The reclusive horologist George Daniels, famous for his work on Breguet and his important co-axial escapement, died last Friday at his home in the Isle of Man. Daniels was 85.
The horologist was one of the first to catalog some of the best known watches in the world, traveling through Europe to examine rare and odd pieces from his favorite manufacturer, Abraham-Louis Breguet, and great watches from manufacturers like Patek Philippe. He was also an avid motorist and noted trickster, pretending to misuse some rare watches while he was photographing, nearly driving their curator to apoplexy.
Daniels was born in 1926 and spent his formative years at the mercy of his drunk carpenter father in North London. His only creative outlet came when he found a watch on the sidewalk and began to tease out its construction.
“It was like seeing the centre of the universe,” he said in the Independent. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do; I wanted to spend the rest of my time with watches.”
After escaping from home into the Army, he spent his spare time fixing soldier’s watches for pocket money and then became a watchseller and repairer. He began to design his own watch movements and his Daniels originals are still sought after in horological circles. He invented the co-axial escapement, now used by Omega in their latest Speedmaster chronographs. He retired to the Isle of Man where he spent his years tinkering and driving his many cars.
It’s rare to find genius in the wild and George Daniels was an exemplar of one man’s dedication to a seemingly dying art.