Exclusive interview with Roger after the New York City premiere of ‘The Watchmaker’s Apprentice’

Roger Smith and David Armstrong

Roger with the Director of The Watchmaker’s Apprentice, David Armstrong (left)


As ever Roger was flying the flag for GREAT Britain and the Premiere was attended by representatives from the British Consulate in New York, including Crissy Pascual (left)

Roger attends New York City premiere of The Watchmaker’s Apprentice

How was the trip?

New York is always very exciting. It’s a great city with a deep interest in horology. In fact the horological community there is growing and very knowledgeable, while the people I meet always seem to be enthusiastic and very pleasant company!

The event was hosted by the New York Horological Society…

Yes it was – and they are doing important work, which is continually increasing the awareness and knowledge of watchmaking.

You also have collectors in the USA?

We do. Both the East and West coasts are important for us and overall the USA probably accounts for a third of our business. I think that was partly why there was a great deal of interest in the Watchmaker’s Apprentice.

The event was sold out…

It was! The cinema is actually quite iconic, being the home of the Tribeca Film Festival and the house was packed! It’s marvelous to see so much interest for a film about watchmaking. It is particularly gratifying to see this for DAM Productions who made the film.

It has been nearly four years since they filmed the interviews with George and myself here in the Isle of Man. So to see them gain support from The Watch Club in London, to ensure the film was finished and to now see that faith fulfilled with sold-out screenings and international distribution is marvelous.

How does it feel to be the subject of a film?!

Well, I think this comes back to the question of the faith of filmmakers. Tucked away in our studio in the Isle of Man, it is easy to forget that there is so much interest in watchmaking, and what we do, all over the world. As such, I was amazed that anyone would want to make a film about it!

However, I think, clearly the fascination is with George Daniels and his story. George gave so few interviews and was a very private person (except when he was racing his Bentleys!) that for the production team to get his last words also gave them the chance to create a completely rounded narrative on his life and work, which in many respects makes it very complementary to Michael Clerizo’s excellent biography. I may be ‘The Watchmaker’s Apprentice’, but my story in the context of the film is only really the last chapter of George’s.

You also gave a question and answer session?

Along with David Armstrong, the director, yes. Being a horological audience, many of the questions picked up on various aspects of the story and there were also a number of anecdotes shared from the audience about George Daniels, which are always entertaining!

It was also touching to hear how the film affected people and it was also very gratifying to meet so many young people with a passion for watchmaking!

..and there was a lot of interest in your now famous ‘Open Letter’…

That too! I must say it was quite overwhelming the support I received and to hear about the similar issues faced by the watchmaking fraternity in the USA. Since the letter was published by Hodinkee it has received huge support around the world and in particular the UK of course. It has also subsequently been quoted by others, and in forums, somewhat out of context. My issue is not and never has been a judgment on how people make watches, but purely about the honesty of their claims. The audience shared their own big concern about provenance in New York right now. They were telling me that some watch companies claim to make pieces locally, but in actual fact these might be dissembled foreign watches, which are reassembled on site and then passed off as having been ‘Made in New York’. This is the sort of thing I am talking about.

What is next for the film?

I gather that the film is being represented for international sales by Amadeus Entertainment at the Cannes Film Festival right now and is being released in the UK on the 20th July by the distributor, Bulldog Film.

Thank you!