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 it 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 realize. 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 calibers.
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 beautifully 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 caliber finished to perfection.
What makes this particular example even more special is that it comes housed in a platinum case. The Papillon commemorative series was made in white gold, yellow gold, and platinum and while it is hard enough to find a Papillon in any metal, platinum reigns supreme as only 30 examples were made compared to the 110 in white and rose gold each. To differentiate the platinum example from the identical-looking white gold, the easiest way to tell is based on the sub-seconds in the middle of the dial. The white gold example is in grey, matching the rest of the dial, while the platinum version is in white, contrasting with the grey background.
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. I have been an advocate of early Daniel Roth for many years now and it is great to see that collectors are finally separating the eras of Roth and truly appreciating and valuing the early examples.