The Story of Daniel Roth
Daniel Roth was born into a family with deep horological roots, with his grandfather and great-grandfather both working as watchmakers in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Following this path, he completed his technical apprenticeship in Nice, before fulfilling his ambition of moving to the Vallée de Joux, one of the world’s watchmaking epicentres. He joined Audemars Piguet at a young age, at a time where he was the only watchmaker who didn’t come from Le Brassus, the brand’s historic home.
Following seven years at Audemars Piguet, Roth was noticed by the Chaumet brothers, the then owners of Breguet. In the midst of the Quartz Crisis, they wanted to restore the brand to its former glory and were looking for a Master Watchmaker who could help. Inspired by the work of the famous watchmaker, Roth agreed to help resuscitate the manufacture, though only after going back to school to further study Breguet’s archives and techniques. Over fourteen years, he would help rebuild the watchmaker, cementing the style, finishing and complications in wristwatch form.
In 1989, Daniel Roth decided to establish his own manufacture. One of the first truly independent watchmakers working under his own name, he created Breguet-inspired pieces, with a twist. He cemented aesthetic codes which are distinctively his own, from the double-ellipse case to the sharply executed pinstripe guilloché dials used on some of his models. Though his output was limited, it was plentiful in its diversity and inventiveness, from tourbillons to chronographs. Daniel Roth was one of the key brand names of independent watchmaking in the 1990s, alongside Franck Muller, Roger Dubuis and Francois-Paul Journe, among others. In 2000, the company was sold to Bulgari, with the watchmaker no longer being involved from that point onwards.
The Perpetual Calendar
Shortly after starting his eponymous brand, Roth decided to tackle one of the most classic complications in horology, the perpetual calendar. To help him with this project, he approached none other than Philippe Dufour, who had only just begun his journey as an independant watchmaker. Not only was Dufour highly skilled in this sort of work, but he also happened to live just down the road from Roth's workshop.
Together, they sought to develop the world’s first instantaneous perpetual calendar, where all the indications would flick into place, rather than gradually move into position. They used the Lemania 8810 as their ébauche, jointly developing a perpetual calendar module which would sit on top of it. According to Dufour, the process was rather laborious, even with his experience working on complicated movements. As he puts it,
“I remember it being hard work. It took me about six or seven months to finish the movement.”
Roth first announced this project Baselworld in 1991, where he presented a prototype featuring the apertures for the day and date. However, as Roth and Dufour found out during the development process, too much energy was required for the indications to jump into place. As such, they replaced the digital display for the day and date with two sub-dials and sets of hands, in order to decrease the force needed to move all the gears. Evidence suggests that both versions were released at Baselworld in 1993, two years after the project was first announced.
For the reference 2117, Roth reimagined the perpetual calendar dial layout, foregoing the traditional approach usually adopted by others. The sub-dial at 6 o'clock is used to indicate the date on the periphery, with the year on the inside, sinking lower down into the dial. As for the month and day of the week, these are displayed in two smaller sub-dials, with the former at 3 o'clock and the latter at 9 o'clock. The indications are displayed in French. For example, "T" on the day sub-dial stands for "Tuesday".
The dial features a striking skeletonised design, which puts the watchmakers' innovative perpetual calendar module front and center. The time, date and brand signature are displayed thanks to silver, brushed surfaces, which appear to float above the movement. The exposed mechanics display an impressive level of hand-finishing, with vertical brushing, mirror polish and bevelling visible on most of the surfaces. The baseplate features a traditional hand-engraving, in a floral pattern, which elegantly stands out. The lance-shaped hands, another visual inspiration from the Abraham-Louis Breguet, are rendered in blue steel.
The white gold double-ellipse case is unique in its execution. Neither round nor rectangular, it balances the two different shapes, complemented by a stepped bezel and sharp, straight lugs. Pushers at 1, 8 and 11 o'clock are used to set the different perpetual calendar indications. Measuring 38mm x 35mm in diameter, the watch sits comfortably on the wrist and wears larger than its dimensions would otherwise suggest.
This Daniel Roth Perpetual Calendar is powered by a reworked Lemania 8810 ébauche. On top of the automatic movements sits a perpetual calendar module, jointly developed by Roth and Dufour, and assembled within the brand's Vallée du Joux workshop.
The movement is subtly finished, with chamfering on some of the angles, as well as polishing and decoration, in the form of Geneva striping. The rotor is made out of solid gold, and engraved by hand. All the operations on the movement required over 100 hours of work, according to a brochure from the period.
This Daniel Roth Perpetual Calendar 2117 is accompanied by a copy of its Garantie, which confirms sale at Kronometry in Cannes, France. It comes on one of our grey grained leather strap and white gold Daniel Roth tang buckle.
If sold within the United Kingdom, this Perpetual Calendar ref. 2117 will be subject to 20% VAT. Viewings are currently suspended for the time being.