Independent watchmaking has recently gained incredible traction, with impressive results at auction for rare models. But to understand the origins and the current state of the indie scene, one has to look back in time and investigate names like George Daniels, Vianney Halter, Svend Andersen, Philippe Dufour and of course, Daniel Roth. Often considered one of the earliest representatives of the indie scene, with the foundation of his eponymous brand in the late 1980s, Roth’s watches are becoming more and more collectable. And today, we found an example of what could be the grail of his early models, a steel Daniel Roth Double Dial Tourbillon, now available on the auction platform Loupe This.
Born in France to a family dedicated to watchmaking, Daniel Roth has left a significant mark on the modern state of the industry. Not only was he at the foundation of the current Breguet company, but he was also a pioneer of the independent watchmaking scene. Roth worked for several manufactures, including Jaeger-LeCoultre and Audemars Piguet. But one of the most important steps in his career was when he applied for the position of master watchmaker at Breguet, a brand that had been acquired by the Chaumet brothers (from the eponymous jewellery brand) with the idea of restoring it to its former glory – and that was way before the Swatch Group and Mr Hayek took over. During his 14 years at Breguet and together with François Bodet (director of Breguet), they defined the look of the brand in wristwatch form. Following the bankruptcy declaration of Chaumet and Breguet (due to massive debts accumulated by the Chaumet brothers), Breguet was sold to Investcorp in 1987, a year before Roth resigned, which was the catalyst for his upcoming solo career.
In 1988, Daniel Roth created his eponymous, independent brand – something that, back in the days, was far from usual in the watchmaking industry, barely starting to recover from the quartz crisis. Roth worked on the creation of a consistent collection, comprising complicated or time-only models, most of them sharing an identical shape and some design cues that were certainly borrowed from his years at Breguet – just look at the guilloché dials, the hands or the overall concept of off-centred displays. Even though Roth had managed to create a coherent brand with over ten employees in just four years, he struggled with financial issues, leading him to sell his managing stake to Singapore-based retailer The Hour Glass in 1994. The result was a rather impressive rise in production numbers and capacities, yet a move away from the original vision of Roth, visible in late 1990s models. In 2000, the brand was sold to Bvlgari.
It took some years for the collecting community to understand the importance of the watches produced by Daniel Roth (specifically the watches from 1988 to the mid-1990s). Long reserved to seasoned, niche-oriented collectors, Roth watches are now gaining fame as some models become highly sought-after. Notably, the Double Face Tourbillon and the stainless steel limited edition made in 1994 for The Hour Glass.
Finding such a watch is difficult. And looking at it, you can see why it is important and desirable. The polished steel case has Roth’s distinctive shape. The dial, combining a grey background and silvered brushed tracks, also takes on the guilloché technique with multiple patterns to enhance legibility – something that Roth took from his years at Breguet. But there’s more since this is also one of Roth’s most complex models. The Daniel Roth Double Dial Tourbillon was developed in 1988 with a Lemania movement – the 387 ébauche to be precise, which he developed together with Lemania when he was at Breguet. It’s notable thanks to “its triple-handed tourbillon cage with hands of varying lengths that sweep over 20-second scales as the tourbillon rotates,” as Eric Ku from Loupe This explains. In addition to the front-positioned off-centred indication of the time and tourbillon regulator, the back also reveals surprises, with an indication of the date and a power reserve indicator.
This rare and important Daniel Roth Double Dial Tourbillon C187 is now up for auction at Loupe This, the online platform recently created by Eric Ku and Justin Gruenberg. As Ku mentions, “an intriguing piece of Daniel Roth’s heritage, and the overarching independent watchmaking industry during its dawn in the 90s, this is an important watch that is just as rare as it is complex, beautiful, and historic“.
This well-preserved example of the Steel Daniel Roth Double Dial Tourbillon is now available from Loupe This via an online auction process, ending on 14 December 2021. The current bid of USD 66,000 (at the time of writing) certainly doesn’t reflect the importance of this watch and will, without a doubt, evolve. More details can be found here.