When we think of the big independents today, names such as Voutilainen, Dufour, Journe and Smith come to mind. In fact, there is such a huge appreciation for independents today that is has become somewhat mainstream within collecting circles to own at least one watch from an independent brand.
Before all of this hype though, there was Daniel Roth. To be honest, in my opinion, the story of the Daniel Roth brand is a tragic one that could’ve worked out very differently.
To add some context, Daniel Roth was one of the most talented watchmakers of his generation and was responsible for many things you see today but do not realise. For one, he was a leading figure that established the design language of Breguet dress watches that you see today. In the ’60s and ’70s, Breguet had become a below-average watch brand with no future, until they were acquired by Chaumet, who in turn brought in Daniel Roth to lead the helm. The reference 3130, with its guilloche dial and its straight lugged case, set the tone for Breguet and was created by Daniel Roth. Moreover, he played a significant role in producing complicated movements for Lemania who may I remind you up until recently still provided the likes of Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin with chronograph calibres.
After that chapter of Roth’s life and entering into the ’90s, the independent brand ‘Daniel Roth’ began taking form and the watch you see here today is the pinnacle of it. This Daniel Roth Papillon was made as a 10-year anniversary celebration of the brand and it features a jumping hour complication and his distinctive tonneau-shaped case. Looking closer, you will see the beautiful attention to detail on the watch, with a guilloche dial reminiscent of his days in Breguet and a beautiful symmetrical design layout. The 12 o’clock aperture shows the jumping hour while the bottom half of the dial tells the minute with an oversized blued pointer. In the middle of the dial and layered above the hour and minute lies a beautiful running seconds subdial with a different guilloche pattern and a large blued seconds hand. The depth of the dial achieved through the layering and different guilloche patterns is really stunning. Flip the watch over and you will see his signature guilloched solid gold rotor and his calibre finished to perfection.
I truly think that these Daniel Roth watches are hugely under-appreciated and it is a tragedy that the man himself does not get the recognition he deserves. Due to bad business decisions, several takeovers and just pure bad luck, the brand Daniel Roth eventually ended up with Bvlgari, who today absorbed his distinctive case shape and branded it under their own. Compared to the original Roth pieces, which were elegant, understated and beautiful, today’s reiteration by Bvlgari is a far cry from that- oversized and gaudy. It does make me sad to see such a great watch brand tarnished, but I am sure it will be a matter of time before his great work is appreciated again.
Only 110 Papillon examples were produced in white gold, making it a very rare watch.