Watchmaker George Daniels's world-class classic car collection

George Daniels, who died last year at the age of 86, was one of the keenest and most inventive watchmakers of the 20th century, and also assembled an extremely high quality collection of classic cars.

Born in 1926, Daniels already had an interest in watchmaking by the time he joined the army in 1944, and did repairs for his friends. 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.

He is most famous amongst watch collectors for creating the co-axial escapement, which dramatically cuts friction as the watch unwinds.

A depiction of the coaxial escapement - George Daniels
A depiction of the coaxial escapement

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.

Whilst Daniels's watches might be collectible, his own collecting instincts moved to another interest he shared with Clutton: classic cars.

It's surprising how often fascinations with fine watches and classic cars coincide in a collector, for example in the extraordinary timepiece collection of the great car-maker James Ward Packard, presumably due to the combination of a stylish exterior with intricate engineering underneath.

Some of the highlights of the collection, which is due to be sold at Bonhams later this year are:

The ex-1908 French Grand Prix and 1910 Brooklands All-comers Plate winner (fastest lap at 101.8mph), 1908 Itala 100hp Grand Prix Car.

Daniels revered this car for a long time before purchasing it - "while I have long been an admirer of this car, ownership could only be seen as a heady dream. Yet suddenly, and without warning, came the opportunity to acquire it and I did so without hesitation.

"It is a giant among motor cars with a colossal stride propelled by its four-cylinder, twelve litre engine."

Sir Henry Tim Birkin Bentley supercharged single seater
Sir Henry Tim's Birkin Bentley supercharged single seater

Then there is the ex-Frank Taylor of Taylor Woodrow Construction 1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback by H.J. Mulliner, a "great favourite" of Daniels, with only three owners from new and with extensive service history.

The ex-Maharaja of Bhavnagar 1929 4½-litre Bentley Tourer by Vanden Plas reflects Daniels's life-long enthusiasm for Bentley, saying, "To me they represent the best in motoring."

The 1907 Daimler 45hp Roi-de-Belges Tourer originally built for the Earl of Craven. Daniels once said of this Daimler, "allowing for its idiosyncratic behaviour and its occasional bouts of sulking and refusing to cooperate, it is my favourite car. The car I would keep if allowed only one.

"With its hissing carburettor, exposed valve gear and whirring chain drive to the wheels it has all the uncomplicated charm of the primitive creation the very essence of the horseless carriage. For that most enjoyable of all motoring experiences - just meandering through France with nothing to do more urgent than eating and drinking - it is the perfect carriage."

The jewel in the crown of the collection however is probably the ex-Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin 1929-32 Bentley 4½-Litre Supercharged Single-Seater which set the Brooklands Outer Circuit Lap Record at more than 137mph in 1931. Daniels once wrote that, "For all its inconvenience it is a most exhilarating car to drive both on the road and track."

In total the collection of seven cars and two motorbikes is expected to achieve £8m when it goes under the hammer on June 29.

James Knight, Group Head of Motoring at Bonhams, comments, "We are immensely proud to have been selected to handle the George Daniels collection. It promises to be one of those landmark collection sales that will be talked about for years to come."

Collectors who can't wait that long to get their hands on a speedy classic should take a look at this 1970 Maserati Ghibli Convertible.

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