A fine, extremely rare and unusual limited-edition white gold diamond- and sapphire-set wristwatch from the Daniel Roth haute horlogerie Swiss watch brand, founded in 1989 by Daniel Roth, the Swiss watchmaker of French origin, and active until the 2010s. Limited edition launched in 2005. Double ellipse-shaped Ellipsocurvex case in 18k white gold, measuring 44 x 41mm, 13.55mm thick, diamond- and sapphire-set curved solid gold cover of dial with butterfly-shaped opening for minutes indication and windows for small seconds hand and jumping hours. Sapphire caseback with engraved brand logo, reference and limited-edition number. Self-winding DR115 caliber, solid-gold rotor decorated with ‘lotus’ guilloche pattern and the brand’s logo, power reserve up to 46 hours. Functions – jumping hours at 12 o’clock, retractable hands for retrograde minutes indication, small seconds hand at the centre. Blue leather strap, Daniel Roth triple folding clasp in 18k white gold. Limited edition of 210 pieces.

Lot essay

Daniel Roth developed the ‘papillon’ complication with jumping hours, retractable minute hands and central small seconds hand on the occasion of the brand’s 10th anniversary in 1999. Offering an original alternative to the traditional retrograde function, the first-generation Papillon limited edition (250 pieces, calibre DR317) was the last creation of Daniel Roth himself. He was actively involved in the design of this watch before leaving the company upon its sale to Bulgari in 2000.

The Papillon design was subsequently revisited by the brand in 2005, which launched the Académie Ellipsocurvex Papillon Ref. 318.Y limited edition of 500 timepieces in total: 210 pieces in white gold (as in the present example), 210 in rose gold, and 80 in platinum. The watches were powered by the self-winding DR115 caliber, based like its predecessor on a Girard-Perregaux GP3000 movement-blank and accommodating an additional module for the ‘papillon’ complication. This movement was entirely finished in-house, including decoration, hand chamfering, the Côtes de Genève pattern, and the solid gold rotor decorated with a guilloché pattern. 

The peculiarity of the present lot is the refined jewellery execution, with the front cover of the case encrusted with sapphires and diamonds.

The DR115 caliber was housed in the newer Ellipsocurvex version of the brand’s signature double ellipse-shaped case, which featured an accentuated convex upper surface. A polished cover encloses the upper part of the case, with the windows for jumping hours and a central small seconds hand, along with a smile-shaped display, extending over the entire lower part of the dial. This enables one to follow the retractable minute-hands mechanism in operation, and of course to read the minutes. Subsequently, the brand turned to the ‘papillon’ complication several times, offering various design options, including very sophisticated models with a chronograph function or a central tourbillon (as a part of the Bulgari collection).

The peculiarity of the present lot is the refined jewellery execution, with the front cover of the case encrusted with sapphires and diamonds. This is an extremely rare version, almost never appearing on the market. In our opinion, the brand released a part of the limited series in this luxury execution, most likely the last 15 or 20 copies. Also of note is the presence of a rare unusual type of triple folding clasp, marked with the artistic DR monogram, while almost all limited-edition pieces came with a double folding clasp, marked with the standard Daniel Roth logo.

Reasons to bid

The Daniel Roth Académie Ellipsocurvex ‘Diamonds & Sapphires’ Papillon Ref. 318.Y.60 would appear to be a desirable purchase for the collector thanks to its unusual design, elaborated hand finishing of the case, dial and movement, as well as the unique branded ‘papillon’ complication. This limited-edition watch in 18k white gold rarely appears at auctions and is undoubtedly highly collectible, especially the present example in an ultra-rare jewellery execution with a triple folding clasp of a non-standard style. It is a real find for the collector, a rare chance to acquire a true rarity of an exquisite brand that has ceased its activity.

Brand info

Daniel Roth, considered to be one of the most important modern watchmakers, has been hailed a visioner of high-end complicated mechanical watchmaking. In 1989, he founded his own brand after fifteen years as the leading watchmaker at Breguet, where he recreated the classic Breguet style and developed some iconic watches, including tourbillon, chronograph, perpetual calendar pieces, as well as the charismatic Ref. 3130, inspired by Breguet’s pocket watch No. 5 of 1794. For his own brand, Daniel Roth developed a unique style, a kind of late-20th century Breguet with a double ellipse-shaped Ellipsocurvex case design, instantly recognisable amongst watch connoisseurs, ruthenium-plated guilloché dials and blued steel arrow hands. Among Daniel Roth’s masterpieces, the tourbillons and the perpetual calendars are probably the most memorable and desirable. In 1994, looking for opportunities to develop the brand further, he sold the business to the Singaporean Hour Glass luxury retailer, and finally left it after it was again sold to Bulgari in 2000. Nevertheless, his approach to complicated watchmaking and inimitable style were still preserved in the Daniel Roth collection under Bulgari’s supervision until 2010, when the production of collections with the Daniel Roth brand name ceased to continue. Therefore, Daniel Roth’s watches are now regarded as very attractive collectibles.