8 October 2023


By In Daniel Roth, General

In recent years, the world of watchmaking has been increasingly discovering innovative creations born from the minds of brilliant independent masters. Although this growing trend has emerged for many in recent years only, the most passionate enthusiasts fondly remember that independent watchmaking began to develop in the last decades of the 20th century, and one of the first brands to emerge was Daniel Roth. Through this article, we will discuss the recent revival of the brand, starting with a historical overview of the Daniel Roth’s journey.

The early years

Daniel Roth was born in Nice in 1945, and he was introduced to the world of watchmaking when he was still very young, thanks to his grandfather who was a watchmaker and taught him the basics of this mechanical art. After attending the watchmaking school, he moved to Switzerland, where he began working within Jaeger-LeCoultre and then for 7 years within Audemars Piguet.

The skills he acquired over the years led Daniel Roth have an interview with the Chaumet brothers, renowned French jewelers who had recently acquired Breguet and were looking for someone capable of reviving the brand. To illustrate Daniel Roth’s genius, it would suffice to recount the two-page resume he prepared for the interview. The first page detailed his past experiences and all the skills he had acquired, while the second page outlined the skills he did not know yet, but promised to learn drawing inspiration from the creations of Adam Louis Breguet. It’s not difficult to imagine that such presentation impressed the Chaumet brothers, who entrusted him with the task of restoring the name Breguet to its former glory.

Thus, starting in 1975, Daniel Roth began working for Breguet, and he created timepieces that are still recognized by many enthusiasts as some of the brand’s most beautiful creations. The watches crafted by the Master were characterized by the iconic coin-edge case and exquisitely detailed dials, made of either silver or gold. These dials often featured intricate hand-engraved Guilloché patterns while the calibers were often based on Lemania movements, which Daniel Roth collaborated with in this regard.

The inspiration for the creations from these years is directly drawn from the designs of Adam Louis Breguet. Examples of this inspiration include references like the 3130, which pays homage to pocket watch number 5 still offered by the brand today, and the 3330, affectionately known among enthusiasts as the “Cinesino.”

Breguet 3130 cinesino. Picture of the watch positioned on the side to admire the guilloché dial
Breguet 3130 – photo courtesy of Nobleuhren

One of the most remarkable pieces created by the Master during those years is arguably the reference 3350. Starting from the idea of modernizing Adam Louis Breguet’s 1801 invention, Daniel Roth presented his interpretation of the tourbillon in a compact 36mm case. He positioned the tourbillon at 6 o’clock and used it to indicate seconds, while a small guilloché-worked dial at 12 o’clock displayed the hours and minutes. The back of the watch showed a caliber made of solid gold, featuring truly incredible engravings that made it a masterpiece in both design and craftsmanship.

Breguet 3350 made by yellow gold with tourbillon at 6 o'clock and decentered time indication
Breguet 3350 – Photo courtesy of A Collected Man
Daniel Roth own brand

In 1988, following economic troubles faced by the Chaumet brothers and the subsequent sale of Breguet, Daniel Roth made the decision to leave the company that had enabled him to become one of the most recognized watchmakers in the world and, then, he chose to establish a new brand under his own name. Daniel Roth, along with fifteen carefully chosen watchmakers, established his workshop in Le Sentier, within the Vallée de Joux, and immediately began crafting new masterpieces. A distinctive hallmark of his creations is the double ellipse case, exclusively produced in precious metal, and the craftsmanship of the movements and dials, which were directly influenced by his years spent at Breguet.

From 1988 to 1994, Daniel Roth conceived and produced some of the most incredible and iconic timepieces, all characterized by unrivaled dial and movement finishes. Among the most significant references from this period, the Tourbillon C187 stands out, perhaps the piece that brought the brand to be recognized worldwide. It retained the dial layout of the Breguet 3350 but added a second dial on the back of the watch, featuring day and power reserve indications. Daniel Roth positioned these indicators on the back of the watch to avoid cluttering the front dial with various indications but also to “encourage” the wearer to turn the watch at least once a day and admire all the details.

Daniel Roth C187 on the wrist with the 1 minute tourbillon at 6 o'clock and the three arrows to indicate the running seconds
Daniel Roth C187. – photo courtesy of A Collected Man

Among other masterpieces from this period, we can recall the ultra-thin reference C107, the chronographs with the Lemania movement, and the reference C127 which draws inspiration from a pocket watch created by George Daniels and is characterize by a retrograde hour indication.

Daniel Roth C127 retrograde in yellow gold.
Daniel Roth C127 Retrograde – Photo courtesy of S.Song

Unfortunately, between 1994 and 1995, due to economic and financial issues, Daniel Roth was compelled to sell a majority stake of its company to The Hour Glass group. The subsequent years were marked by a different approach to watch production, with an increase in the number of watches produced at the expense of some aesthetic refinement. However, during these years, the Master still directly supervised the watch production, giving rise to new references that were equally remarkable. This included the automatic reference C207 and the reference C317, known as the “Papillon” due to its unique retrograde minute and jumping hour indication. Then, In 2000, due to the failure of The Hour Glass, the Daniel Roth brand became the property of Bulgari, marking the beginning of the brand’s subsequent decline. The styles adopted by the new ownership attempted to align with market demands but veered too far from Roth’s original ideas, resulting in less success than anticipated.

Daniel Roth C207. Picture of the front side of the watch to see the dial with running seconds at 6 o'clock
Daniel Roth C207
The revival of Daniel Roth by LVMH

Far removed from the brand bearing his name, Daniel Roth embarked on a new chapter in his life in 2003. Together with his wife and son, he established the brand that bears their names: Jean Daniel Nicholas. Producing only 2 to 3 pieces per year, this allowed the master to create exceptionally high-quality masterpieces characterized by two case shapes but all featured a two-minute tourbillon.

The latest significant step in the journey of Daniel Roth was made in march 2023 since Jean Arnault, the new Marketing Director for Watches and Jewelry at the LVMH Group, announced the relaunch of the brand. The revival of Daniel Roth has been entrusted to Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini, founders of La Fabrique Du Temps, a company owned by the LVMH Group that is responsible for the high watchmaking segment of the group, which now also includes the Gerald Genta brand and Louis Vuitton’s high watchmaking division. The underlying idea behind the brand’s revival is to stay as faithful as possible to the Master’s creations, and to ensure this happens, they will seek to collaborate with Daniel Roth himself, as evidenced by some recent posts on their Instagram page. As their inaugural timepiece, La Fabrique Du Temps has chosen to draw inspiration from the renowned reference C187, which is likely the most iconic creation of the master, and they have created a limited series of only 20 pieces, called the Tourbillon Souscription. The yellow gold dial, a material consistently used by Roth, features a Clous de Paris guilloché pattern crafted by Kari Voutilainen, who has been able to faithfully capture the master’s distinctive style.

Daniel Roth Souscription
Daniel Roth Souscription – photo courtesy of Hodinkee

The LVMH Group’s strong interest in the world of watchmaking is evident, not only in the commercial sector but also in the independent realm, as they are channeling significant resources into renowned names from the past. As further confirmation of the group’s excellent work, in addition to the positive response from enthusiasts, are the sales figures for the “Watches and Jewelry” division in 2022, which increased by 18%, generating a turnover of 10.6 billion euros.

Written by Tiziano Patti

Born in 2002, I’m a young watch collector and enthusiast always looking to add new pieces to my collection.