Daniel Roth is one of the exceptional luxury watch brands endowed with expertise that is not confined to technical aspects, but which transforms each of the timepieces it creates into an authentic work of art. Founded in 1989, it soon became known and acknowledged among connoisseurs of complications and collectors the world over. The shape of its first timepiece – the twin-face Tourbillon – soon came to symbolise the quintessence of the Daniel Roth style, and continues to embody it to this day.
A distinctive brand marrying an inventive mind-set and a passion for complications with a sophisticated flair for aesthetics and refinement, Daniel Roth was acquired in 1995 by The Hour Glass, a company specialising in the luxury retail trade. This was the start of an international adventure, particularly with the opening of the Asian and American markets. The new millennium provided an opportunity for Daniel Roth to join Bulgari, one of the rare international luxury groups still in the hands of its founding family. The expansion of the brand and of the Manufacture in Le Sentier were pursued, in harmony with a unique style and a determination to share its ideals of exclusivity and excellence. Since then, the management has spared no effort to reinforce the essence of the products from which the brand has always drawn its strength: innovation and technical mastery, high-end finishing and a design that is both classic and contemporary.
Every single Daniel Roth creation is entirely crafted in the workshops at Le Sentier, where a small group made up of the finest technicians and watchmakers is capable of developing and making every kind of complicated movement from start to finish. After months of meticulous work, the delicate assembly of hundreds of components followed by gauging and the most precise adjustments create a harmonious alliance of art and technology. The movements are housed in cases featuring the immediately recognisable “Daniel Roth” shape that has become the true symbol of the brand. The double elliptical shape of the case, coupled with the guilloché patterns of the dial; the three-arm small seconds hand or the version with a rounded T-shaped counterpoise; and the new crown with seven concave and convex grooves: this distinctive array of signature features blends particularly well with the high-end decorative work on the movements. It is this extreme care devoted to details that has inspired the admiration of prominent collectors all over the world.
History of Daniel Roth watch Brand
In 1989, aided and abetted by talented craftsmen, Daniel Roth rapidly created an atmosphere propitious to the full expression of time-honoured expertise and to the birth of the Grande Complication models for which the brand was to become famous. By combining demanding technical standards with an original design, the Manufacture soon built up a strong reputation in the field of international fine watchmaking.
From 1999 onwards, the reins of the company were taken up by the able hands of Gérald Roden, a visionary individual with 20 years of watch industry experience behind him. His mission was to usher the brand into the 21st century, while cultivating its values based on rectitude, honesty and excellence. With his team of designers, engineers and movement design engineers, he established a clear-cut picture of the company’s prospects. He thereby succeeded not only in preserving the excellent reputation built up over its first ten years of existence, but also in marrying the Daniel Roth spirit with the latest technological breakthroughs. In 2000, Daniel Roth began developing its own Manufacture-made proprietary calibres – which now equip six Tourbillon and Perpetual Calendar models – as well as other original complicated watches such as the Papillon Chronograph. That was the year the brand joined the Bulgari group which, in its ongoing pursuit of excellence, encompasses several companies including some specialising in the production of dials and wristbands.
Taking this direction proved an effective means of reassuring collectors around the world regarding the perpetuation and development of the brand heritage that is jealously safeguarded by the current team. With a production of around 1,500 watches per year, backed by investments in state-of-the-art machinery and in more spacious, pleasant and environment-friendly premises, the company also clearly displayed its goal: that of achieving steady and reasonable growth enabling it to achieve the greatest possible independence. Such progress naturally depends on appropriate control of its own production, while ensuring perfect mastery of quality.
The brand signature
The Daniel Roth spirit: The traditional vision of the watchmaking profession is embodied in each of the timepieces emerging from its workshops. Loyalty to ethical principles and respect for the brand values continue to be scrupulously observed by each individual artisan. Each creation is still entirely made in-house, with a small group composed of the finest technicians and watchmakers able to develop and produce all the complication movements in their entirety. Each part is still individually fashioned and artistically finished. Each master-watchmaker still keeps personal control of each stage in the making of a Grande Complication watch. The scrupulous selection of materials and the extreme care lavished on tiny details and on quality controls are as uncompromisingly stringent as ever. That is what it takes, by dint of months of meticulous craftsmanship, along with the assembly of hundreds of parts and countless fine adjustments, to ensure the creation of sheer mechanical marvels.
A powerful style: From 1989 with the launch of the twin-faced Tourbillon, the Daniel Roth style immediately asserted itself within the ultra-select circle of Haute Horlogerie brands. It is defined by excellence and refinement, along with an inimitable design.
Cases: In reflecting on the construction of his first case, Daniel Roth designed a perfect circle with cut sides. He then duplicated the first shape thus obtained and, after slightly reducing the diameter of the second, superimposed them to create a case with a totally original design. On exceptional models such as the twin-face 8 Day Tourbillon, the pivoting case features a customisable chassis. Consistently used over the years on all models, this shape now stands for uncompromisingly demanding watchmaking appreciated by connoisseurs the world over.
Dials: The dial of each Grande Complication model is made from an 18-carat gold plate adorned with specific decorations such as guilloché, precious plating, enamelling and gem-setting. On extremely limited series, each dial is one-of-a-kind.
Hands: Fashioned from steel and flame-blued at a temperature of 1300°C for most models, they are an integral part of the Daniel Roth identity. The hour and minute hands are arrow-tipped, while on models with central seconds the hand is adorned with a counter-balance that is echoed in the T of the Daniel Roth balance – a tiny yet extremely elegant feature typical of the brand’s unfailing attention to detail. Other unique characteristic that has also become a brand symbol is the seconds hand with three arms of various lengths gliding around a subdial with three concentric zones and appearing on some models such as the 8 Day Tourbillon or the Athys models.
The Manufacture Daniel Roth:
In 1989, Daniel Roth founded his own brand and set up his Manufacture in the village of Le Sentier (Vallée de Joux), in a building that had once housed a watchmaking workshop back in 1905 and of which he acquired ownership in 1992. This Jura-style construction, typical of the early 20th century Swiss watchmaking traditions with its stone staircases, wooden doors and its clock integrated into the gabled roof, was enriched with a new building at the end of 2007. Featuring industrial-type architecture, its design meets the latest norms in terms of working conditions and environment-friendly features. This modern facility, with its visible structure combining wood, glass and metal, comprises three floors flooded with light pouring through its charming picture windows and literally triples the total surface area of the Manufacture (3,000 m2 in all). Between the two buildings, visitors are welcomed by a bridge arching over a pond.
The value of a manufacturing company is dependent on that of the men and women who work there, all of them driven by unchangingly high demands and a daringly innovative spirit. That is why all the personnel at Daniel Roth – micromechanical engineers, decoration specialists or master-watchmakers – remain deeply committed to time-honoured gestures. Through their dedicated labour, these expert hands daily give rise to truly exceptional creations.
Gerald Roden and his team define the plans of new products in their offices based in Meyrin, Geneva. While the design and the functions are naturally essential to development, the team is also attentive technical innovation. It is in particular concerned with improving the operation of certain functions or of particular movement parts, as well as selecting the finest materials according to their performances. Once this stage is complete, the plans are handed over to the Manufacture in Le Sentier, where the development production phases can begin, backed by rigorous testing and controls.
In the older building of the Manufacture, a team of engineers, assisted by watchmakers specialised in prototype making, translate the movement characteristics onto the computer screen in 2D or 3D drawings. This is what is known as CAD, or Computer-Assisted Design. Depending on whether they are dealing with a new version of a function or with the conception of a whole new movement, the team takes between three to six months to create the first usable drawings. During this period, they meticulously fine-tune the mechanism and check its feasibility. Based on the computerised model that will serve as a working basis for the suppliers involved, another team of engineers develops the case, dial and hands.
From CAD to prototypes:Once the CAD stage is complete, the project is transferred to the new building, adjacent to the first. One entire floor is devoted to the production of components (the mechanical workshop); and another to operations involving watchmakers (watchmaking workshop), as well as to quality control and storage.
This is where production begins on the first parts for the prototypes. After checking that the first batches comply with the brand’s extremely high quality criteria, a prototypist assembles the first parts and expresses his opinion on the overall feasibility of the concept. Several more months are required to test the finalised parts, to perform the required adjustments and to continue production. Some components are machined in the spark-erosion workshop by CNC machinery accurate to within 5/100ths of a millimetre. They are for example capable of creating 15 teeth on each of the four branches of the tiny quarter star of a Grande Sonnerie mechanism, and they do so without applying force to the material, as would be the case with drilling or milling operations.
Thanks to state-of-the-art machinery, the company is capable of manufacturing all parts of a watch, from movement blanks to steel parts, along with the numerous wheels and pinions. In order to free itself from the constraints of subcontracting, and particularly for reasons of quality and delivery times, the Manufacture plans to further increase the percentage of its in-house production.
Decorating the finished parts: The decorations testify to a determination to achieve excellence and to a refinement inherent to Haute Horlogerie. At Daniel Roth, the finishing and decoration are hand-crafted by specialised artisans. Each part is made in five stages: trimming, smoothing the faces, bevelling, initial polishing and finally polishing special areas such as the sides of the countersinks.
The distinctive features of all Daniel Roth movements include rhodium-plating on the bridges and plates, Côtes de Genève on the bridges and circular graining on the plates – operations performed on both visible and non-visible areas. Other key characteristic is the snailed motif on the date discs and other function indicators, achieved by grinding-wheels rotating over the surface of the part in a single direction, so as to achieve a spiral effect.
The bevelling of the edges and angles is done in five stages: five different polishing discs fitted on a lathe perform around 2,000 rotations per minute. The beveller works first with a wooden disc, then with three different leather discs, and finally with a felt disc. The operation may take from a few minutes to a whole day, depending on the part. While certain finishes require the use of a machine such as a polishing lathe, others can only be done by hand using felts, burnishers and stones.
Assembly: Once produced, finished and checked, the components are dispatched according to the watch for which they are intended, to one or other of the assembly workshops that take up the most space on the second floor: the one dealing with “small complications” and the other one with “grand complications”.
The small-complications workshop: All the parts of the chronograph, jumping hour, retrograde or Metropolitan functions are assembled here. The watchmakers in this department have taken six to twelve months’ additional training in order to master all the techniques involved. They receive small series of sets of parts that they fashion by hand from start to finish in an independent manner. Once assembled and cased up, each movement is checked by the master-watchmaker in charge and tested for several days within the workshop.
The grand-complications workshop: Time and patience are of the essence here. A team of highly qualified watchmakers devote themselves entirely to their art, that of assembling tourbillons and perpetual calendars, according to the principle of one watchmaker, one watch. Since the philosophy of the Manufacture is to favour quality rather than quantity, they are able to assemble 12 perpetual calendar models and as many different tourbillons, and to produce 30 watches per type of complication per year. Each timepiece houses several hundred parts, screws and other tiny components, for which the same watchmaker is entirely responsible.
In a perpetual calendar, adjusting the action of the wheels and pinions is an extremely delicate task – whether for a single indicator or for the entire range of day, month and year displays, including leap years. For a “simple” tourbillon carriage, assembly alone can take several days. Several weeks are required to assemble a self-winding tourbillon with perpetual calendar, or the technical feat represented by the 8 Day Tourbillon with its pivoting case. In addition to the tests performed at each stage of assembly, the finished parts are submitted to a minimum of three quality controls.
The striking watches workshop: It is in this third workshop that the most complicated Daniel Roth models spring to life – those that require the most dexterity and experience: striking models. The silence that prevails there is broken only by the Westminster chime of the Grande Sonnerie Moon Phases, a masterpiece of horological complication housing a self-winding tourbillon movement with a four-hammer Grande and Petite Sonnerie producing four notes: G, C, E and D. A little further along, one can sometimes catch the clear, pure sound of the two minute repeater gongs that very few watch Manufacturers are able to produce. Watchmakers work in close cooperation with acoustic engineers with an eye and an ear to the future, who analyse the quality and the richness of the tone and share the results of their research on the “true” notes that will serve as a benchmark for the appropriate vibrations of the gongs. While dedicated software helps them to correct potential flaws, nothing can replace the experience and the ear of a master-watchmaker in this quest for absolute perfection.
Each model is assembled twice. The first time uses a working bridge and serves to test, adjust and verify the reliability of each component. The movement is then taken apart (and all the parts are washed in special machines) before being reassembled with the final decorative bridges. The movements house from 850 to 1,100 parts, which explains why the process can take up to four months (compared with two and a half months for a Tourbillon Moon Phases Date model). It is therefore easy to grasp why a watchmaker can only create a few of these exceptional mechanisms per year.
In addition to the obvious skills deployed, what is most striking in this workshop, as indeed throughout the Manufacture, is the passion driving these men and women bent over their workbench or their machine, some of whom have been loyal to the company from its beginning. They tirelessly blank, cut, trim, sandblast, engrave, assemble, case up, bejewel, circular-grain, assemble and test the various parts with timeless artistry.
Quality control: This department performs three tests relating to compliance with various technical and aesthetic norms on the movements, wristbands and cases, in addition to the tests already conducted in the workshops. For the gold from which the movements are made, the tests verify the thickness and hardness; for base movements from other manufacturers and for cases, the air-tightness and water-tightness; for the exterior, the dial and hands; and for finished watches, their water-tightness to 3 atmospheres (or 10 for some models). The underlying principle is based on the probability that the more tests are performed upstream, the less watches will be returned to the after-sales service department.
1989: Launch of a world first: the twin-faced Tourbillon (Calibre 187). The emblematic shape of Daniel Roth cases is born.
1990: Two models are launched: the Self-winding column-wheel Chronograph (Calibre 147) in classic and skeleton versions, and an Hour Minute model (Calibre 107) with an ultra-thin self-winding movement, measuring just 2.4 mm thick and 27.4 mm in diameter.
1991: Presentation of the ultra-thin self-winding model (Calibre 167(, measuring 1.73 mm thick and 23.33 mm in diameter.
1992: Creation of the Retrograde Jumping Hours with small seconds at 6 o’clock (calibre 127).
1993: The first Perpetual Calendar, developed in cooperation with Philippe Dufour (Calibre 117).
1995: Daniel Roth introduces the Minute Repeater with Perpetual Calendar and Moon Phases (Calibre 189), the first striking model.
1996: Six years after the launch of its first chronograph, Daniel Roth presents its Self-winding Chronograph (Calibre 247), on a Zenith El Primero 400 column-wheel movement beating at 36,000 vibrations per hour. The chronograph is accurate to within 1/10th of a second.
1998: Launch of an exceptional timepiece: the ultra-thin Minute Repeater (Calibre 307), a mere 7.35 mm thick. Development and launch of a world first: the Instantaneous Perpetual Calendar in a skeletonised version, enabling one to admire the change of all functions at midnight (Calibre 117.1).
1999: On the occasion of the brand’s 10th anniversary, creation of an innovative moment, the Papillon (Calibre 317), with jumping hours, retractable minute hands and central small seconds. Offering an original alternative to the retrograde function, the retractable hands are duly patented.
2000: Development and launch of the Metropolitan (Calibre 857), which provides simplified reading of time zones. This model is also patented.
2002: Creation of the world’s first Tourbillon with 8-day power reserve (Calibre 197). With its twin-faced movement endowed with a 200-hour power reserve and its pivoting case, this model soon came to symbolise the brand.
2003: Loyal to the complication on which it has built its reputation, the brand introduces a Tourbillon, this time equipped with a Retrograde Date (Calibre 196):
2004: 15th anniversary of the brand foundation. Daniel Roth presents on this occasion the first Grande Sonnerie Self-winding Tourbillon watch with 4 hammers and Westminster Chime. Entirely developed in the workshops of the Manufacture, this masterpiece of Haute Horlogerie is still acknowledged as the world’s most complicated movement.
2005: Launch of the Ellipsocurvex Minute Repeater, entirely developed, built and assembled in the Manufacture, and the Ellipsocurvex Papillon, a new interpretation of the emblematic Papillon.
2006: Athys I emerges from the workshops. It heralds a line symbolising the essence of the Daniel Roth spirit: the case shape, Roman lines, precious materials three-arm seconds hand and finely finished movement decoration. The Metropolitan is enriched with a new variation – the Dual Time – and a new 8 Day Tourbillon model is presented.
2007: Daniel Roth launches the Tourbillon Lumière, the unique openworked model featuring an “all-gold” movement specially developed to ensure a maximum of transparency and lightness. Presentation of a new Grande Sonnerie Moon Phases model, featuring a self-winding tourbillon movement with Grande and Petite Sonnerie with four hammers and Westmisnter chime – a watchmaking masterpiece entirely developed in-house. At the end of the year, a spacious and luminous new building is added to the existing one.
2008: Launch of the Papillon Chronograph. A worthy heir to the Papillon, launched in 1999 to celebrate the brand’s 10th anniversary and reinterpreted in 2005, it is equipped with a unique patented pivoting double minute-hand system. This new chronograph model wins the “Watch of the Year” prize in 2009 prize in the “Upcoming brand” category at the 2nd edition of the Salon International de Haute Horlogerie, in Mexico.
2009: The brand celebrates its 20th anniversary.