You can see Roger W. Smith OBE introduce the story behind the Blue in this short film.
George Daniels: Legendary watchmaker
Dr. George Daniels is recognised as one of the greatest watchmakers of the 20th century. In 1981, he received an MBE for his services to horology, along with a CBE in 2010 – the first watchmaker ever to receive such an honour. During his lifetime, Daniels was one of the few watchmakers who built complete watches by hand, from his workshop on the Isle of Man, at a rate of around one watch per year.
One of his most noteworthy contributions to watchmaking was the invention of the Co-Axial escapement, designed to improve the mechanisms’ long-term performance by radically changing the nature of its inner workings. The Co-Axial was the first practical invention since the lever escapement, created by Thomas Mudge in 1755, thus representing an important advancement in the dynamics of the watch.
Over the course of his lifetime, Daniels is attributed with having created four fully custom wristwatches, all of which have tourbillons and are fitted with his Co-Axial escapement. Of his work, after the two Space Travellers and the Grand Complication, they are among his most elusive pieces. As confirmed by Daniels’ autobiography, All in Good Time, they include the following: a four-minute tourbillon with compact chronograph, a double-dialled one-minute tourbillon and two rectangular-cased one-minute tourbillons (the White and the Blue).
The development of The Blue
The Blue, so-called because of its blued index markers and hands, was a commission for a close friend of George Daniels, having been designed in 2001 and delivered in April 2005. As Roger W. Smith himself recounts, it embodied George’s desire to create a more contemporary aesthetic than his previous pieces.
The Blue was designed by George Daniels and eventually assembled by Roger Smith in Daniels’ workshop, using his tools and with his supervision. Though the watch was entirely designed by Daniels, when the time came to make it, he called on his only apprentice, Smith, for help. Working in isolation for most of his career, Daniels had taken Smith on as an apprentice, after the promising watchmaker built two pocket watches entirely by hand over the course of several years, with the aim of proving his worth to Daniels.
When Daniels asked Roger to assemble the White and the Blue, it represented a touching moment between the two watchmakers. Roger had recently completed the Millennium series but was not yet established enough to launch his own collection of pieces. Identifying an opportunity for mutual benefit, Daniels enlisted Roger’s help in making the piece, as much because he needed the assistance, as because he wanted to support Roger in creating a life on the island. In many ways, in Roger’s eyes, these felt like transitional pieces.
The watch adopts a symmetrical dial layout, with a calendar sub-dial at six o’clock and a one-minute tourbillon at twelve o’clock. The tourbillon carriage is suspended by a central bridge, with the overall thickness of the case lending depth to the exposed section of the movement. The calendar sub-dial is placed further down, the numerals engraved on silver rings and filled with black ink. Two cartouches within the sub-dial reference “DANIELS” and “LONDON” in black engraving. All numbering and lettering are hand-engraved, as is to be expected on a piece of true handmade horology.
The dial is silver and hand engine-turned, combining two different patterns to create legibility and add depth to the dial. The index markers and slender hands are made out of blued steel, adding a welcome touch of contrast and colour to the overall design. Cased in a white gold rectangular case, the Blue features straight lugs and a rounded, stepped bezel. The caseback is engraved with ‘GD’, George Daniels’ personal hallmark.
The movement is concealed by a solid 18k white gold caseback, but from an under-dial view shared in All in Good Time, Daniels’ autobiography, we can see that it is quintessentially Daniels in design, with form and function placed above all else. This was something that George Daniels highly valued; a purist in the technicality of watchmaking, which can be seen by the deceptively simple aesthetic of the construction. Of course, the movement is equipped with a two-wheel Daniels Co-Axial escapement. The understated nature of the movement is finished off by the gold frosted finishing, a style favoured traditionally by the famous watchmakers of Britain.
The Blue is accompanied by its box and reproductions of its paperwork (with the originals having been kept by the owner who first commissioned the watch, out of sentimentality). This includes a series of letters from George Daniels, pictures of the owner receiving his watch from the watchmaker and Daniels' initial drawing of the watch.