Profile: Roger W. Smith Watches
Many of us own watches. A few, collect watches. But only a handful own the watches produced by master British watch maker, Roger W. Smith. While the watches themselves are unsurpassed in quality, it is the history which has borne Smith’s unique approach to watchmaking which the consumer buys into.
Roger grew up during the 70’s and 80’s with more interest in developing practical skills than school. However his real journey began aged 16, when he enrolled into the Manchester School of Horology. Later he was to be awarded the Bronze Medallist of the British Horological Institute (awarded to the most outstanding graduating student of any given year).
While Smith was cast deep into his studies, George Daniels, the greatest horologist of his time, visited the Manchester school of Horology as a speaker. Roger was stirred by his lectures and decided to devote himself to crafting watches by hand like Daniels. He used George Daniel’s legendary book ‘Watchmaking’ as his bible, and set out to make a simple yet elegant pocket watch worthy of Daniel’s appraisal.
After 7 years making and remaking, until he had perfected all the thirty-two skills required to design and make a watch in “The Daniels Method”, he made a perfect pocket watch which was approved by Daniels. Soon after, Smith became his apprentice, and the restoration of British watch making began.
In his studio on the Isle of Man, Roger has produced two series’ of watches, both produced in the Daniels method. His team now produces 10 unique watches every year, each of which takes more than six months to create, and each is priced in excess of £95,000. This price does include hand delivery by Roger.
In August 2011, Roger was awarded the Barrett Silver Medal of the British Horological Institute which is awarded for outstanding development or achievement in any field of horology, and he has also claimed the medal for ‘Dedication to and successfully continuing the finest traditions of English and British watchmaking’.
Even though Roger Smith is the unchallengeable master of his field, his future goals are clear in his open letter written last year stating his concerns about the current state of British watchmaking.
Smith wrote that he is reassured that British watchmaking will have an illustrious future due to much investment in artisan watchmaking, as well as renewed interest in our rich horological heritage. However, Roger Smith’s primary concern is the direction of this growth, and if this growth will affect the traditional watch making skills at the root of his trade.
Artisan craft is a delicate thing – it can very easily be manipulated by its market, who can unintentionally morph it into something it is not in order to meet demand.
Understanding this, in his open letter Smith states three types of British watch making company present today, which are actually altering the reputation of British watchmaking Smith and Daniels created.
The first kind, mostly likely a company from overseas, will appropriate the name of a historical British figure, and use the valuable heritage of this name to promote their foreign made watch.
The second type is a British artist who designs upon an existing ‘base’ watch, either Japanese or Swiss, thus not truly embracing the craft of watchmaking.
The third type is a new British watch company, under a proud British name, who similarly conveniently buy in foreign components.
All that Smith offers as a solution, as a plaster to the assault of faux British watchmakers is;
As Smith discovered at the beginning of his journey, the key to the Daniels Method is using passion and patience to learn over 30 crafts that watchmaking requires. Today he has found that although enthusiastic, very few have the key combination of talent and perseverance to be worthy of training. With so few watch makers practicing under the esteemed British Daniels Method, it is easy to see why Roger W. Smith’s watches come at such a price. As it is the price of the grand history of British watchmaking, under the threat of new and foreign competition.
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