Roger W. Smith Series 1, Unique Piece, White Gold, Auction

Here is a one-of-a-kind Series 1, a rare watch of which only 18 examples exist, with a closed waiting list. The watch features a dial with customisations proposed by A Collected Man, with a view to creating a minimal interpretation of Smith’s immediately recognisable aesthetic. The 38mm case is crafted from white gold and is paired with a silver dial. The Roman numeral hour markers typically found on all Roger W. Smith watches have been replaced by simple baton markers. Twenty per cent of the profits from this sale will be donated to the Alliance of British Watch and Clock Makers.

The story of Roger W. Smith

The canon of independent watchmaking, particularly since the turn of the Millennium, would be truncated without referencing Roger W. Smith. Long before he famously became the sole apprentice to the late Dr George Daniels, mastering the 34 skills that comprise the Daniels Method, he was a young teenager looking for his way in life. Not particularly academically inclined, he enrolled at the erstwhile British Horological Institute in Manchester.

While legend goes that that he would meet his mentor at a talk Daniels was giving at the Manchester School of Horology, it was during his time working as a watchmaker with Tag Heuer that Smith would have his first meaningful interaction with the master watchmaker. He wrote to Daniels, asking to be his apprentice, an advance the latter politely declined. Undeterred, he set up a workshop in his parents’ garage and began working on his own pocket watch. Despite his efforts – he had poured two years of his life into it – his first attempt at a pocket watch was a failure. Daniels dismissed it, saying it appeared “handmade”, rather than “created”.

Smith started again from scratch, perfecting his skills while relearning others to a standard Daniels would approve of. After working on it for five years, Smith nervously presented it to Daniels who, after closely scrutinising it, offered Smith the apprenticeship he had coveted for so long. Smith moved to the Isle of Man and there began a fruitful symbiotic 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,” Smith said of his time working with Daniels.

The skills he acquired from this experience helped Smith transition from pocket watches to wristwatches. In 2001 he set up his own workshop, down the street from Daniels’ and began work on his first watch, marrying modern production techniques to the Daniels Method, whilst finding ways to improve on the Daniels’ Co-Axial escapement.

His watches, be they the Series 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5, have all featured Smith’s style, marked by the signature scalloped hands, intricate guilloche and ornate engravings that adorn the movement. Owing to exacting and hand-finished nature of his process, Smith’s body of work from the last two decades is understandably small. However, it is undoubtedly substantial in its significance as the very pinnacle of modern independent watchmaking in Britain. Today, his workshop employs the next generation of watchmakers whom Smith is mentoring much as Daniels guided him.