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 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 Ref. 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 calibres.
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 from the Daniel Roth x Hour Glass period that I think are great and worthy of being included. This Seconds at Six model manages to retain some excellent original Daniel Roth traits that I find extremely desirable, including the classic anthracite pinstripe 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, making this watch unmistakably a Roth, through and through.
Furthermore, this particular example is a mid-size version and features an 18-carat yellow gold case. While most watches during this era were housed in stainless steel cases, the use of yellow gold on top of the omittance of lume on the dial and hands truly gives off the vibes of first-generation Roths.
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.