Jean-Claude Biver and I had a spirited conversation at Dubai Watch Week 2023 (about the Only Watch 2023 auction, which never happened), while I got to photograph this piéce unique (one-of-a-kind) titanium and malachite open-worked dial version of his “Biver” brand’s seminal Carillon Tourbillon (aBlogtoWatch hands-on here) automatic minute repeater wristwatch. Jean-Claude Biver runs the “Biver” brand with his son Pierre and launched less than a year prior to the time of writing. aBlogtoWatch debuted the Biver brand when announcing the Carillon Tourbillon family of watches. Jean-Claude Biver has promised that, in the future, Biver watch models may take radically different forms than the bold yet classic Carillon Tourbillon. For now, the boutique high-end Swiss watchmaker is focused on exploring variations of the Carillon Tourbillon, including various piéce unique models. I previously discussed a one-of-a-kind Biver Carillon Tourbillon watch the brand made for the Mexican market. It turns out that despite some of his own tastes and cache amongst collectors, Biver has been remarkably “commercial” with the Biver brand so far. Everything is very nice, indeed, but we haven’t see the art collector seeking to impress his buddies yet. At the moment, the Biver brand is about pleasing the retailers. That means giving them impressive, easy-to-sell (despite the price) products that they won’t need to explain to customers for years to get them excited about.
From a marketing perspective, this makes sense. Biver is a practical man. Why get all artsy out the door with your brand and alienate the mainstream? It is better to give people what they want for a few years and then start to get a bit more edgy about your designs. Besides, Biver’s young son needs a product he can easily explain to people. Some impressionist art watch that only means something to Biver and 10 of his closest art dealers is not going to be something his 20-something son can readily do with the same delivery as his famous father. I say all this in response to those enthusiasts who have vocalized expecting more originality from the Biver brand, especially after all the anticipation and knowing his penchant for flair.
As a watch enthusiast, it is easy to admire the Biver Carillon Tourbillon. While large, the architecture and watchmaking is stunning, as is the quality, and performance of the minute repeater’s chiming mechanism. In titanium, the watch is comfortable and lightweight on the wrist, while the minute repeater offers a rich, booming series of chimes thanks to the resonant case material and the hearty-sized case and mechanism.
OK, the case isn’t that big, but the design features of the watch have historically been featured in more compact packages. At 42mm wide and 13.7mm thick, the Carillon Tourbillon wears like a modern sports watch even though it is a piece of haute horlogerie. The dial is legible and sensible, made up of precisely machined applied hour markers and beautifully crisp dauphine-style hands. The 50 meters of case water resistance might not sound like much, but that isn’t too shabby for a minute repeater-style watch.
According to Biver, this piéce unique version of the Carillon Tourbillon with a green malachite dial ring and open center has the same movement as the standard solid-dial version of this watch. All the movements (whether or not the parts are exposed) have fully decorated bridges, etc. Inside the watch is the Biver brand exclusive JCB-001 automatic with micro-rotor movement. It features the time with seconds indicated via the spinning tourbillon, as well as a traditional minute repeater but in carillon style, which means that it has three gongs rather than two. This adds an additional note and makes the musical element of this chiming watch much more elegant and impressive. Activation of the minute repeater is done via the sliding lever on the left side of the case. The JCB-001 movement operates at 3Hz with 72 hours of power reserve. The movement appears to focus on robustness and performance, as well as lavishness of decoration. It is not trying to be particularly novel or compact in its architectural aims.
The open dial with a view into the movement is another pretty but safe design choice for the Biver brand. Given the unique nature of this watch, how pretty it is, and the fact that there are still so few Biver watches in existence, there is little doubt of this product’s marketability. According to Jean-Claude Biver, the watch was produced with the intention of being sold in the Middle East, which it most likely was. Given the already high cost of Biver watches, along with their low production, the price of this unique model is no different from the “standard” version of the Biver Carillon Tourbillon in titanium. That price is 520,000 Swiss Francs. Learn more at the Biver watches website.