A unique, attractive and important stainless steel chronograph wristwatch from the haute horlogerie Swiss watch brand Daniel Roth, founded in 1989 by Daniel Roth, the Swiss watchmaker of French origin, and active until the 2010s. Produced circa 1996. Double ellipse-shaped stainless-steel case measuring 38 x 41mm, 11.4mm thick, sapphire caseback. Ruthenium- and silver-plated dial with guilloché pattern, brushed chapter ring, pad-printed black Roman numerals and applied luminous 5-minute markers, blued steel Daniel Roth hands. DR400 caliber, self-winding, 1/10-second high-frequency balance, power reserve up to 50 hours, rotor with engraved and gilt Daniel Roth signature and “Numero 0000 J. T.” inscription. Functions – indication of time in hours and minutes, small seconds hand at 9 o’clock, chronograph with central seconds, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock, 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, date aperture between 4 and 5 o’clock. Black leather strap, stainless steel pin buckle.
Throughout its timeline, the Daniel Roth brand used many high-end chronograph calibers in their collection. These included hand-wound or automatic movements of both vintage and modern production from Nouvelle Lémania, Girard-Perregaux, Frédéric Piguet, in-house movements, and the Zenith El Primero caliber, as in the present example. In the early period of the brand’s development, from 1989 to around 1995, when the focus was on collector’s watches, Daniel Roth wrist chronographs tended to use high-end hand-wound calibers of both modern and vintage production, such as the superb Nouvelle Lémania 2320. From about 1995–1996, after the brand was acquired by the Singaporean Hour Glass Limited luxury retailer, the collection strategy changed and the share of practical and everyday wearable automatic watches began to grow very rapidly. In the case of chronographs, in 1996 this led to the development of automatic models fitted with caliber 400 – known by the nickname El Primero – from the Swiss watch factory Zenith. Based on Daniel Roth’s caliber 400 (designation in the initial period) or DR500 (late period), Daniel Roth chronographs were the main offering of automatic chronographs in the collection until the brand’s shutdown in the 2010s. All Daniel Roth ‘El Primero’ chronographs have a common amusing feature – the date indicator digit is in a reclining position, the opposite to the vast majority of contemporary Swiss chronographs.
The present lot, featuring the DR400 caliber developed on the base of the Zenith ‘El Primero’ movement, is one of the rarest Daniel Roth chronographs, most probably a one-of-a-kind pre-production prototype, featuring a unique custom-made execution.
While Zenith chronographs tended to use the mid-finish of the El Primero caliber, Daniel Roth gave it a tangible touch of haute horlogerie – with perlage, straight grinding, polished sinks and bevels (quite modestly, it has to be said), handsome wheels, blued screws and solarisation. Although they were not brought up to such aesthetic perfection as in the finishing of collector’s examples with the Nouvelle Lémania 2320, it should be understood that Daniel Roth ‘El Primero’ chronographs had a different purpose – they were luxury watches for everyday wear, simpler in execution and therefore more affordable than collectible models. This strategy paid off, and over the course of about two decades a wide variety of designs were released. Daniel Roth ‘El Primero’ chronographs at different periods were designated as the reference S247 (initial period), then as 247.X (late period), and to us it seems to be an extremely interesting topic for research and collecting.
According to the information we have, the present lot is one of the first, and possibly the very first, example of the Daniel Roth ‘El Primero’ chronograph. It exhibits an unusual execution – in particular, the rim of the caseback does not have engraved inscriptions, the rotor is decorated with an unusually wide chamfer and horizontal straight grinding – unlike subsequent models of serial production, in which the rim is marked with engraved inscriptions, the chamfer is either narrow or even absent, and the rotor decorated with either Côtes de Genêve or spiral finishing (colimaçonnage). There are five main styles of the Daniel Roth Masters Chronograph ‘El Primero’, with different caseback and caliber executions known to us, and this example does not match any of them. The present example is a pre-production prototype that received a unique execution, apparently produced for Jannie Tay, as evidenced by the “Numero 0000 J. T.” inscription on the caseback rim. The ‘J. T.’ corresponds to Jannie Chan Siew Lee, known by her married name Jannie Tay. She is a Singaporean entrepreneur and co-founder of The Hour Glass Limited, and at that time was the executive vice-president of the company.
Reasons to bid
According to our knowledge the present lot, featuring the DR400 caliber developed on the base of the Zenith ‘El Primero’ movement, is one of the rarest Daniel Roth chronographs, most probably a one-of-a-kind pre-production prototype, featuring a unique custom-made execution. Therefore, the Masters Chronograph ‘Numero 0000 J.T.’ Prototype would appear to be an extremely attractive purchase for the collector due to its historical importance and unique execution, which only increases the attractiveness of this lot as a collectible. It is easily recognisable and instantly memorable, and represents one of the most spectacular pages in the chronology of excellent wrist chronographs from a remarkable watchmaker and the brand he founded.