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 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.
After that chapter of Roth’s life and entering into the ’90s, the independent brand ‘Daniel Roth’ began taking form. There are three distinct periods in the Daniel Roth brand, the early period when he was truly independent, the middle period when The Hour Glass was a stakeholder, and the final period when Bvlgari took over and Daniel Roth left the company.
In 1995, Daniel Roth joined forces with The Hour Glass Group and the example you see here today is part of that period. While any early Daniel Roth piece is considered hugely desirable, there are still a few pieces in the Hour Glass period that I think is great and worthy of being included. This S177 model manages to retain some excellent original Daniel Roth traits that I find desirable, including the classic grey vertical guilloche dial reminiscent of his days in Breguet and a beautifully symmetrical design layout. The overall depth of the dial is accentuated further through the contrasting applied silver hour chapter ring that finishes off the elegant look that makes this watch unmistakably a Roth.
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 as I have been an advocate for Daniel Roth for quite a few years now, it is great to finally see that early examples from the brand are coming back into the fore, getting the recognition it has always deserved.