Before watch production achieved the scale and structure of modern operations, it was very much a cottage industry. Watchmakers laboured independently over steel and gold, animating the hearts and hands within universes of precious metals through time-honoured traditions and avant-garde innovations.
Take the first mechanical pocket watch developed by George Daniels in 1969, a manual-winding timepiece handcrafted even as the quartz crisis loomed. His resolve and faith in traditional watchmaking — especially with later innovations such as the one-of-a-kind Space Traveller timepiece — inspired generations after him to continue along the path of haute horlogerie.
The Hour Glass honours such exemplars in The Persistence of Memory. The exhibition studies the past five decades of artisanal watchmaking, from the genre-defining work of Daniels and his friend, Derek Pratt, in 1970 to the continuation of their non-utilitarian watchmaking philosophies espoused by François-Paul Journe, Kari Voutilainen and Philippe Dufour.
It finally arrives in this past decade with the works of contemporary stars such as Roger Smith and Rexhep Rexhepi. This living online repository aims to document the developmental timeline of independent watchmaking with photographs and archived images of key timepieces.
“We assembled some 150 of the finest examples of artisanal watchmaking of this period including two of George Daniels’ masterworks — the Space Traveller and the Grand Complication,” says The Hour Glass group managing director and exhibition curator Michael Tay.
“Many of these watches were on loan from important private collections as well as from the artisans themselves. This online virtual reality platform is highly immersive in that it allows for thorough storytelling accompanied by precise macro photographs of the watches, which is something I’m certain the global enthusiast community will appreciate.”
'The Persistence of Memory' can be viewed here.
This article first appeared on Mar 15, 2021 in The Edge Malaysia.