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 having his brand to Bulgari in 2000, not much was heard about Daniel Roth himself, other than the fact that he is still making 2 to 3 watches a year out of his humble little workshop in his home in Le Sentier.
The watch we have on offer here today is an exemplary early Daniel Roth Ref. 2107 “extra-plat” in yellow gold.
The Ref. 2107 features a 35mm x 38mm yellow gold “Ellipsocurvex” case, in other words, a “double-ellipse” case, which has over the years become a signature case design of Daniel Roth. Because the case is neither round nor rectangular, it demonstrates a great balancing exercise between two opposing shapes and is complemented with a stepped bezel and straight lugs. If you examine the Ref. 2107 closely, you will find a lot of design choices that are clearly influenced by Daniel’s days at Breguet, such as the straight lugs, the polishing on the case, and the lance blued-steel hands. The finishing on the dial is absolutely stunning with that sharply executed pinstripe guilloche, accompanied by the brushed chapter ring in satin silver that features Roman numerals with a dotted minute track.
In comparison to his other creations and being a time-only reference, the overall design of the Ref. 2107’s is much more pared back and understated. The Ref. 2107 utilizes an automatic movement that is based on Frederic Piguet Cal. 71, one of the thinnest automatic calibers ever produced and also a movement Daniel is quite familiar with from his tenure with Breguet. What makes this particular caliber interesting is the fact that its off-centered rotor construction was designed in such a way to promote modularity. Therefore, the usage of this specific caliber in the Ref. 2107 lives up to the “ultra-plat”, or in other words, “ultra-thin”, which is the term Daniel Roth uses to describe the movement.
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.
Furthermore, while there are different generations of Roth timepieces, it is the early ones that are the highest quality and rarest. To find an early piece such as this doesn’t come around very often.