Roger’s lecture on the Development of a Practical Watch Escapement at the Horological Society of New York.

21 December, 2017

It was French essayist Joseph Joubert who said “To teach is to learn twice”, and this was a very apt insight to describe Roger’s experience from his lecture to the Horological Society of New York.

The Society’s lecture series is a New York tradition, offered monthly since 1866 and the main event of Roger’s visit was his much anticipated reprise to Dr George Daniels’s lecture in 1990 on the Development of a Practical Watch Escapement.

Its award-winning horological education classes have been taught since the 1950s, and Roger’s trip embraced both the headline lecture as well as a private class to six watch enthusiasts.

“This initiative is a marvellous and powerful way to introduce watchmaking to true enthusiasts and the Horological Society of New York really are to be congratulated for leading the way in education” said Roger.

Arriving in New York for his class on the 3rd December, Roger was struck by the passion and enthusiasm of his six students, all collectors, who had made generous donations to the HSNY to attend a rare opportunity to learn first-hand from ‘The Watchmaker’.

“I think, above all, this gave all the attendees a real insight into why they invest in watches” said Roger. “I’d like to think everybody went away with an even greater appreciation and awareness of what’s ticking away on their wrist!”

The class, held in the HSNY’s special ‘pop-up’ watchmaking workshop, gave the students the chance to work with an ETA 6497 calibre movement. Under Roger’s careful guidance over the four hour class, the attendees all managed to follow a step-by-step technical process to strip-down and rebuild the mechanism.

Roger Smith presenting to the class
Roger Smith presenting to the class. Credit: Atom Moore

“They were such a smart and engaged group and I very much hope that some might even be inspired to buy a few tools and play around with some old movements. You never know where that might lead!”

On Monday, December 4th, the doors opened at the General Society Library on West 44th Street for the main event, Roger’s lecture, entitled “The Development of a Practical Watch Escapement.”

Reckoned to be a record attendance for the HSNY series, with over 120 attendees, the lecture also welcomed students from Rolex's Lititz Watch Technicum in Pennsylvania, and Patek Philippe's Watchmaking School locally from New York.

“Without doubt, I went to New York with a clear imperative, and that was to continue the theme of the seminal talk given by George Daniels in 1990. That theme was practicality. It’s about horological and mechanical efficiency in escapements, which is the core of the Daniels Method by which we work today” explains Roger.

“So I boarded my flight absolutely convinced that this lecture was all about imparting my over-riding philosophy; namely to develop the most efficient approach, based on the original Co-axial, which any sensible horological historian will recognise as the true exemplar model of the modern era. I set about discussing how I have developed this in recent years with my Single-wheel version and, from a technical perspective, I did focus very much on the evolution of power savings in the main-spring” said Roger.

“However, even as the lecture progressed I began to have a fundamental realisation. I came to understand from teaching that our focus as horologists should not be lost in the pure mechanics of escapements, but to search for the true clarity of their benefits to timekeeping and ultimate longevity to the watch owner.”

“In many respects, my own ‘learning from teaching’ was that, as mechanical watchmakers, we really should be talking about the timekeeping and longevity benefits as much as we do dwelling on the mechanisms. As watchmakers, that is where our motivation should always be. Quite frankly, and for the good of horology, perhaps this simple insight would avoid some of the doomed follies and carbuncles being trumpeted as the next wonder of watchmaking by some of the bigger makers in recent times.”

Summing up the lecture, Nicholas Manousos, President of the Horological Society of New York said “Ever since Roger visited New York City in April 2015 for the premiere of The Watchmaker’s Apprentice, people have been asking when he would return. Roger is famous for making some of the most beautiful watches on Earth, and he is also famous for being one of the friendliest watchmakers you will ever meet. His enthusiasm for his craft is inspiring and his contributions to the Horological Society of New York are incredibly meaningful. Based on the remarkable turnout for his lecture at HSNY’s December 2017 meeting, many people in NYC share my sentiments.”

Roger Smith shaking hands with Nicholas Manousos, President of the Horological Society of New York
Roger Smith shaking hands with Nicholas Manousos, President of the Horological Society of New York. Credit: Atom Moore

In conclusion, Roger said “I offer my sincere thanks to Nick and his team at the Horological Society of New York for hosting these valuable events and for their hospitality. They are to be heartily congratulated for their pioneering work in championing the education and awareness of horology.”

Roger’s full lecture can be viewed in the embedded video below. In the New Year we will be producing what, we hope, will be the definitive video lecture on escapements combining Roger and George’s lectures into one, with some new additional insights from Roger.

For now we wish all our friends a very merry Christmas and our best wishes for 2018.