G.L. Watson

An Early PassionPotrait of GL Watson by Sir George-Lennox-Watson

George Lennox Watson was born in Glasgow in 1851, the son of a Thomas Lennox Watson, a doctor at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary.  Watson grew up in the heart of Clydeside Industry at a time when it was reaching its peak. As a boy, he would holiday at his family’s house at Inverkip on the Clyde, and it was here that he developed his passion for yachts.  During his holidays he befriended a local yacht hand called William Mackie and was soon telling his friend how he would go about designing a yacht.

The World’s First Yacht Design Studio

When he was 16 Watson served his apprenticeship with the Clydeside ship building and engineering firm, Robert Napier & Sons. It was during his time at Napier’s that Watson started to use pioneering theories of hydrodynamics as an influence in yacht design. After practicing at J&A Inglis Shipbuilders, in 1873, at the age of just 22 he started the world’s first dedicated yacht design office.

International Acclaim

His early success in the racing classes of the day, with designs such as Clothilde, Vril and Verve soon brought his name to the fore as the most innovative yacht designer of the time. He was commissioned to design, amongst others; four America’s Cup challengers, the royal racing yacht Britannia and the largest sailing schooner of its time, Rainbow.  He also led the field in the design of large steam yachts with an international clientele which included most of the crowned heads of Europe and prominent families such as the Vanderbilts and Rothschilds. His designs would not only become iconic but featured in some of the most notable moments in history.

Royal National Lifeboat Institution

In addition to yacht design, Watson was also heavily involved with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).  In 1877 Watson became consulting Naval Architect to the RNLI, a position which future G.L. Watson & Co. Directors would fulfil until the late 1960s.

LegacyGL Watson Restored Grave

Watson remained dedicated to his work and exercised almost fanatical attention to detailed aspects of his yachts in both design and build before his early death in November 1904, aged only 54. His design legacy was carried on by J.R. Barnett and through subsequent directors of the firm which today still bears the name of its founder.

Link to G.L. Watson Website : www.glwatson.com

Profile images © G. L. Watson & Co. Ltd. 2011

Back to top