When we think of the big independent brands 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 example we have on offer here today is quite a unique one because it bears all the physical characteristics that are identical to Daniel Roth’s earlier 50th birthday limited edition that was originally released in 1995.
The watch is fitted with Daniel Roth’s signature 36mm x 31mm “Ellipsocurvex” (in other words, “double-ellipse”) case in stainless steel. The salmon dial on this example is absolutely stunning, it reflects subtle tones of orange and pink when exposed to different shades of lighting. Upon closer inspection, you will find that the salmon dial features an exquisitely finished pinstripe guilloché pattern that is reminiscent of his work at Breguet along with a beautiful, symmetrical design layout. The dial is also complemented by glossy Roman numerals on the brushed semi-circular chapter ring, alongside the elegant lance-blued steel hands, as well as the minimalistic date aperture at the 6 o ‘clock position.
Turn the watch over and you will be greeted with a Daniel Roth Cal. 157 beating away in all of its glory. For those who are unaware, the Cal. 157 is actually a modified and decorated 21-jeweled Frederic Piguet Cal. 9.51. At the bottom portion of the case back you will also find a ‘Le Sentier’ engraving, which denotes the location of Daniel Roth’s modest workshop in Vallée de Joux.
On the wrist, this watch exudes a lot of understated elegance and the way the salmon dial interacts with light makes the watch intriguing to look at from afar. In my eyes, this is simply one of those watches that makes you want to stop whatever that you are doing at the time, look closer, and ponder upon.
This example here is a prime representation of Daniel Roth’s hardship and persistence over the years with his craft. A very fine watch that would serve as a memento of all the extraordinary work done by one of the greatest independent watchmakers of our time, and a fine addition to any collection.
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.