Review: Clerizo (2013): George Daniels – A Master Watchmaker & His Art

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Fortunat Mueller-Maerki

NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Life Member
NAWCC Fellow
Sep 23, 2001

This book review to appear in print in the May 2013 issue of Watch and Clock Bulletin

The life and oeuvre of the greatest watchmaker of the 20th century: George Daniels.

George Daniels – A Master Watchmaker & His Art - The Story of the Man who invented the Co-axial escapement, by Michael Clerizo. Published by Thame and Hudson, New York in April 2013. ISBN number: 978-0-500-51636-2. 216 pages, 30 x 30 cm, hardbound, dustjacket. 341 illustrations, including 234 color photographs (many large format), glossary, bibliography and index. The book is available from and other sources at about US$ 60. NAWCC members may borrow a copy from the NAWCC library in Columbia Pa..

There are precious few people alive in the world today that deserve the designation „Watchmaker” in the literal sense of the word, i.e. people earning a living by making watches from scratch, with their own hands, including movement, dial and case. And virtually all craftsmen who can do that today will concede that it was one individual who inspired them to develop that skill set: George Daniels (1926-2012), the Englishman who single-handely started reestablishing watchmaking as a viable craft in the late 1960s.

Daniels is a well-known figure among aficionados of fine handcrafted watches, and and both his watches and his books are admired around the world. The book under review is not the first to summarize his life and oeuvre (that role falls to Daniels‘ autobiography „All in Good Time“, 1st edition 2000, slightly expanded editions 2006 and 2012), nor the most important book about him. That honor belongs to „Watchmaking“, his 416 page, 777 illustrations opus magnus describing his watchmaking techniques step by step (1st ed., 1981, also published in French). But Clerizo’s book – well underway as Daniels passed away in October 2011 – is destined to be the definitive text on Daniels, because the author has obviously spent a very significant amount of time with his subject – and with Daniels‘ watches- in the last few years.

Clerizo’s first -much shorter- homage to Daniels was part of his 2009 book Masters of Contemporary Watchmaking which described the work of the eleven leading contemporary artisanal watchmakers in the world, devoting 20 pages to each of them. The author evidently got close to Daniels at that time, and has spent the years since gaining an in-depth understanding of Daniels as a artisan, a person, and as a prophet for the rebirth of artisanal watchmaking.
The book under review is the result of very skillful reporting and writing. Wherever possible, Clerizo uses Daniels‘ voice, be it through quotes from his literary output, or through direct tanscriptions from numerous visits and interviews. Therefore, the book has a near ‘auto-biographical‘ tone and feel.

The book is structured into three chronological text sections (1926-1959, 1960-1983 and 1975-2011) devoted to the formative, the developmental, and the mature phases of Daniels’s career, and each contains a few black-and-white images illustrating themes in Daniels‘ life. Phase one is characterized by extreme poverty and struggle, phase two by systematically building skills, aspirations and confidence, and phase three the invention (and the ‚selling‘) of the coaxial escapement, the first major breakthrough invention in mechanical watch escapement in centuries. The book ends with substantial excerpts from Daniels‘ November 1993 speech „Watchmaking in the 21st Century“, delivered at the Ward Francillon Time Symposium at Harvard (but fails to mention that NAWCC organized that seminal event). In all three text blocks both the personal/human side of the story is covered as well as the innovation/technical story. The author favors a „reporters“ style of writing, with a substantial portion of the text consisting of quotes from conversations with Daniels, excerpts from his published works, or from speeches he has given.

The three text blocks are separated by two major blocks (of 42 and 48 pages) of gorgeous, extensively captioned, large format, color photographs documenting in detail the one-of-a kind watches created by Daniels from 1969-1978 (14 watches) and 1983-2011 (12 watches) respectively. These 26 watches are described through over 200 color photographs (many full page), and their technical particularities are described in detail.

Most watch lovers will rarely if ever see or even hold an original Daniels watch in their hands, but in some respects buying the book provides more information than seeing the physical objects, as the publication includes macro photography and partially disassembled views which go beyond what a casual view of the actual object provides.

The book under review provides an excellent and extensive overview of Daniels as a person and of his horological oeuvre. Daniels was a very complex person, and in many regards not an easy person to work with. For an even more thorough understanding of the man and his oeuvre this reviewer recommends a thorough reading of his autobiography, and the other seven books (or more if you count various editions and translations) authored or coauthored by Daniels.
This book is destined to become a classic within the world’s horological literature. It is well produced, printed and bound, even if the large format makes it a bit unwieldy for reading away from a desk or table; but this reader would not sacrifice size for convenience, because a true appreciation of Daniels‘ genius can only be fully gained at the significant image magnification factor possible with a large format book.

I have had the privilege and good fortune to personally meet the man on a few occasions, to see some of his pieces on exhibit, and to once examine one of his watches. Reading a book can of course never match the ‚real‘ experience, but Cerizo’s book will provide the chance for as good a substitute as most horological enthusiasts will ever get. This reviewer urges you to grab that chance.

Fortunat F. Mueller-Maerki, Sussex NJ, February 2013


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Todd W

Registered User
Mar 6, 2004
I have this book on pre-order from Amazon. After reading your review I can't wait to get it.

Todd W

Registered User
Mar 6, 2004
I receved an email from Amazon yesterday telling me that the book is going to be released early. Amazon said my copy was shipped March 1st.


NAWCC Member
Aug 6, 2006
It's out
I ordered a copy Saturday from Amazon UK and it was delivered this morning,

Dr. Jon

NAWCC Member
Dec 14, 2001
New Hampshire
Mine just arrived thand to this thread I ordered it from Amazon.

To quote my wife "That is one gorgeous book". Clerizon is a reliable writer and the book is a a steal.

Jeff Salmon

Registered User
Apr 11, 2002
I have also received my copy. It is really spectacular. The quality of the large photos is excellent. It is a little large for one's lap though. I have only read a few pages so far, and I find it quite enjoyable. The price is excellent for the quality of the printing and the photos.

Jerry Freedman

NAWCC Star Fellow
NAWCC Member
Sep 16, 2000
I have received my copy and have read only the last two section pertaining to the co-axial escapement. I was at the 1993 Symposium held at Harvard. At the banquet my wife went up to George Daniels and he signed her menu. In the book Daniels said that the speech he gave at Harvard was his favorite. As I sit here wearing my Omega Deville co-axial chronometer, I know how lucky I have been to meet Daniels and hear him speak. I will now keep his autograph tucked into my copy of Clerizo's book.
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