enough to know the watchmaker for a number of years now, having seen the appreciation for his work grow steadily over time. In many ways, he has become the contemporary flag bearer for the long tradition of English watchmaking, which spans back many hundreds of years.

 

Roger W. Smith series 4 wristwatch for A Collected Man London

Roger's first Series 4 watch in front of the workshop he set up in his parents’ spare room in Bolton.

 

To that end, we wanted to fill-out some of the missing elements of his story, covering them in as much detail as possible. To do so, it made sense to go back to Smith himself, to uncover topics he mentioned having not thought about in years. We also spoke to the very first watchmaker to join him, Andy Jones, who was in the year below Roger at the Manchester School of Horology. Finally, to understand Roger's connection with George from a different perspective, we also gathered insights from David Newman, one of Daniels’ closest friends and the Chairman of the George Daniels Education Trust.

Whilst there may be some small details that we miss out in this article, we hope that we are able to present a more complete picture of how "Smith of Bolton", as George sometimes called him, to one of the greatest independent watchmakers working today. 

The Manchester Years


 

Despite how it may now seem , Roger was not born a master of all thirty-two skills that make-up the Daniels Method. Far from it. He was born in Manchester, and at the age of six his family moved to Bolton, a large town in northern England, and, by his own admission, wasn’t the most academic of children. By the age of sixteen, it was clear to him and his family, that progressing further in his studies wasn’t to be his path.

 

Roger W. Smith watchmaker tourbillon wristwatch number 2 movement for A Collected Man London

The movement of Roger's second tourbillon wristwatch.

 

The story goes that after deconstructing and reassembling an old clock at home, Roger’s father pointed him towards the horology course that was being held just down the road in Manchester. For our readers who aren’t familiar with English geography, Bolton is only a half-hour drive from the centre of Manchester. Ideally located for him attend, all the young Roger had to do was pass the interview and he was in.

At the time, the course was run by the British Horological Institute (BHI) and was in fact shut down several years after Roger graduated. Entry wasn’t exactly competitive in 1986, yet Roger still made sure to do some research before the interview. Half of the available spots were filled by people who had gone through the Manpower Services system, a government scheme set up in the 1970s to get unemployed people back into the workforce. According to Roger, this meant that he was learning alongside people who had already lived through an almost full working life and who were now starting to retrain. This proved to be rather beneficial, as he shares, “I love to learn from people, and we were thrown in with all these adults.”

 

Roger W. Smith watchmaker and George Daniels in a Silver Ghost Bentley for A Collected Man London

Roger and Daniels in the Silver Ghost Rolls Royce. 

 

The majority of this course was focused on clockmaking and repairing, with a small portion dedicated to watch repair. Luckily, this meant that most of the machines that his cohort were let loose on, were fairly familiar to Roger from his metal working classes at school. “We were pretty much making stuff from day one,” he told us. “I was amazed that we were just allowed to use these machines and hand tools, though with a bit of training, of course. We were being treated like adults.” A novel experience for a sixteen-year-old who had been told he was no good at school. As he has said many times before, “that first day at Manchester was the best day of education I had ever received.”

Many of you may have heard the story of how Roger was first introduced to George Daniels. Daniels had been invited to give a talk to the students at the Manchester School of Horology, with an inquisitive Roger asking him what watch he had with him that day. In response, he pulled the second Space Traveller out from his pocket. Astonished by this intricate and complex piece, which Daniels had made entirely by hand, it has often been said that this was the spark that began Smith’s quest to make watches entirely from scratch. While this is a great story on the surface, it doesn’t quite present the whole picture.

 

The first Daniels Space Traveller.

 

Speaking with Roger about his time in Manchester, he told us one of his teachers was called Bernard Adamson. Adamson would come to the college once a week on Fridays to teach wristwatch repair and would become a big influence on Roger’s career direction. While he wasn’t teaching, he ran a repair business, “charging good money for his work,” as Roger describes it. As part of this business, he did trade repairs for the Mappin & Webb branch in Manchester, where Roger got a Saturday job on the sales team while at college. So, if you bought a watch from Mappin & Webb in Manchester in the late 1980s, it could have been a young Roger Smith that helped you in the process.

Eventually, this led to Roger being offered, through Adamson, the opportunity to fix carriage clocks that had been given to the shop for repair. According to Andy Jones, the current Production Manager at Roger W. Smith Watches, Adamson would scout the best from the course at Manchester to come and work with him at TAG Heuer where he worked one day a week. After doing some servicing for Mappin & Webb, Adamson brought Roger over to the brand, where he started to do some part time work in the final year of his three-year course. He would go on to be a full-time member of staff after graduation. Andy would also go on to work at TAG Heuer and would in fact stay for just over a year before completing the refresher course at WOSTEP in Switzerland. 

 

Roger W. Smith watchmaker Series 1 wristwatch movement for A Collected Man London

Close up with the movement of Roger's Series 1.

It was while Roger was working at TAG Heuer that he wrote to Daniels for the first time asking to be his apprentice. Given a rather abrupt no and told to do it himself, Roger decided he needed to make his own watch. Servicing was no longer enough for him.

 

From a spare room at home


 

While Roger was still at college, he was being given clocks to repair by friends, family and eventually further afield, “pretty much from day one,” according to him. However, once he graduated, he lost the use of the college workshop and needed somewhere to carry on his freelance work. Luckily, his father gave him a corner of the garage and with help from a friend at TAG Heuer to wire it, Roger turned this small corner of Bolton into his first workshop. It was here that he would begin work on his very first handmade timepiece. He ordered a lathe, which took a couple of months to arrive, but once it was installed there was no stopping him.

 

“I love to learn from people, and we were thrown in with all these adults…”

 

As you can imagine, this wasn’t an ideal set up to try and craft something that was going to be scrutinised by the critical eye of George Daniels. In fact, while he was working out of this workshop cum garage, it was broken into. Luckily, the young Roger had the presence of mind to take anything he was working on, or any precious materials, out every night, but it still stands out as a vivid reminder of how imperfect the situation was.

Building a pocket watch from scratch is a significant task. Even for a well-trained watchmaker with a fully functioning workshop, it can take a long time. For a twenty-year-old Roger Smith, it was starting to take up more of his time than he could give it. Simultaneously trying to hold down a job at TAG Heuer and learn all the thirty-two skills necessary to make a timepiece, it became increasingly clear, that something had to give. The desire to become a true watchmaker, not just someone who services watches, had grown great enough now that he was ready to dedicate himself to it fully. At first, he tried to only work part time at TAG Heuer, so that he could give more attention to his tourbillon pocket watch. However, the established watch brand wouldn’t have that, and so Roger had no choice but to hand in his notice.

 

A young Roger making his first pocket watch in the workshop he’s made in his parent’s garage.

 

Was it worth quitting his job for? Well, if you had asked George Daniels straight after seeing the first pocket watch Roger made, he might have said no. Roger can remember George being “quite cheesed off” after he saw it, sending him straight back to the mainland, tail between his legs, to try again. This time Roger was determined to not only improve the watch but grow his skills, and the most obvious way to do that was to make a more complicated watch.

There is a plethora of complications that he could have chosen from. Since his first watch already contained a working tourbillon, the next logical progression, to Roger, was to make a watch with both a tourbillion and a perpetual calendar. It can take years of study and intense tutelage at some of the most established watchmaking schools to even be given the opportunity to construct a perpetual calendar. Roger was determined to start from scratch again, hand build every component, finish it and put it all together to a standard that Daniels would be impressed by. 

While the first watch may have taken just over a year to complete, this next one was bound to take even longer. In the end, it took him the best part of five years from start to finish, learning completely new skills and relearning others, to a much higher level. To facilitate this step-up in production quality, Roger was allowed to move his workshop inside the house. Now that he was able to take over an unused room, his work was a bit more secure and a lot more comfortable. 

 

Roger W. Smith second pocket watch with perpetual calendar for A Collected Man Lodnon

 

Roger’s second watch that he presented to Daniels.

 

 

Five years is a long time to work on one thing. With one project stretching-out over half a decade, it’s easy to imagine losing focus or motivation after a certain point, dogged determination giving way to exhaustion. Not with Roger Smith. “It was all I could think about. There was never a moment of thinking I wasn’t going to finish the second watch.” For a man in his early 20s to show this sort of single-mindedness proves that he was perhaps always going to reach the level he’s at today. Roger was completely enveloped by this world, learning as much as he could from Daniels’ book and doing his best to perfect every component in his watch, so it no longer looked “handmade”, as Daniels had put it, but rather “created”. 

 

Roger W. Smith pocket watch no. 2 movement with tourbillon and gold plates for A Collected Man London

The movement that Roger crafted to go into his second pocket watch.

 

While this sort of effort would seem superhuman under any normal circumstances, Roger actually caught glandular fever at the age of 21, becoming very ill. Not only were the effects of this condition felt while making his second watch, but for 15 years after first contracting it. This meant that Roger was often exhausted for much of this period, although, he admits, this probably had something to do with the amount of work he was doing at the time as well.

The years passed, with only a few instances where Roger had to call Daniels to check something over the phone, which he was very happy to help with despite his previous annoyance at Roger’s work. Eventually, the watch was ready to take to the island. He describes this as one of the more nervous moments in his life, which was wonderfully recreated in the film The Watchmakers Apprentice.

 

Roger W. Smith watchmaker in the workshop on the Isle of Man for A Collected Man London

Roger working inside George's workshop on the Isle of Man. 

 

The story goes that Roger handed Daniels the watch, which he turned over in his hands, studying it closely. He asked Roger, “who made the case for you?”, to which Roger replied, “well, I did”. He then studied the front of the watch, looked up and said, “where did you get the dial made?” Roger responded, “I made the dial.” George then opened the back of the watch, took a look and said, “who made the tourbillon carriage for you?” To which Roger came back again with “I did.” “That’s a very nice escape wheel, where did you get that from?” “Well, I made it George.” With that final response he closed the back of the watch, stood up and said, “congratulations, you’re a watchmaker.”

 

Roger W. Smith watchmaker number 3 pocket watch dial with up down indicator for A Collected Man London
Roger W. Smith watchmaker number 3 pocket watch movement for A Collected Man London

The third pocket watch Roger ever made that was also his first commission.

 

He’d done it. It had only taken seven years of his life, but he had done what only  very few watchmakers ever manage in their professional careers, and all from a spare room in Bolton.

 

The Daniels Influence


 

Shortly after returning home from the Isle of Man, Roger got his first commission to make a pocket watch for a paying customer. It was a client of the vintage pocket and wristwatch dealer, David Penney, who took a chance on the young watchmaker. However, Roger was only able to complete about a third of the watch, before he got a call from Daniels, offering him an apprenticeship. Plans had been set for the Daniels Millennium wristwatch to be made in a short run, with the original idea only to make about ten pieces, over the course of a year. Roger arrived on the island with the idea of staying for about a year to complete these ten pieces, but the orders kept flooding in, leading to the Millennium project taking far longer.

 

“It was all I could think about. There was never a moment of thinking I wasn’t going to finish the second watch…”

 

Roger packed an old Ford Sierra Sapphire full to the brim with all his possessions, including the lathe he had used to make the first two pocket watches, and dutifully set-off for the Isle of Man. Whilst we’ve never sat behind the wheel of a Ford Sierra Sapphire, especially not one so full you can't see out of the back window, Roger said that the handling was so light that it turned what should have been a relatively smooth drive, into a white knuckle, hair-raising experience. If that wasn’t enough, the sea-crossing was one of the roughest he can remember, so rough in fact that you could hear cars in the hold crashing into one another. Luckily his little Ford survived, and he made it to his new home in one piece.

 

Daniels Millennium wristwatch made by Roger Smith for A Collected Man London

A Millennium, the watch Roger came over to the island to help build. 

 

Once there, Roger was put straight to work. Daniels was initially very hands-on, but once he was happy with the level and quality of Roger’s work, it quickly became the collaborative effort that he had hoped for. Although it may sound like the two watchmakers shared a very natural and symbiotic relationship, it wasn’t entirely smooth sailing. According to David Newman, Roger was a keen hockey player. He tells us that Daniels felt that he couldn’t have the progress of his new Millennium watches potentially jeopardised by an injury to Roger’s hands. While Daniels disapproved of the activity and warned Roger of the dangers, he continued to play. With time, Roger traded-in his hockey stick for a mountain bike, on which he can be found speeding around the island at least once a week. 

 

Roger W. Smith watchmaker playing hockey for A Collected Man London

Roger in action on the hockey field.

 

The time had come for some extremely long hours. Roger had to ensure that he could complete all of the Millennium pieces, while also working on his first commission pocket watch. Smith will freely admit it was a hard slog to get everything done, describing working on the Millennium series as “a great finishing school.”

At one point, the young watchmaker had completed a batch of dials and while Daniels was reviewing them, he simply put a big red cross through the ones that weren’t up to his expectations. By all accounts, the standards that Daniels set were high, but he wasn’t interested in being a normal watchmaker, and neither was Roger.

 

Daniels Millennium wristwatch mid-construction on the Isle of Man for A Collected Man London

One of the many Millennium pieces that Roger was brought over to the island to help produce, mid-construction.

 

While working together, Roger and George would go to the pub for lunch once a week. The whole time Roger would be firing questions at him about everything from his life, to specific areas of watchmaking, and everything in between. “Roger was really like a sponge back then,” Newman tells us, absorbing everything he could from Daniels. Having spent seven years prior in near isolation, you can imagine the list of questions that a young watchmaker had for the man he had been in admiration of, since his late teens. “I think we both got what we wanted from the relationship,” explains Roger. “I got to learn all I could from the man, and he got a young pair of skilled hands to help finish the work he had started.”

 

Roger W. Smith watchmaker at a lathe in the workshop on the isle of man for A Collected Man London

Roger at a lathe in Daniel's workshop sporting a Millennium. Courtesy of Tim Bales.

 

“It says a lot about their relationship,” shares Newman, “that Daniels left the entirety of his workshop to Roger.” We are certain there are many others out there who would have loved the opportunity to work with George, but in the end, there was only ever Roger. It was in the last year of the Millennium project, around early 2001, that the young apprentice realised that he couldn’t work on projects with Daniels forever. “I wanted to do something on my own again,” Roger tells us. The question was, what?

 

Daniels Millennium in white gold made by Roger W. Smith for A Collected Man London
Daniels Millennium in white gold made by Roger W. Smith for A Collected Man London

 A Millennium in white gold. 

 

First steps into independence


 

We’re now in the late-90s and the world of collectable wristwatches is really starting to take off. Although the English pocket watch collecting scene had held strong for decades, it was beginning to be eclipsed by the wrist-worn variety, and Roger had taken notice. Despite having made three pocket watches by this point, he realised that there was a growing demand for wristwatches, to which he could apply the same exacting standards often only found in the pocket. If he was going have a proper go at true independent watchmaking, and be profitable, he would have to concentrate on these.

 

“I think we both got what we wanted from the relationship. I got to learn all I could from the man, and he got a young pair of skilled hands to help finish the work he had started…”

 

“Working with George had taken away the fear factor of working on a wristwatch,” he tells us. Moving from the scale of a pocket watch down to wrist size, was no mean feat, but having the safety net of Daniels and his designs helped Roger acclimatise himself to this new, miniature scale. Going from tolerances of 100-200th of a millimetre in a pocket watch, to 3,000-4,000th of a millimetre in a wristwatch, is not an easy jump to make. Roger didn’t think he had the knowledge or skill to design a wristwatch from the ground up at this point.

Some of you may be familiar with the first watch that Roger released, the rectangular Series 1. He revealed to us that the inspiration behind this first watch came from the newly relaunched brand, A. Lange & Söhne. Amongst their initial line up-of four watches, was the rectangular ‘Arkade’ model. Perhaps not the most famous of their early releases, it made an impact on Roger, nevertheless. “This was a rectangular watch that had a rectangular movement that fit perfectly inside it.” Not the most common thing in the world, even back then, this struck the young watchmaker, making him wonder why more people weren’t making more watches like this. Most square and rectangular watches just had, and continue to have, a round movement inside them. Putting a round peg in a square hole isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing way to do things.

 

A. Lange & Söhne Arkade watch movement seen through a sapphire case back for A Collected Man London

The perfectly fitting movement of an A. Lange & Söhne Arkade that inspired Roger.

 

While Roger knew he couldn’t design a watch from start to finish, his ideas of how a watch should look were still very clear. Heavily influenced by Daniels, ensuring that the watch looked crafted and not handmade, Roger set out on the hunt for square movements that would fit perfectly inside his angular design. Luckily, he found a batch of vintage square movements that suited his initial plan of producing eleven or twelve models, although he only ended-up making nine. As is to be expected, these movements were not used wholesale. However, Roger extracted the barrels, gear trains, escapements and winding mechanisms and then machined his own plates along with the cases, dials, hands and an added retrograde calendar complication.

 

Roger W. Smith Square Series 1 wristwatch on the wrist for A Collected Man London
Roger W. Smith watchmaker Square Series 1 movement seen through sapphire case back for A Collected Man London

One of the very first wristwatches to bear the name R. W. Smith.

 

While this may sound like a rather straight path to launching his own piece, it was not. There were plenty of false starts and wrong turns, but eventually Roger and his work began to be noticed. So much so in fact, that Theo Fennell, a London-based jewellery designer, collaborated with him on his very first watches. Of the nine rectangular Series 1s that were made, three of them were part of the “ONELY” series with Fennell, which featured the Fennell logo at 12 and had his name engraved on the main plate. This gave Roger a connection with a then leading jeweller and an insight into how relationships can be built off the island.

 

Roger W. Smith watchmaker technical drawing of square series 1 wristwatch for A Collected Man London
Roger W. Smith watchmaker technical drawing of gear train for square series 1 for A Collected Man London
Roger's drawings that helped him map out his first wristwatch.

 

Building in isolation


 

For Roger, the early 2000s was characterised by many, long, hard hours. He had set himself up on the Isle of Man with a small workshop at his house, where he would work on his own projects, as well as tackle the jobs that Daniels had in store for him. In a way, Roger was experiencing what it was like to be the head of a start-up, in charge of everything and having the responsibility fall squarely on his shoulders. “I remember getting up at seven in the morning, working, having a quick lunch, working, having a quick bite to eat for dinner and then being back in the workshop until 10, or 10:30 at night”. At this point, Roger was single, living in a small house with his workshop in the upstairs bedroom. This routine went on “week after week, month after month.”

 

Roger W. Smith Square Series 1 Theo Fennell special edition pieces drawing for A Collected Man London

The designs for the three Theo Fennell Series 1 pieces that Roger made.

 

A big turning point came in the autumn of 2003, when Roger reached out to his old college friend and ex-colleague at the TAG Heuer service centre, Andy Jones. At first, Andy wasn’t very receptive to the idea of coming over to the island and jumping into the heavily involved projects that Roger was working on. “I had a wife and kids. I told Roger he needed a young single lad who could do all the hours he needed,” Andy told us. However, he managed to persuade his old classmate to come and join him - the offer of creating something completely new and different proving too strong a pull for him.

This wasn’t the first time that Andy had an involvement in Roger’s work. The two of them had kept in touch after parting ways at TAG Heuer. Andy even sent Roger a timing machine while Roger was working on the rectangular Series 1, as well as offering him the odd bit of advice here and there.

 

Daniels Blue Tourbillon wristwatch made by Roger Smith for A Collected Man London
Daniels Blue Tourbillon wristwatch made by Roger Smith for A Collected Man London

One of the commissions from Daniels that Roger and Andy were working on, the Daniels Blue.

 

Suddenly, Roger had gone from being the only apprentice of George Daniels CBE, to an employer and independent watchmaker without any connection or link to the Swiss industry. Andy was thrown-in at the deep end, with about five or six of the square Series 1s left to be made, as well as the two Daniels tourbillons, known as The Blue and The White, to finish. Luckily, what Roger describes as a workshop/garage was completed just in time for Andy’s arrival. The long hours continued, but now Roger had someone to share the workload with. One thing that was seriously slowing them down was the lack of a computer numerical control machine, or CNC for short. Andy told us he remembers having to use acetate to cut-out components and then make the fine adjustments needed, after the rough cut had been made; a highly labour-intensive method and one that he doesn’t recommend anyone else try.

 

Daniels Anniversary watch movement made by Roger Smith for A Collected Man London

The movement of the Daniels Anniversary that Roger made on commission from Daniels. 

 

One significant benefit of having Andy on hand was that Roger could now start to think long-term and go back to the drawing board to design the next step in his watchmaking journey, the Series 2. The installation of a CNC machine in 2005 proved a massive help. Not only were they able to produce a prototype Series 2 in time for Basel in 2006, but they even managed to machine a few parts for Daniels, who was a tad sceptical of the technology when it first arrived.

 

Roger Smith co-axial escapement for A Collected Man London

The single wheel variation of Daniels’ Co-Axial escapement invented by Roger.

 

Finally, the time had come for Roger to put into practice, all that he had learnt from grilling Daniels once a week, over innumerable pub lunches. He began to cement his style and become more confident with proportion and design. Not only was he settling into his role as a watchmaker, but he was even finding flaws within the craft and figuring out ways to address them. Whether it was fixing a slippage problem in the Daniels’ Co-Axial escapement or designing an aesthetically pleasing solution to long date hands blocking information on triple calendar watches, he was making satisfying progress.

 

Roger W. Smith Series 2 in stainless steel for A Collected Man London

The only stainless steel model that Roger has ever made, a Series 2.

 

There came a point, around 2010, the year before Roger had taken on the Anniversary project with Daniels, that he felt his fledgling brand was beginning to take flight. Roger describes a moment when he and Andy let out a big sigh of relief as “it no longer felt like we were just putting out fires. If we wanted to implement something, we knew it would work and that was an amazing moment.” Roger final felt like the years of constant learning, pulling 14-hour days and cutting components out by hand, were starting to pay off. Roger was beginning to leave the shadow of his great teacher and the rest of the world started to take notice.  

 

Roger W. Smith Series 3 wristwatch with retrograde date for A Collected Man London

Roger W. Smith watchmaker at the bench building a wristwatch movement for A Collected Man London

Roger's Series 3 on the wrist and the watchmaker at the bench.

 

Changing the world of watchmaking


 

Roger found himself in an almost idyllic situation to work on his watches. George and his workshop were up the road if he ever needed advice or to borrow the odd bit of equipment, and he was on the island completely cut-off from outside influences. This allowed his style and aesthetic to grow in a natural way. This has led to, what Andy described as Roger’s most powerful asset, his strong sense of aesthetic identity, from the scalloped hands to the ornate engravings that decorate the movement. This strong visual identity, the need for which was drilled into him by Daniels, has helped place Roger on the world stage as his watches, whether it be a Series 1, 2, 3 or 4, are all unmistakably Roger. This took many years to fully shape. Roger admits that it has been a journey of constant thought and adaptation, from his second pocket watch in Bolton, all the way through to the mid-2000s.

 

Roger W. Smith watchmaker showing the King and Queen of Norway a watch on their visit to the Isle of Man for A Collected Man London

Roger showing a watch to the King and Queen of Norway in 2002.

 

Besides this clear design language, Roger W Smith watches have also become synonymous with innovation. With the freedom to do as he prefers, Roger and his team are able to work on the areas of watchmaking that they think need work. A priority which is often lost in much of the watchmaking world. Take Roger’s work on the Co-Axial escapement as an example. In a bigger brand, this sort of R&D could be construed as costly and high risk, yet for Roger it was key, as the ticking hearts of his watches were not running perfectly. Daniels had already been incredibly innovative in introducing the foundational concept of the Co-Axial, but Roger has now taken it two generations further. The latest lightweight Co-Axial which allows for a greatly increased service interval, way beyond industry standards, is one of Roger’s most satisfying achievements, that has only gone to illustrate that, even with a heavy workload, he has still been able to change the way watches are made.

 

“I remember getting up at seven in the morning, working, having a quick lunch, working, having a quick bite to eat for dinner and then being back in the workshop until 10, or 10:30 at night…”

 

This innovative spirit isn’t restricted to the workshop either, as he is currently working with scientists at Manchester Metropolitan University to produce a nano coating that could one day remove all, or at the very least most of, the lubricants needed inside a watch. This research can in fact be seen as an extension of the Co-Axial, as the new escapement sought to limit the need for lubrication by swapping a sliding action, for a pushing one, in the transfer of energy. Now Roger hopes that this research could see the end of the dreaded “service period” that is recommended with every watch sold today. If no lubricants are needed in a watch, then, providing nothing untoward happens, your watch should run smoothly, perpetually. He did reveal that there might be a watch being tested with some form of nanotechnology inside it right now, but he really couldn’t tell us much more. It should be noted, as well, that this research is still very experimental and could go in many different directions at this stage.

 

Roger W. Smith Great Britain watch with hand turned dial for A Collected Man London
Roger W. Smith Great Britain watch with hand turned dial for A Collected Man London

The one-off piece he made for The GREAT Britain campaign.

 

It would appear that Roger isn’t content with just changing watchmaking from inside a watch, but that he also wants to change its geographic balance. He recently established the Alliance of British Watch & Clock Makers alongside his fellow countryman Mike France of Christopher Ward. Now with forty member brands, this alliance hopes to bring more attention to the work being done in the United Kingdom from all horological trades. While there are hundreds of horological businesses spread all over the British Isles, the aim of this new alliance is to combine forces, shining a light on what the Brits can do and hopefully persuade more people to join the trade domestically.

 

Roger W. Smith No. 3 Tourbillon wristwatch movement through a sapphire display case back for A Collected Man London
Roger W. Smith Watchmaker technical drawing of his No. 3 Tourbillon wristwatch for A Collected Man London

Roger's No. 3 Tourbillon watch that was completed in 2006.

 

If you have ever been lucky enough to listen to Roger speak, you might have heard him reference his “body of work”. He’ll be talking about his series of watches, of which five have been released, with the sixth in the pipeline. Roger told us that he has plans to have ten models in this series, which he hopes will one day stand as his lasting legacy. Once complete, each of these watches will represent an issue that Roger has spotted in watchmaking and his, often unique, way of fixing this. As Daniels once told him, “don’t just end-up making watches, you need to try and do something different and contribute to the art and craft of British horology.”

 

Roger W. Smith watchmaker technical drawings for A Collected Man London

Smith’s meticulous attention to detail exemplified.

 

A legacy


 

It is clear that Roger’s legacy stretches far beyond the Co-Axial escapement and working with George Daniels. While he may have started-off his watchmaking journey in the relative seclusion of the Isle of Man, he is now looking to reach-out and make an impact that cannot be measured by production numbers. Having the opportunity to absorb as much as possible from Daniels in the years that they worked together, clearly set Roger up better than any school of watchmaking ever could. In fact, Newman says that “if it wasn’t for Roger, George’s legacy wouldn’t be what it is today.” But what will shape Roger’s legacy when he finally puts down his loupe?

 

Roger W. Smith Series 4 wristwatch with jumping date function his 100th watch ever made for A Collected Man London

The first Series 4 to leave Roger’s workshop and the 100th watch bearing the R. W. Smith name.

 

A milestone that Roger has very recently reached that we can exclusively share with you, is the completion of his 100thwatch. This also happens to be the very first Series 4 to leave the workshop. What makes this even more remarkable is the level of recognition that Roger has managed to gain in the industry while making so few timepieces. A small statistic that surprised us, was that there are still more Daniels-signed watches in the world right now than there are Roger W. Smith pieces. Considering that Roger made his first wristwatch nearly two decades ago, not many watchmakers would have been able to make so few pieces, yet reach such acclaim.

 

Roger W. Smith watchmaker Series 4 movement for A Collected Man London
Roger W. Smith watchmaker Series 4 movement for A Collected Man London

The movement of Roger's first Series 4 watch. 

 

Roger plans for his watches to be made long after he’s gone and with the recent completion of a new workshop on the Isle of Man, he is laying foundations for them to be made there for many years to come. Roger is also training several apprentices, who are given 24-hour access to the workshop. This is in the hope that they may work on independent side projects, while learning all they can from the making and servicing of Roger’s watches. In fact, one of them is working on a watch right now, Roger tells us, which will be very exciting once complete. 

While Daniels’ legacy can be looked at from a few angles – the Co-Axial, his Education Trust, being a trailblazer for independent watchmaking and the tutelage of Roger – it could be argued that Roger’s legacy will have far more branches to it by the time he’s done. Thanks to a relatively young start in watchmaking and graduating from the most unique of finishing schools, Roger has managed to achieve a lot in the past two decades. Who knows what this boy from Bolton will  do next?

 

Roger W. Smith watchmaker receiving his OBE from Prince Charles for A Collected Man London

What's next for Roger Smith?

 

Complete list of watches made by Roger Smith


 

Here we have taken the liberty of laying out a timeline of every watch to leave a Roger W. Smith workshop. We have listed separately the ones created collaboratively between Roger and Daniels bearing a Daniels name for a bit more clarity. Hopefully this provides a useful timeline to go along with the story above.

 

Roger W. Smith watches

 

  • Pocket watches (x3)

No.1 - 1992

No.2 - 1997

No.3 - 2001

 

  • Old Series 1 (x9)

‘The first’ – Delivered April 2003

The last watch of this model was delivered in July 2016

Nine in total including three in collaboration with Theo Fennell (May 2003- Jan 2004)

 

  • RWS Tourbillon wrist watches (x4)

No.3 – Delivered Sept 2006

No.1 – Delivered Dec 2010

No.4 – Delivered Dec 2013

No.2 – Delivered Sept 2015

 

  • Series 2, Mark 1 (61 with a dial and 12 open dials)

First Series 2, MK1 – delivered Aug 2007

Last Series 2, MK1 – delivered Nov 2019

First Series 2, MK1, Open Dial – delivered September 2010

Last Series 2, MK1, Open Dial – delivered Feb 2019

Two of the 12 Series 2, MK1, Open Dials have MK 2 (prototype) movements.

 

  • The GREAT Britain (x1)

Completed Nov 2013

 

  • A Unique mirrored Pair of retrograde date watches

1 of 2 – Delivered March 2014

2 of 2 – Delivered Feb 2017

 

  • Series 1 (x11 – Still in production)

First delivered May 2018

 

  • Series 3 (x4 – Still in production)

First delivered Nov 2018

 

  • Series 5 Open Dial (x3 – Still in production)

First delivered Aug 2019

 

  • Series 2, Mark 2 (x3 – Still in production)

First delivered Nov 2019

 

  • Series 4 (x1 – Still in production)

The first Series 4 was the 100th RWS wristwatch to go into production and was completed in Dec 2020.

 

Daniels watches made by R. W. Smith

 

  • Daniels Millennium (x56 inc Prototype)

1 Gold Prototype (with nickel movement and rotor)

47 Yellow gold

8 White gold

 

  • Blue and White Tourbillon wrist watches (x2)

The White – Delivered March 2004

The Blue – Delivered April 2005

 

  • Daniels Anniversary (x33 – Still in production)

The first Daniels Anniversary – Delivered Oct 2012

Limited to:

    • 35 in yellow gold
    • 4 in platinum *
    • 4 in white gold *
    • 4 in red gold *

* It's understood that the platinum, white gold and red gold pieces were initially intended to be sold as sets of four, with one set for each metal. However, it was later decided that each piece would be sold individually.



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