The Watchmakers Apprentice DVD

An eye for detail...

George Daniels CBE is almost an unknown in the wide and vast consumerist, modern world. That is if you have no knowledge or connection to Horology. That is the study of time or in its more modern makeup, the creation of time keeping devices. He crafted single, hand made watches in his workshop in the Isle of Man. He also invented a new technique after almost 250 years of nothing having been achieved. The Coaxial Escapement reignited the watchmaking industry and proved that what was considered flawless, could infact be perfected. That is to say the very centre of the watch making world could be moved. This documentary explores the relationship between George and his only apprentice, Roger Smith. The son of a doctor, who crafted a piece so beautiful as to have convinced George to take him on. They join together in Georges workshop to craft a series of one off watched for Georges millenium project. This being his final series of watches and many believe his most beautiful.

A work of art

The problem with a documentary on a subject so vast and dense as Horology is, you have to find the central topic to bring to your audience. This can be via a biography or in a discourse on merits built in a bridging argument. Now yes this documentary is about a very talented and engaging man but it is also based in a world that is very heavy with retained and emperical knowledge. We need to know some of this in order to understand why, say George is so important. Why a pocket watch or a time piece is so specific and of course why the process of construction is so time consuming. That brings us the basic reason for watching by connecting the viewer to the film and to the subject matter as a whole. This film actually tries to split this focus across the Horology history and the personal story. This it does very well. The problem is that it does so in a way that is superfical and rather self absorbed. The slow pans, the tracking through grass and the Ozu inspired frame in frame work well but add time to the piece. The film feels visually amazing but being about time, it should not add to it as it does.

Bits and Bobs

The other problem is in the comments of other critics on this film. Mark Kermode is a great film commentator and critic but he has focused on the relationship between master and apprentice. I felt that this element is lacking here. We feel (or at least I did) that the two men are polatic opposites and barely spent time together. They are two ships passing in the dark. not sensai and pupil. All in all a great film but one that lacks the bite it needs, the focus it should have and adds to much to the subject it explores….time.

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