George Daniels' watch and classic car collections
George Daniels' watch and classic car collections
A tribute to George Daniels, artist, engineer, master craftsman and owner of the finest watch and car collections
Until his death in 2011, George Daniels was one of the most famous and celebrated horologists in the world. Famed for his innovations, most notably the groundbreaking co-axial escapement, he is currently the only horologist to have received both an MBE and a CBE.
Daniels, born in 1926,died in October 2011
He was also revered as the only watchmaker who could create every component of a watch by hand.
Daniels was fascinated at an early age by the workings of a damaged pocket watch and resolved to learn how to repair it.
By the time he joined the army at age 18 (in 1944, with WWII in its last throes) he was offering to do repairs for his fellow soldiers.
Later he was introduced to Breguet by his friend Sam Clutton and became fascinated with the great innovator's work. Daniels concentrated on the repair and restoration of Breguet watches for many years and wrote the leading work on them, which was published in 1975.
Daniels's first watch was sold to Sam Clutton for 2,000 in 1970 and it is understood that he bought it back from Clutton five years later for 8,000. It sold recently at an auction in the United States for $285,000.
Of course, a devotion to watchmaking comes hand in hand with a stunning collection, and Daniels' was truly awe-inspiring.
An impressive 130 watches and timepieces, representing the great makers of the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries, went under hammer at Sotheby's in November 2012.
Almost every major figure in the watch collecting industry was present, if not to bid then simply for the sheer spectacle.
With standing room only declared in the London showroom, Daniels' watches realiseda total 13.2m ($21.1m), topping the sale's high estimate of 5.7m ($9.2m) by 128%. Proceeds were donated to the George Daniels Educational Trust.
Daniels was often quoted as saying that the Space Travellers Watch could save thousands on long distance calls on a trip to Mars
The star of the show was Daniels' own unique Space Travellers Watch, an 18k yellow gold pocket watch that sold for 1.3m ($2m).
Designed by Danielsto commemorate the first Moon landing, the piece offers "everything you'd need on a watch if you were travelling through space", including an independent double-wheel escapement, mean-solar and sidereal time, age and phase of the Moon and equation of time indications.
Not to mention a breathtaking aesthetic that rivals the finest the market has seen.
Joseph Knibb was the inventor of the Roman striking system
Also starring in Daniels' collection was a silver-mounted ebony clock made by esteemed restoration-era watchmaker Joseph Knibb, which made 1.2m ($1.8m). The magnificent clock was given to Thomas Beckett by King George III for his loyal service as surgeon to the Grenadier Guards from 1794.
Daniels was one of the only watchmakers to design and make his watches from scratch, some of which were unique and never sold, created simply for his own pleasure
Daniels' fine taste in watches and his eye for the finest quality was also reflected in his classic car collection, which was brought to auction through Bonhams in June 2012 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
In an interview with the BBC in 2010, Daniels explained his love of cars: "Old motor cars are every bit as interesting as old watches. We tune them up to be as sporting and speeding as they were when they were original.
"They are all quite famous in one way or another, driven by leading riders. We know the performance these cars can achieve and we get that performance out of them again - just because they are old, doesn't mean they are slow."
Focusing on early racers, Daniels combined his love of history and mechanics in the collection. This was a love shared by the bidders at Bonhams, who propelled his 1929 Blower Bentley, the very first example driven by Sir Henry "Tim" Birkin, to a new auction record for any British car of 5m ($7.8m).
The world's most valuable Bentley and the auction record holder for a British car
The single-seater was once famed for raising the record on the Brooklands Outer Circuit to 137mph, a feat that remains impressive to this day.
Daniels was a huge appreciator of Tim Birkin and the legendary group of owners known as the Bentley Boys, so much so that he also owned the 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 Long Chassis Touring Spider that was part of Birkin's 1932 Le Mans 24-Hour entry, which sold for 2.5m ($3.9m).
Birkin's 1932 Alfa Romeo. Tim Birkin, himself an innovator in his field, was a great hero of Daniels'
"The prices achieved for George Daniels' cars today are a fitting tribute to one of the truly great artist engineers of the 20th Century," commented Bonhams' Malcolm Barber following the sale.
"George was not only a fantastic craftsman who hand-made some of the world's most desirable watches, he was also a car connoisseur held in immense respect throughout the vintage motoring world."
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