I have a
big huge crush on the old Daniel Roth Papillon. Ever since I first saw it, the Papillon has become one of my favourite watches of all time. Despite being exposed to so many watches as I am seeing, handling and discussing on a daily basis, this relatively simple looking watch managed to tick a lot of boxes. It’s different, yet without screaming for attention. Despite its strange case shape, it’s elegant, even very elegant if you ask me, and it’s discrete and subtle. Back in 2015, I asked Justin (who was doing the interviews back then) to interview @papillonwatchman about his Daniel Roth Papillon, for the Collector’s Series. So when I came across @singingbee’s Insta account with a white gold version of this superb beauty, I really wanted to find out more! So here we go, Aaron a.k.a. @Singingbee talks about his white gold Daniel Roth Papillon.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – What makes you so fond of Daniel Roth?
Aaron, @singingbee – I became aware of the brand Daniel Roth in 2017 when I first saw the Papillon at a local watch shop. I didn’t know much about the brand back then. I only knew that it was an independent brand and that the Papillon was such a gorgeous, but expensive watch that I couldn’t afford it back then! But because of the Papillon, I went to read up more on the brand. And I never gave up on searching for a Papillon since then.
Now I know that Daniel Roth was one of the first few independent watchmakers and he worked at JLC and AP for a brief period before joining Breguet where he was instrumental together with François Bodet in defining and determining the design language of the brand today. Think superb finishing, round cases with straight lugs, guilloche dials, elegance and the signature caseband fluting. This is the reason why you can see the design language of Breguet watches in Daniel Roth’s own watches. The main attraction of Daniel Roth for me is his superb double-ellipse case and those gorgeous dials filled with little details which you can appreciate and admire all day long.
Sounds like we have something in common! But why the Papillon?
I guess it’s because it is a jumping hour watch which I have always been intrigued with and I also find unconventional time displays interesting. The dial layout and symmetry coupled with the double-ellipse case are about as perfect and harmonious as they can get for me. And I have hoped to own it one day since I first saw it in 2017.
And now it’s yours!
I bought the Papillon from a private seller whom I have known for a number of years. What happened is late last year, I was re-reading Monochrome’s article on your gorgeous DR small seconds in steel with salmon dial.
At that moment, I recalled that this private seller had the Papillon, so I decided to try my luck to contact him and ask if he still had the watch and whether he was willing to let me be the next owner. Imagine the pleasant surprise when he replied that he still had it and if I really wanted it, I could have it. However, I wasn’t financially ready to get it last year and I asked him to give me a few months’ time to raise the funds for the watch. Finally, I was ready to get the watch in May this year and contacted him again. I was praying hard that he’d still have the watch as it had been 6 months since I last touched base with him on the watch. Luckily, he was still holding on to it as he never listed it for sale, if not I am almost certain it would have been gone already. The rest is history, and I remember I was so happy and excited when I met him to collect the watch with its box and papers. Finally, after 4 years, I acquired my first Daniel Roth watch and what can be a better first Daniel Roth than the Papillon, which is the first Daniel Roth that I fell in love with.
Congratulations! (I’m jealous) Tell us more about what makes this model so special for you.
Thank you! I guess the main reason is simply that it is the first Daniel Roth that I saw and loved. I also feel that the Papillon is a horological milestone in Daniel Roth’s history as it was released as a celebratory piece of the tenth anniversary of the Daniel Roth manufacture and also the last creation of Daniel Roth, the man himself. He was actively involved in the design of this watch before he left the company when it was sold to Bulgari in 2000.
Are there any other models in the Daniel Roth collection that are of interest to you?
I have been reading up and looking around for a nice Daniel Roth watch since I first saw the Papillon. However, literature and information on Daniel Roth, the man and his watches, are quite scarce on the internet. The only sources of DR information I can find are from THG, A Collected Man and Puristspro forums. I also noticed that DR watches, especially the nicer ones, rarely come up for sale. And when they do, they get sold very quickly.
However, for me personally, the Papillon has always been THE Daniel Roth that I really wished to own. First love is always hard to forget. However, I wasn’t hopeful as this particular model in all three variants seems to be one of the rarer DR.
Therefore, I was also prepared to get other DR models which I liked if they came up on my radar and were within my budget. But I am glad that my search ended well, and this is the DR that I acquired. You can say it’s a dream come true for me.
And do you wear it a lot?
Yes! It currently gets a lot of wrist time as it is a relatively recent addition to my collection. I’d say I wear it at least thrice a week, for any occasion even when I am working from home. I just love glancing down at my wrist to admire the intricate dial and watching the hour jumps to the next one, especially when I am working. The day seems to pass faster with it on my wrist as the time literally jumps. [Laughs]
Do you ever get reactions from other people?
Yes, I get compliments from my wife and co-workers who have seen it on my wrist. Most of them find the watch beautiful and special, especially the case shape and unique dial (most of them have never seen a jumping hour watch before). Most of the time I will share with them information on the watch and the jumping hour complication it features.
I also get quite a lot of praises for the watch from fellow collectors on IG and forums. In fact quite a few have messaged me on IG asking if I am interested to sell it, requests I politely declined as I am still very much enjoying its companionship. I guess this watch is more well-liked by the community than I initially thought.
If you sold it, what would be the price?
I paid a pretty fair price for the watch myself, as the private seller is a friend whom I have known for a while. I do not know the current market value of this piece as it seldom comes up for sale and the only recent time I saw it on sale recently was from A Collected Man.
To be honest, I can’t say I will not ever sell the watch, as life sometimes throws you unexpected situations. But if I had a choice, I would want the Papillon to be a permanent stay in my collection as it is a memorable acquisition for me. And also because it is such a beautiful piece!
Do you have a large collection of watches?
Actually, I have a small collection of fewer than 10 pieces. I personally feel that my collection is quite simple but the watches themselves are interesting to me in their own ways.
My collecting journey has been filled with ups and downs since I started back in 2015. I would like to think that each watch in my collection represents different aspects of my personality, even the watches which are no longer with me. And also every watch past or present has taught me a lesson.
For this one, I can only say dreams do come true. It is the first DR I encountered and the fact that I managed to acquire it via a stroke of luck after 4 years, is fate. This acquisition also taught me the lesson that I should not easily give up hope on a watch that I really like. Even if for some reason I can’t get a watch now, there is always a chance that I can still get it in the future.
So there are more watches you would like to buy?
[Laughs] I think the collecting journey is life-long and there will always be watches that a collector would like to add. I was lucky enough to be able to acquire two watches this year which I have been searching for, for quite some time, one of which is the Daniel Roth. I would love to add a salmon dial chronograph from a nice independent brand this year.
As a fan of Daniel Roth’s works, there are a few other watches from the brand which I hope to be able to acquire one day. There is the Master 8-Day Tourbillon, the monopusher chronograph, the chronograph C147 featuring Lemania 2320 and the extremely gorgeous small seconds in steel with salmon dial that you have, Frank! Other than Daniel Roth, I also hope to add my first Patek Philippe (either a perpetual calendar or chronograph, to be specific 5320G, 5170G or 5170P), a Lange chronograph and something from Sarpaneva in the future.
Which brands do you think are doing interesting work out there?
For the big brands, I personally like what A. Lange & Söhne and Patek Philippe are doing. There are quite a few interesting pieces from the past few years, and their 2021 novelties do not disappoint either. I am definitely looking forward to what else they will announce before the year is up.
I also really like the watches coming from independents like MB&F, Habring, Sarpaneva, Garrick and Laine. I can see them pushing the envelope in terms of ideas, designs and prices. It is definitely an exciting time for these brands and fans of their work. I personally would love to own pieces from them in the future.
If someone would like to own an RD Papillon like yours, what would be your best tips?
I think the current market is kind of crazy in terms of people chasing the hype of certain watches which are perceived to be the next sleeper hits. I feel this trend is also partly caused by social media where some collectors and/or dealers hype up some of these watches via their “influencer” status. As a result, some watches which were previously much more accessible to collectors are no longer so. They either become very hard to find or if you can find one, it will be quite costly.
Therefore my advice to collectors who wish to get the DR Papillon or any other watch, is to be patient and don’t buy into the hype. Slowly scroll through IG which is a valuable source to find nice and rare pieces if you are patient. Find genuine collectors who have the watch you desire and reach out to them to learn more about it. Then you will be able to make a more informed purchase decision when you do find the watch. I believe most collectors will be more than happy to share their knowledge of the watches and that’s the beauty of this hobby, you get to learn more through sharing and make new friends in the process.
Another suggestion is to go to your local watch shops/dealers regularly to check out their new stocks, there is always a chance that the watch that you are looking for, will turn up at one of these places. You can also let the shops/dealers that you are more familiar with, know that you are looking for this particular piece and ask them to keep a lookout for you. More than likely they will immediately inform you if they receive the piece as you are a potential and ready buyer.
Any general tips for starting collectors?
Do your research and start off with a watch that you really like and that is within your comfortable starting budget. Ultimately, watch collecting is not a cheap hobby, so do take your time to read up and do the necessary research before you commit. Dedicated websites like Monochrome, Hodinkee, Fratello and ABTW or watch forums are valuable sources of information. The important thing is not to rush into a purchase.
For a young budding collector, I feel it is easy to be influenced or swayed by others to buy a watch based on their recommendations. Even if their intentions are good, they may not know what watch suits you. If your purchase decision is mainly based on what others like or recommend rather than your own preference and budget, it will usually lead to the buyer’s regret. This happened to me personally during the initial stage of my collecting journey which led to quite a few buyer’s regrets and monetary heartaches over the years. Therefore, I have learned to be more considerate in my purchases and try to only get pieces that connect with me. That said, I do appreciate the good advice which my collector friends have given me throughout the years.
You already mentioned that being in touch with other collectors can help. How is your relationships with other collectors?
I truly value the relationships I have built with other collectors over the years. I make an effort to stay in touch with other collectors and the shared passion for horology is one of the major reasons to stay in the hobby. Since I started my collecting journey, my social circle has expanded greatly and I appreciate the friendships which I have forged with fellow collectors either online or offline throughout the years. It is a great pleasure to be able to meet up with some of them in person and to have attended some really amazing GTGs.
I can say that so far it has been a great learning journey for me, both horologically and personally. I look forward to the continued horology education and forging new friendships in the journey ahead.
Has your collecting journey reached its peak?
I will definitely think not yet as I still have a lot to learn. When I look back on my collection from when I first started, the watches I liked back then were quite different from what I like now. I think it is normal for a collector’s taste to change and evolve in the journey. I hope that 10 years down the road, when I look at my collection I can resonate with each and every watches in it. My personal collecting philosophy is trying to buy watches that I truly like and want to own. What’s the fun of the hobby if collecting is just for investment/flipping? I believe there are other better ways to make money.
Additional images of the Daniel Roth Papillon by A Collected Man.