Roger W. Smith OBE reunites with the watch that helped him onto the Queen’s honours list

British watchmaker Roger W. Smith, has been reunited with the ‘Great Britain’ watch, just days after he received his OBE.

Smith created the ‘Great Britain’ for a governmental campaign, which he assumed an ambassadorial role for, following an invitation from the incumbent Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Smith was reunited with the piece during his visit to Phillips Berkeley Square, where the auction house was hosting an exhibition that displayed his watch.

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Speaking to Phillips about the project that led to the creation, Smith said: “I’d had several meetings with Cabinet Office at Downing Street to discuss the ‘Great Britain’ campaign which is a campaign designed to promote the British Isles all around the world, and they were interested in the way I make my watches, and they wanted to talk about ways in which we could help promote and explain creativity and inventiveness to a wider audience. The idea of making a new watch was born out of that conversation. I agreed to design a watch, and obviously, I wanted it to be English in feel.”

The ‘Great Britain’ was made in 2013, and it has been a three years since Smith has seen the watch himself.

Discussing what it was like to see the watch again, he said: “It was very nice actually. It brought back the challenges of making the piece, including the dial, which was a very complicated idea that I came up with. Interestingly it was the first watch I made that had the lightweight single-wheel escape wheel, so it was really nice to see and it brought back many memories.”

He told Phillips: “The curious thing about watchmaking is that obviously you are always happy to see a piece but you’re always thinking about what you are making at the moment. It was an interesting reminder as to where we were in 2013 and how far we’ve come since then. That was a snapshot of our work at that moment really but a lot has happened since, including the Mark 2 movements which are producing some astonishing results, so it was nice to see where we were then.”

The horologist, who trained under George Daniels, is now based on the Isle of Man and remains ambitious in what he wants to achieve.

He said: “There’s a lot I want to do, many different complications I want to work with, but ultimately it’s about making good watches. All my work with the co-axial escapement, since 1998, has been about trying to improve the co-axial escapement. George gave us this astonishing escapement and put it in our hands, in my hands, and we’ve improved it slightly. We’re now producing Mark 2 watches which have this incredibly efficient movement.

He went on to add: “I always say that if I deliver a watch to a client and I never see it again, it never comes back to service, that’s great news for me as it means I’ve done my job well. So that’s what really drives me. Whether George fully appreciated what he had created, I don’t know. But he did a good job.”

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Alex Douglas

The author Alex Douglas