When we think of the big independents today, names such as Kari Voutilainen, Philippe Dufour, F. P. Journe, and Roger 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, which in my opinion, sits right at the top of the pyramid amongst the very best when it comes to independent brands.
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 who 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 Ref. 3130, with its guilloché dial and its straight-lugged case, set the tone for Breguet and was during the time of 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.
Presented here is a remarkable example hailing from that revered early Daniel Roth era – a first-generation Ref. 2167, housed in a mid-sized, 18-carat yellow gold ‘elipsocurvex’ case with a profound black dial adorned with exquisite copper accents. When examining the dial closely, you can see that this example possesses unique design cues that make this particular generation of Daniel Roths highly coveted among collectors. Notably, Daniel Roth’s signature vertical pinstripe guilloché graces the dial, complemented by a copper-colored minutes track adorned with Roman numerals, as well as a striking yellow gold handset that harmoniously complements the case. When appreciated as a whole, the dial and case combination seen here is very well balanced, thanks to its masterful interplay between the curved and angular contours, as well as the use of copper-toned elements to offset the muted dial and complement the warm yellow gold tones. This combination, I dare say, is absolutely stunning when viewed up close.
Moving on to the movement, this mechanical masterpiece is driven by the ultra-thin manual-winding, DR. Cal 167 which in other words is a Frederic Piguet 21. Its slender architecture contributes to the Midi Plat's overall slim appearance and is without a doubt one of the greatest movements produced. When observed underneath the solid caseback, you can see that the DR. 196 is beautifully constructed and features a series of finishing techniques including chamfering, polishing, and decorative elements such as your Côtes de Genève. Furthermore, it is uniquely serialized to correspond with the case's serial number.
In the past, I’ve repeatedly expressed my utter disappointment in the direction and reality of Daniel Roth today which was taken over by Bvlgari, who absorbed his distinctive case design and branded it under their own. Oversized, gaudy, and inelegant – these reiterations were clearly a far cry from the original. But with the brand’s recent revival featuring the new Tourbillon Souscription, I am elated to see that Daniel Roth is finally getting the recognition it deserves, and is now one step closer to regaining its footing in the industry once again.