last year, while giving an interview to a Swiss television channel, Jean-Claude Biver let it be known that he was launching an eponymous watch brand with his son Pierre Biver. This year, the day before the opening of Watches & Wonders 2023, the father and son duo introduced the first ever Biver watch – Carillon Tourbillon Biver.
In a Swiss chalet near Geneva, The first production watch to bear the Biver name on the dial was presented in front of an expectant audience. Unlike other industry presentations, the audience comprised not just prominent journalists and collectors, but also CEOs of other watch brands. Dubai and the region were represented by Abdul Hamied Seddiqi, whose company will play an important role in the future of the brand.
The Biver watch company is headquartered in a modest new facility in Givrins, a small village between Geneva and Lausanne. The brand currently has a small yet significant in-house technical team, including a movement constructor, watchmakers to assemble the movements, and specialists in movement decoration, among others.
However, the Biver brand has chosen not to produce every component in-house. Instead, given JC Biver’s reputation and connections within the industry, they have hand-picked industry-leading specialists to collaborate on their watches. For example, Le Cercle des Horlogers, the industry-leading specialists in developing proprietary calibres produced the first movement as per the specifications laid out by the Bivars. Similarly, the case was produced in collaboration with EFTEOR, the metal bracelets with UM2, the dial with LM Cadran, the watch hands with Blandenier and the gem-setting with NIRU.
Each of these suppliers had to comply with the exacting demands of the quality standards stipulated in the ‘JCB Seal,’ which aims to “guarantee fine handcrafted workmanship in the purest Swiss watchmaking tradition.
” The JCB Seal covers every aspect of a watch, from design to materials and finishing. It also covers every conceivable component, from the minuscule pins and screws used in the movement to the gem setting. According to the JCB Seal, for example, each diamond used must have a minimum clarity of VVS1, and a colour rating of D to F; both requiring the highest grade diamonds to satisfy.
The brand’s first watch, Carillon Tourbillon Biver, is a classical dress watch with a 42mm round case, and a thickness of 13.70 mm. The decision to go for a classical watch should not come as a surprise to anyone given the significant number of classical watches in JC Biver’s personal collection.
However, the Carillon Tourbillon Biver is not a watch to reveal all its mysteries at first glance. It requires discerning eyes to discover its hidden facets. Its beauty comes from a juxtaposition of contradictory elements: satin and polished finishes, straight lines and roundness, shadows and light.
This watch and, by extension, the brand, is Jean-Claude and Pierre’s interpretation of their ideal watch. The focus here is not on innovation but rather on producing the best interpretation, as they see it, of a complication. And the first watchmaking complication they chose to interpret is one that is close to their hearts: a minute repeater.
“We want the minute repeater to be the cornerstone of the brand,” explains Pierre, “made to a design we both could identify with, and with a movement that serves the aesthetic we defined. A contemporary watch, inspired by tradition and representative of both my father and me.”
For their chimer, the father-son duo chose a carillon repeater movement, which uses three hammers to chime instead of two. Three hammers instead of two offers more options when producing the chime sounds. The minute repeater also happens to be a rare collector’s item and an object of curiosity due to the emotional nature of sound. “A new, different sound is bound to have collectors perk their ears,” reveals Pierre.
The aesthetics of the watch is heightened with the presence of an exposed tourbillon display at 6 o’clock. A minute repeated with a tourbillon is quite a rare combination. “We opted for a tourbillon with a titanium cage, which makes it lighter but also more challenging to decorate, as well as modern bridges; and to power the watch we have a micro-rotor,” says Pierre.
The brand’s first movement, JCB-001 operates at 3Hz and has a power reserve of 72 hours. It is wound by a solid platinum micro-rotor, which not only adds the comfort and practicality of automatic winding but also keeps the movement relatively light and thin. It also results in an uncluttered view of the movement.
It is only when one takes the time to examine the 374 components of this movement that we begin to understand the true quality of this watch. Even the smallest parts, including those that cannot be seen, have been polished, satin-finished, grained, and flame-blued by hand to the highest standards as stipulated in the JCB Seal.
“We decided to decorate all the faces of all the components of the movement,” says Pierre. “To achieve this, we had to push our partners to develop techniques for decorating certain parts of the pieces that were not originally designed to be decorated. The underside of the bridges, for example, is hand-grained, which is very rarely done.”
The dial is made from natural hardstones with beautiful textures – silvered obsidian and obsidian. “We chose these stones for their spiritual attributes, for the energy they radiate. Sodalite is soothing and has a protective quality. Silver obsidian is about rebirth,” explains Pierre. “It’s also a way to reconnect with the energy of the Earth.”
These stones may be pleasing to the eye but were a challenge to machine. According to Pierre, the dial “is very difficult to make because of its infinitesimal thickness. The stone affixed to a gold plate is 1.15 mm high. Counting the applied indexes, the total height is just 1.6 mm. The wafer-thin stone itself does not exceed 0.6mm. The difficulty resides in obtaining the domed appearance without breakage during the polishing phase.”
Overall, the dial, “has a past-present feel,” he adds. “Our dials are domed, a nod to the watchmaking of times gone by, yet our indexes are modern and curved. Our hands are dauphine-shaped with planed crests, the angles are polished and the top has a satin finish.”
The five-link metal bracelet was exclusively designed for the Biver brand. The five-row faceted links feature a zig-zag pattern and finishing that plays with the light. It is available in titanium, gold or a combination of the two. “It was constructed as an integral bracelet, but it’s actually interchangeable,” explains Pierre. The alternative is an included leather strap with buckle and pin in matching rose gold or titanium.
“As for the crown, which is the most direct connection between watch and wearer, we wanted it to be substantial, with a vintage vibe,” adds Pierre. Through a loupe, one can observe that the fluting is polished, and the inner face of each tooth is micro-bead blasted.
Despite its exclusivity, the Carillon Tourbillon Biver watch was designed to be worn as a daily watch. The case is water resistant to 5 ATM (about 50 meters). “It is shower-proof, and the owner can take it into the pool, though we wouldn’t recommend wearing it to swim laps every morning,” says Pierre Biver with a smile. “It’s a way to dedramatize the minute repeater, to get it out of its usual context, and especially out of its box.
“Even though they are very valuable, we want our pieces to be user-friendly, ‘use-friendly’ really, and for the collector to enjoy them on a daily basis. The choice of an automatic movement equipped with a micro-rotor makes this watch absolutely a daily wearer. We see technology as being at the service of our vision, but above all at the service of the client. The best way to bring a watch to life is to wear it.”
Although no formal announcement has been made on whether the Carillon Tourbillon Biver is a limited edition, it will still be hard to come by given that only about a dozen to 15 watches are expected to be produced each year. At the launch ceremony, four variants of the watch were announced – platinum and sodalite, rose gold and silver obsidian, platinum and rose gold combo with a transparent dial, and a high jewellery piece with set diamonds. However, images or details of the latter variant have been released.
The Carillon Tourbillon Biver chimer, in addition to being produced in very low numbers, will only be available with a few hand-picked retailers around the world. Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons will be the watch’s only retailer for the entire West Asia region.