After more than a year of rumours, LVMH finally confirmed the long expected with its February announcement of the relaunch of Daniel Roth. And now the brand officially debuts its inaugural watch, the Tourbillon Souscription.
Modelled on the Daniel Roth tourbillon of 1988, the Tourbillon Souscription is almost a remake of the original from thirty-five years ago. It retains the same styling characterised by a double-ellipse case and one-minute tourbillon at six, but is entirely new in terms of mechanics: inside is a brand-new mechanical movement developed by La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton (LFT).
I got in touch with Daniel Roth and his wife Nicolas after learning of the brand’s revival. They indicated their approval of the project. Their approval will probably have little impact on the new watches since they aren’t involved in the brand’s comeback, but it is certainly good to know.
Being a homage to the brand’s origins, the Tourbillon Souscription is a good opening act in its revival. But for the resurrected brand to have longevity and relevance, it would have to do more than remakes; it will have to create new and original products that channel the spirit of the originals, a point I made in my earlier editorial.
The Tourbillon Souscription is clearly inspired by the original watches of the 1990s. It retains the same dimensions and almost all the details, right down to the hobnail guilloche dial. In fact, it’s close enough to the original that the two are probably indistinguishable at a distance, at least to casual observers.
But enough has been changed that the keenest eyes will instantly recognise this as a modern-day watch, most obviously with the champagne dial, a colour that was never available with the originals.
Another tweak is the revised typography on the dial, which I am not a fan of. Although the markings on the dial are identical to that on the original, they are now in a sans serif font that seems at odds with the classical nature of the design. According to a brand insider, the modern font was chosen to reflect the contemporary nature of the Tourbillon Souscription. While I can appreciate the reasoning, I think it looks out of place.
The Tourbillon Souscription will cost CHF140,000 before taxes – fair considering the quality and proprietary movement. And that is also true when comparing it to comparable offerings on the market today. However, the price still almost double the most recent auction results for a 1990s Daniel Roth tourbillon (which is arguably valued too strongly today considering its fairly ordinary Lemania movement).
Although I have yet to see the prototype of the Tourbillon Souscription, I am sure it will feel exactly the same as an original since both are practically the same size.
More importantly, I am confident that the quality of execution is as good as that of the original, perhaps even slightly better. The team at LFT is talented and also enjoys the advances in manufacturing and finishing that have accumulated in the three decades since Mr Roth founded his brand.
Though hidden behind the case back, the DR001 movement inside has the details that one would expect from LFT, which was founded by Michel Navas and Enrico Barbasini. The two played a crucial role in the Laurent Ferrier tourbillon, one of the better high-end tourbillon movements of recent years, so they clearly have what to takes to create a fine movement.
And from a philosophical standpoint, the Tourbillon Souscription might be even more “independent watchmaking” in terms of mechanics despite LFT being a subsidiary of Louis Vuitton. That’s because the calibre inside is unique to Daniel Roth, whereas the original Daniel Roth watches relied on either stock or lightly modified Lemania calibres.
The opening act
A brand that enjoyed its heyday in the 1990s, Daniel Roth was successful then because of its style and complications, most notably the tourbillon, of which several hundred were made. After the brand parted from its namesake founder due to financial distress, it bounced around several owners, before finding its (likely) permanent home at LFT, the complications factory owned by Louis Vuitton.
The revived brand’s opening act is the Tourbillon Souscription, which is based on the C187, a double-faced tourbillon that was the brand’s very first launch in 1988. Like the early examples of the C187, the Tourbillon Souscription has a hobnail guilloche dial, a motif that was later replaced by vertical fluting. While the C187 was double faced, having power reserve and date indicators on its back, the Tourbillon Souscription is single faced with a solid back. That means it’s actually remake of the less common single-faced tourbillon of the 1990s, which came after the C187.
The Tourbillon Souscription measures 38.6 mm by 35.5 mm on its front, which is the same as the C187, but stands just 9.2 mm high, thinner than the C187 and about the same as the original single-face tourbillon.
But unlike any of the originals, the Tourbillon Souscription has a champagne-tone dial, something that was not available in the original series. Interestingly, it is produced by Kari Voutilainen’s workshop, the same location that produces Voutilainen watches (as opposed to Comblemine, the dial maker owned by Voutilainen).
As a result, the dial connects the past and present of independent watchmaking: it is an element of contemporary independent watchmaking inside a watch that pays tribute to a much earlier era of the same genre.
As it was with the original, the tourbillon cage at six o’clock is fitted with a three-armed seconds hand that is read in tandem with the triple-scale for the seconds. Although the tourbillon regulator largely preserves the aesthetics of the original, it is noticeably different. Most apparent is the fact that the tourbillon now has a lower profile, with the upper cage sitting on the same plane as the seconds scale.
Inside is the DR001 developed by LFT, the complications specialist that is responsible for Louis Vuitton’s increasingly impressive stable of complicated watches.
Because the cofounders of LFT, Messrs Navas and Barbasini, were both instrumental in conceiving the Laurent Ferrier LF619 tourbillon movement, it is perhaps unsurprising that the DR001 shares a few of the LF619’s features. One is the generous 80-hour power reserve, and another is the mirror-polished linear winding click for the barrel ratchet wheel.
The Tourbillon Souscription will be sold on a “subscription” basis, meaning that buyers will have to pay a deposit upon order confirmation, while the balance is due upon delivery in early 2024. The watches will be available at a handful of retailers around the world.
Key facts and price
Daniel Roth Tourbillon Souscription
Diameter: 38.6 mm by 35.5 mm
Height: 9.2 mm
Material: 18K yellow gold 3N
Water resistance: 30 m
Features: Hours, minutes, seconds, and a one-minute tourbillon
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Winding: Manual winding
Power reserve: 80 hours
Strap: Calfskin strap with pin buckle
Limited edition: 20 pieces
Availability: Only available through selected retail partners of Daniel Roth via subscription with delivery by early 2024
Price: CHF140,000 excluding taxes
For more, visit Daniel-roth.ch.