Member: 1987 – 2011
Born: 1926 – London, Great Britain
George Daniels (1926-2011) is generally considered to be the greatest watchmaker of the 20th century.
His best-known contribution was to develop the Co-Axial escapement, which helped to revolutionise the performance of high-end mechanical watches and has been described as the most important horological development for 250 years. The concept was unveiled in 1976, and was adopted in the 1980s by Swatch Group’s brand. At Baselworld 1999 the company unveiled its first mechanical watch featuring Daniels’ Co-Axial design. The event was hailed as heralding a new era in mechanical watchmaking.
Forced to seek work at the age of 14, Daniels began working in a mattress factory, reading everything he could about watches in his spare time. He soon turned this knowledge into cash by repairing clocks, seeking orders by going from door to door.
Daniels started work with a watchmaker in Edgware, London, attending evening classes in horology at Northampton Polytechnic. He then set up on his own, initially repairing watches in order to finance his love of vintage cars.
Daniels’ first book Watches (1965), introduced him to the work of Breguet. Daniels became such an expert on the French horologist that he subsequently restored many Breguet watches, and in 1967 was invited to take over the Breguet company; he declined the offer, reasoning that ‘Daniels, London’ sounded better to him than ‘Breguet, Paris’. His book The Art of Breguet was published in 1975.
In 1969 Daniels had produced his first mechanical watch and embarked on his career as a specialist watchmaker. Each watch typically involved 2,500 hours of work over a year or more. He was very selective with customers. Daniels recalled: ‘I never made watches for people if I didn’t care for them.’
In 1984 Svend Anderson, one of the founding members of the AHCI received “A yellow letter with the Queens stamp on”, it was from George Daniels, a simple handwritten message “I want to join your group”.
After his death, the George Daniels Educational Trust has administered the funds he bequeathed to provide undergraduate scholarships, bursaries and PhD studentships for studies in Horology.