Where George Daniels shopped the Co-Axial...
Originally written by Curtis Thomson on 17 June 2001, 11:57am CT,
Last Revision, 20 June 2001, 7:30pm CT
, Certain Rights Reserved...

For twenty plus years George Daniels had attempted to introduce his escapement to the Swiss industry. The story is well documented, so I will not proceed on that path, but I do have some examples of "industry" watches, which he fitted the Co-Axial to in hopes of impressing upon his audience how his escapement is adaptable to their watches.
The pictures are B&W and do not always display the escapement well, but trust that, indeed, the Co-Axial is present and working.
This first lot of photos show an Omega 1045 from 1975 and 1996:



These pictures are of a Patek from 1980.

This pair is of a Rolex from 1989 and 1996.


These two show an Urban Jürgensen (Piguet movement I imagine) and a Zenith. Both from 1983...

Urban Jürgensen

Zenith El-Primero
There are many reasons why these companies entertained Daniels and many reasons why they decided to pass on the escapement. It does seem that in the main it was an issue of expense to retool and develop the escapement for series and that it was an unknown quantity, which was made in one-offs for the connoisseur. Daniels, of course, believes it was an issue of Swiss pride and lack of understanding, which he still probably believes, as Omega lubricated his escapement and did not follow his advise for the vph.
Again, I am sorry for the poor quality of the scans. They do not clearly show the escapement, as I had wished, but do give the impression and demonstrate Daniels dogged efforts to introduce his escapement to the Swiss industry.
Curtis (curtisdthomson@yahoo.com)
Photos are from Daniels' book The Practical Watch Escapement.
The author would like to acknowledge the assistance of Chuck Maddox who did the HTML presentation, "tweaked" the photo's for better visibility, and who is hosting this page...

17 June 2001 Addendum:
On 17 June 2001 at 22:59 "Richie" posted:
Hi Richie,
I am unsure of what his "deal" with Hayek was in terms of purchasing the rights to use the Daniels Co-Axial, although, it did take a year to reach an agreement. I do know that one of the tough bits to iron out, during negotiating, was the continued use of the Daniels Co-Axial escapement by George Daniels. He maintained he must be permitted to use HIS escapement in watches he makes. Additionally, Daniels wanted a fixed number of ebauches to be made available to him. Both terms were met. Incidentally, the 50 ebauches were made available to Daniels in 1999. He hired a young watchmaker, Roger Smith, to help construct and finish these ebauches. The last of the 50 will be completed this year.
This is one of the completed series of 50 Daniels London watches (ETA ebauche):

-- Photo by Colin Chrisford

The particulars of this watch may be found at http://www.daniels-london.co.uk
Daniels applied for a patent in 1980. He received a reply from the patent office that there were three other patented escapements prior to his own application, which pre-empted his application. The three examples were, as quoted by Daniels, "...the single lift Robin, which gives impulse only at alternate vibrations, the double lift Robin by Breguet which needs oil, and the Fasholt which is a single lift escapement."
Daniels went through two years of debating the merits and differences of his escapement to the three mentioned. He enlisted the help of noted horologists to write letters to the patent office, on his behalf, explaining the uniqueness of his escapement. Even after these measures his patent was not given. Finally, his application was re-written including the words "the locking and impulse pallets have entirely separate functions." Those words did the trick. He was given his patent, as none of the three others mentioned used those words, thus, his was original. Daniels was obviously pleased, but frustrated with the horologically ignorant determining and validating his escapement. His patent was post-dated to 1980. Oh, the bureaucracy of the world...
So, with patent in hand, he was able to safely shop and discuss his escapement with the industry.
Hope this helps.
Curtis (mailto:curtisdthomson@yahoo.com)
All above information may be found in George Daniels' Autobiography "All In Good Time"

The George Daniels & Patek Philippe Thread:
   George Daniels & Patek Philippe>>>
Posted By: Curtis <curtisdthomson@yahoo.com> (tcache-wl01.proxy.aol.com)
Date: 6/19/1 - 09:00:21
I recently posted on the PF (link below), regarding Daniels and his fitting the Co-Axial in other makers movements. I found his story with Patek especially interesting.
In 1979 Daniels was approached by Patek "the most prestigious watch makers in the industry". Their English sales director and their chief of Research & Development went to Daniels' workshop in London to discuss his new Co-Axial escapement. After the meeting, it was decided that Patek would undertake the task of prototyping the escapement for a pocket watch and test its efficiency.
In February 1980 the prototyping began. "From the beginning," writes Daniels, "I sensed a slight air of antogonism in our discussions." He understood this to an extent, as he would not appreciate a foreigner interfering in his workshop. With this in mind, he keeps a low profile. "Sometimes, to flatter them, I asked for advice in order to show appreciation of their undoubtedly superior technical education. Their answers were grudgingly given as if to avoid improving my education."
After a year and more the prototype was finished. Daniels comments that is was beautifully made, as one expects from Patek. "But," he writes, "it was prone to stop occassionally especially when moved about. In fact, it stopped there and then as I looked at it." A technician proded the movement and it started again. Daniels looked at the drawings and saw where the flaw was, which Patek was aware of, as well. He mentioned this to the draughtsman, who upon hearing the error mentioned, took his drawings and left. The chief said, "...it was not a mistake but a deliberately applied different philosophy of design!"
Daniels writes, "I did not enjoy my visits to the factory. The prime reason was the obvious resentment of my presence, but more depressing was the realisation that these men were essentially technicians who had no love of the romance and intellectual pleasure of the conception, design and construction of a beautiful and original work of art. To them, watchmaking was a practical way of making a living, and the less original thought required the easier the work would be."
To try and rectify the situation, he suggests they attempt to put the escapement into a wristwatch. The chief liked the idea and produced a 2.5 mm thick movement for the escapement to be fitted to. Daniels had previously, on his own whim, put the co-axial into an Omega Speedmaster, but was not sure he could do so to such a thin watch. He was sure the chief held the same opinion and "I [Daniels] realised that I had been outwitted." If he couldn't fit it to a modern watch than there was no point in progressing this work. He went back to London to solve the problem.
Three weeks later he produced, to Patek, a redesigned, made, adjusted and fitted escapement to the R&D team in Geneva. He says he felt some admiration from Patek at his solution.
It was decided that three wristwatch sized prototypes would be made. The drawings were discussed and Daniels saw one stumbling block, the proportion of the extra driving wheel. Patek rejected his notion, even in the face of Daniels working, Patek provided movement, prototype.
By 1982 his prototype was cased and dialed from the Patek factory. He says he gave the watch daily use for twelve years, when the self winding mechanism failed. "That it should have lasted so long without servicing is a tribute to Patek Philippe's production and design of so slim and delicate a movement." It was not serviced to test the effectiveness of the escapement over a ten year period. The escapement functioned perfectly.
In 1984 the R&D prototypes were not working properly and one was sent to a specialist escapement maker for the industry. The analysis was quite critical and the prime fault was in the gears, which Daniels had mentioned at the beginning of the project. A letter was included with the movement saying that the movement was only the conception and principles of Mr. Daniels system. It was also mentioned that Daniels prototype worked. This was done to protect Daniels reputation.
Daniels had one last meeting with R&D. He wore his Patek prototype and his pocket watch prototype, which both worked. The chief of R&D came in and quickly said, "We cannot make your escapement." That was the end of his four years relationship with Patek Philippe.
The three prototypes were given to Daniels. One of which, is in the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers Museum in Guild Hall Library.
While I question Daniels account regarding his poise and tact, as his will and temper are legendary, I do believe the facts and information, in principle, to be truthful.
I hope you enjoyed this read.
Fascinating story. It would be great (more)
Posted By: bob <egraphic@ix.netcom.com> (
Date: 6/19/1 - 10:37:53
In Response To: George Daniels & Patek Philippe>>> (Curtis)
to get the Patek side of the discussions. I don't doubt the competitive tone of the interchange, but it would be sad to learn that "these men were essentially technicians who had no love of the romance and intellectual pleasure of the conception, design and construction of a beautiful and original work of art," as suggested by Daniels. Some of the great Patek movements would not seem to support this view of their orientation. Of course, as in any trade, there are the designers and those who execute the design - often very different types of people.
I am no watch expert, but I also understand that the escapement (as you indicate) had serious practical issues to overcome - as is often true of new mechanical designs. I know of at least one watchmaker on these pages who does not predict longevity for individual examplars with the finally designed escapement. It is possible that Patek concluded, after much time on the effort (early on, it should be noted), that the final practical output would not meet their expectations. Perhaps Omega will prove them incorrect.
I do have a question - do you know if Daniels spent any serious time with Blancpain?
Very fine work, thank you!
Thanks (more)
Posted By: Curtis <curtisdthomson@yahoo.com> (
Date: 6/19/1 - 14:54:44
In Response To: Fascinating story. It would be great (more) (bob)
Hi Bob,
He gives no indication that Blancpain was a participant in his quest to introduce the Co-Axial into the mainstream industry. This could be due to the infancy of Blancpain at the beginning of his quest. By the companies he chose, it seems apparent that he wanted companies with an established track record.
The problems Omega recently faced and Patek faced are different. Omega did have tolerance problems (the impulse jewel on the lever would sometimes hit the crossings of the escape wheel). They also had a problem with an incorrect setting on the lubrication machine used during assembly, which led to over oiling the escape wheel on some movements. In use, the oil would creep down to the pinion and onto the intermediate wheel. These problems have been addressed.
Patek's issue was the incorrect proportion of the intermediate wheel.
In both cases neither Patek nor Omega would heed the advice of George Daniels, whose escapements worked.
I imagine it could be one of a hundred reasons, or a combination of them all, that turned Patek and the others away from the Co-Axial. It may have been as simple as "Not Swiss Made." It may turn out to be too complicated to make on a mass production scale? Time will tell.
I have heard the negative talk from watchmakers, as well. I have also heard very positive talk from watchmakers, too, and who are of the highest esteem within the industry.
George Daniels is quick to point out that the lever escapement is two hundred years of development to the stage we see it in modern times. He figures the Co-Axial will need the same commitment for it to reach its full production efficiency.
I hope this helps.
Daniels' story reminds me of John Harrison's (more)
Posted By: bob <egraphic@ix.netcom.com> (
Date: 6/19/1 - 17:14:51
In Response To: Thanks (more) (Curtis)
in the resolution of the longitude problem that spanned the middle of the eighteenth century. (I just finished reading Dava Sobel's Longitude. I know, I know, I'm way late getting around to it).
In any event, many contemporary watchmakers tried to second-guess Harrison in their copycat designs, often leaving out significant elements, or using inexpensive materials in the hopes of duplicating his successes. Then there were the doubting Thomases on the Board of Longitude, who predominently favored a lunar (non-mechanical) solution, and put Harrison's invention through decades of needlessly rigorous testing.

Statement of rights retained and permissions granted...
Permission for personal, educational or non-commercial use is granted. The author retains all other rights not specifically mentioned here... For all other use please contact the author.