Today is a fairly exciting day in our DAM lives. In case you haven’t noticed the subtle references in previous news posts, we have been invited to share a preview of our forthcoming documentary ‘The Watchmaker’s Apprentice’ at the Saatchi Gallery, as part of this year’s prestigious Salon QP event.
We were approached by the Editor of QP, James Gurney, earlier this year. He’d seen the teaser trailer we circulated and was very keen to see more – in fact, he wanted to premiere the entire documentary at his event! It made sense, as two days before Salon QP, George Daniels’ horological collection would be going under the hammer at one of Sotheby’s most highly anticipated auctions.
That auction was, of course, on Tuesday of this week. How time flies eh?! (pardon the pun) We were there, and we filmed it, and we can tell you that the ‘high anticipation’ was very much founded…The sale room was already overfilled half an hour before the auction was due to start, and when it finally did begin, there were clients and buyers standing 8-10 deep out the door of the sale room, with dozens more mashed up against the inside walls.
The opening lots were some of George’s finest – and quite famous – hand made watches; when ‘The Space Traveller’ was announced, there was a palpable boost in excitement levels, with the crowd chattering and murmuring about the significance of the piece and, of course, posturing as to the price it would raise.
And they weren’t disappointed. We filmed a few seconds of the ‘value counter’ on the screen raising by substantial increments, so rapidly it looked like a Wall St feed. And when the price passed the million mark, the auctioneer – the brilliant Lord Harry Dalmeny who we interviewed later – kept up the pace with great humour and the incomparable pocketwatch eventually went for £1.3m. It was fantastic to see such a significant timepiece and one so bound to George’s history being acknowledged for it’s true value – even more so when you know the stories of the watchmaker happily wandering about with the watch just nestled in his top pocket for years.
The sale eventually raised an incredible £7m for the George Daniels’ Education Trust, which should go *some* way to keeping George’s legacy alive and help inspire new generations of watchmakers. Check out the article on the BBC website.
But that was two days ago…
When James first asked us to screen ‘…Apprentice’ at Salon QP 2012 way back in the Spring, it seemed an extremely tall order: the documentary has been very much a ‘passion project’ of ours for the past 18months. It came off the back of a what was to be a simple, 5minute profile on Roger W Smith for a series we were creating about the Isle of Man’s more interesting residents, but on meeting Roger and shortly thereafter meeting George Daniels, we were entranced by their story and decided to do something considerably more ambitious! And so, ‘The Watchmaker’s Apprentice’ was born.
The emotional gravity and significance added to the story by the sad passing of George just a few months after we spent a glorious morning in his company, drove us on even more in our determination to make sure this story was told.
That said, we hadn’t envisaged the documentary being ready before 2013 so at the time we spoke to James, we only had about ten minutes of it edited, with many dozens of hours of footage to wade through and make sense of. However, we’re extremely pleased with how much footage we’ve been able to get together in time for the event – almost an hour’s worth – and with the animations from Maya artist Andrew Martin and the character illustrations he has created for us, which will be added later, we’re confident we will have a great programme.
It should be noted that we are by no means ‘clock and watch people’. At least, we weren’t when we started this project. But from the very first interview with Roger, and the ensuing time spent with George at his home and workshop on the Island which none of us will ever forget, we have each been somewhat ‘hypnotised’ by their watches, their lives, their craft and their relationship.
And this is what the documentary is about. Below is a section from our one page document about the programme, which should give an idea of what we’re hoping to achieve.
We hope the audience at Salon QP will love the story and the characters as much as we do.
THE WATCHMAKER’S APPRENTICE.
The Watchmaker’s Apprentice is fundamentally a documentary about two very special men, whose skills are unparalleled in the world today – the only men in history to master an art so completely and perfectly, that between them, they are successfully reviving an ancient industry.
The documentary is also about the passage of time, about making every moment count, about life and – ultimately – about death; itʼs about our fleeting existence, and the opportunities we have to leave an eternally lasting imprint on the world should we choose to push ourselves and our creative, scientific and ‘human’ abilities to their full potential.
It’s about obsession. Passion. Personality.
At the very heart of the story lies the fascinating and vividly colourful relationship between the two protagonists – The Watchmaker himself, George Daniels CBE, and his Apprentice Roger W Smith, the only man George ever deemed worthy to pass his hard-earned knowledge and skills to in order to continue his life’s work.
Their relationship is captivating – one of mutual respect and arms-length friendship, with a healthy dose of competition, somewhat akin to a father and son working in the same field, but made all the more interesting because of their entirely disparate personalities.
It was only when George passed away sadly before this documentary was completed, aged 85, that the true depth of the admiration the men had formed for each other began to become apparent: in Roger’s final interviews, the moving eulogies at the funeral, and in George’s generous and heartfelt final gesture revealed in the execution of his Final Will and Testament…