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Roger Smith Series 2
Upholding the legacy of George
I had the good fortune to visit the small atelier on the Isle of Man earlier this year belonging to the charismatic Roger Smith. I waxed-lyrical on ESCAPEMENT shortly after returning to the mainland, enthusing about my experience.
The Isle of Man has a wonderful history of fine horology. John Harwood, George Daniels and Roger Smith have all inhabited the small landmass in the middle of the Irish Sea.
George Daniels was the genius who invented the Co-axial escapement. This would subsequently be adopted by Omega for use in many of its watches. However, he also created a very limited number of fabulous watches bearing his own name.
A young Roger Smith met Mr Daniels whilst he attended college in Manchester and subsequently wrote to him seeking advice. The rest as they say is history. Whilst George Daniels preferred to work alone, he did proffer advice and support to the young Lancastrian.
Sadly George Daniels passed away in 2011, however, his unique approach to watchmaking continues in the skilful hands of Roger Smith. George believed a true watchmaker should accomplish all the thirty or so trades involved in watchmaking and this philosophy has been adopted by Roger.
It is rare that a watchmaker will make his own cases, hands, movements, dials etc. However, this is the arduous path chosen by Mr Smith. The results are stunning to behold. All aspects coalesce brilliantly.
Roger once remarked to me that his watches should always appear superior to the mass manufactured. I have never seen anything bearing Roger’s initials which would lead me to doubt this bold statement.
By now, you have probably ascertained that I am a huge fan of Roger Smith. If I won the lottery, one of the first calls I would make would be to the Isle of Man to place my order. When I received details of the Series 2 in my email inbox, I was as excited as a child at 6 a.m. on Christmas Day.
The Series 2 is the latest model to be launched by Roger W. Smith Limited. However, don’t expect a famous brand ambassador to be wearing one of these special watches or a glitzy launch. The artisans in the Isle of Man, seven in total who work at atelier, only craft ten timepieces per annum. It is only a small number of discerning buyers who can truly appreciate or afford these incredible watches. They sell themselves. Advanced orders stretch well into the future, necessitating patience on the part of potential purchasers. But, they are worth the wait.
The dial is silver and perfectly demonstrates the beauty of hand crafted guilloché.
The centre zone is decorated with a basketwork pattern. It provides a charming contrast with the blued hour and minute hands on the white gold version. The guilloché has been formed on a rose engine, skilfully turned by hand. The peerless character of the centre zone is sublime. There is no room for CNC here.
I became immediately captivated by the blue tincture of the hands on the white gold model. They are almost indigo in shade and unlike any blued hands I have seen elsewhere. The purple hue is the product of careful timing to ensure the desired shade is achieved. Excessive exposure to heat and the hands would need to be re-worked. The hands are the beautiful outcome of patient handcrafting. Perfection is seldom achieved by expedience.
The seconds circle features an alternative guilloché style, diamond pattern. The slim, blued subsidiary seconds hand has a counter balance at one end. It is the tiny details that distinguish this watch as something special. A silver seconds chapter circumnavigates the seconds circle enhancing the interpretation of time.
Adjacent 10 o’clock a sector for showing the energy stored within the spring barrel is eloquently conveyed using a a simple blued hand in collaboration with an up and down chapter.
At noon a signature cartouche proudly proclaims the soubriquet of this modest maestro of horology, R. W. Smith.
The chapter ring is beautifully bright, the conclusion of diligent polishing. Hand engraved Roman numerals sit in harmony with the classic elegance of the dial.
The watch is available in various noble metals in standard form including white gold, yellow gold and rose gold. However, Roger Smith offers a “bespoke” service offering the client the ability to personalise the watch to their own tastes. Whislt I adore the white gold Series 2, the rose gold version is equally beautiful with rich gold hands that reflect warmth onto the wearer's admiring face.
The crown and case are made of 18 carat gold.
Highly polished surfaces capture the light and exude luxury from every angle. However, this watch is not about conspicuous consumption akin to the football manager festooned with garish chains and rings. There is nothing outré about Roger Smith watches. The distilled design is clean and free of impurity.
The design language and horological integrity owes much to the heyday of pocket watches when Tompian and Mudge created the finest.
Much time and effort is spent on the movement and wearers can indulge their horological voyeurism courtesy of the sapphire caseback.
The gold cases are hallmarked in London and hand engraved.
The Series 2 uses the RW Smith single wheel version of the Daniels Co-axial escapement. The Co-axial escapement proffers less friction than a lever escapement and provides better rate keeping. The robust nature of the movement means that service intervals stretch into double figures.
The movement has a frequency of 18,000 vph (2.5 Hz).
Gold chatons are yet a further nod to traditional watchmaking. Originally they were designed to counter the problem of breaking jewels whilst being inserted into the plates and bridges. With the advent of synthetic jewels they are no longer economically necessary. However, the gold lined drill holes further reinforce the attention to detail.
The cocks are gold, the plates are English finished and frosted.
I remember looking at a small bridge in Roger’s workshop which had been subject to black polishing. The mirror like finish was blemish free and the fruition of one and a half days skilled use of diamantine. A paragon of excellence I will never forget and further testament to the virtue of the timepieces from the Manx Isle.
I embrace the Series 2 as a die-hard fan of George Daniels and Roger Smith. Daniel's young protégé has matured into a great master in his own right.
The talented artisan and his skilled team create some of the finest timepieces. There is no marketing hyperbole necessary. The cognoscenti will always seek preeminent products and clearly several have discovered the charms of Roger Smith.
The architecture of the Series 2 will remain immune from the fickle tastes of fashion. The styling of the Series 2 will retain relevance to the period it finds itself in despite the passing of time. Quality will never go out of fashion.
I would find it hard to choose between the rose gold version with its warm, handsome dial and the white gold version with its comely blue hands. But, that would be a dilemma I would dearly love to have.
I am currently reading George Daniels' literary tomb, “George Daniels Watchmaking”. It is a must read for any budding horologer. As I read the text it further reinforces my respect for the skill, perseverance and fortitude necessary to become a master horologer. With the Series 2, Roger Smith has imbued George’s text, mastered his bequeathed skills and maintained his legacy of fine British watchmaking.
- Model: Roger Smith Series 2
- Case: 18-carat white, yellow or red gold; diameter 40.00 mm; height 13 mm; sapphire crystal to front and solid case back.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; subsidiary seconds; power reserve indicator.
- Movement: Manual wind; frequency 18,000 vph (2.5 Hz); 28 jewels; power reserve 36 hours.
- Strap: Supplied with one black and one tan alligator strap with hand engraved gold pin buckle.