It is hard not to love a man who won’t stop doing the work he loves. Jean-Claude Biver’s close family members might have liked the accomplished patriarch to peacefully retire and enjoy his septuagenarian years engaged in quiet hobbies and passions. Despite some health concerns and with no apparent economic need to continue being a career man, Biver is still hard at it, making luxury watches and selling the dream that pushes dreamers to pull out their wallets and choose high-end timepieces to give them gratifying dopamine kicks. I recently reported that he is mentoring a protege (Ben Kuffer) running the watch brand NORQAIN, and around the same time, he announced that he and his young son Pierre would be launching an eponymous new ultra-exclusive brand known as “Biver.

In less than a year, Biver and the new small team rapidly advanced a prototype into production readiness and launched the company’s first product. The watch is known as the Carillon Tourbillon Biver and is a markedly sensible yet sensational complicated timepiece with prices that start at over $500,000. I was there with a who’s-who of watch industry tastemakers (along with the rest of Biver’s historical court of suppliers, managers, watchmakers, and friends) who have supported the charismatic watch brand business leader throughout his various successful ventures over more than 50 years.

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The larger Biver story has yet to reveal itself, but the company seems to be off to a good start. Biver has rented a lovely small atelier to house the company in a scenic agrarian setting near Geneva atop a hill overlooking the lake. There, the company is run and the watches are assembled and tested before final delivery. This core operating structure is the heart of any watch brand and is an organ you can build around when growing, but it must always be in good working order to have a well-functioning watch brand.

Outside of having strong opinions about watch design and the suppliers who build his products, Jean-Claude Biver appears to want to take a more hands-off approach and groom his son Pierre to really manage the company. The launch event at the Givrins, Switzerland brand headquarters was entirely handled without Jean-Claude Biver’s oversight — he just wanted to show up and talk to the guests, which he did with gusto and also in a heartfelt manner in tandem with the doting Pierre on the presentation stage. Even though the theme of the entire event was a commercial message that a new luxury product was soon to be for sale (the first customer-ready pieces will start to ship in September 2023, according to the Biver brand), it felt more like a family gathering. Here was the Biver family asking longtime friends to share a moment celebrating the launch of his new haute horlogerie brand. In keeping with tradition, there was cheese to enjoy, along with impressive catering. Biver and team wanted the guests happy; they also wanted to garner esteem for Jean-Claude and Pierre’s new venture. Many wonder how the first Biver watch was introduced. Was it a hit?

At the event, I pointed out that if you asked 100 people there what they would have expected from a Biver brand watch, you would probably get about 100 different responses. Every product design that Biver (or any brand, for that matter) first comes out with is equally correct as it is wrong. By definition, Biver wasn’t going to satisfy the broad spectrum of expectations out there with his first product. The watch is cool, however, and it’s authentic in that it matches Jean-Claude Biver’s taste. When you put it on, you also realize that there is nothing else out there quite like it on the market. That said, it is still very niche, and that is exactly the way Biver says they want it. Only around 15 watches are projected to be built in Biver’s first year, and not too much more than that in subsequent years. When you think about Jean-Claude Biver’s fans, personal friends in media and retail, and ability to garner marketing attention when he wants it, then it does not seem like a great feat to sell two dozen super watches a year. This is especially true when the market is selling watches like this already, and at this price level.

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The most expensive version of the Carillon Tourbillon costs more than $1,300,000 because it is covered with baguette-cut diamonds. The least expensive version is this titanium-cased (with matching bracelet) version. The watch does very well what it set out to do. Jean-Claude Biver was deeply inspired by the Japanese industrial improvement technique known as Kaizen while developing this product, and it does demonstrate a real focus on trying to do all this very well. The Carillon Tourbillon is not going to win prizes for sheer originality, but that isn’t Biver’s goal. Rather, the Carillon Tourbillon is all about execution and excellence. He wanted to make the best automatic minute repeater tourbillon he could, in a style that was classic but also very masculine, and it needed to really call attention to the surface finishing. In achieving those goals, Biver did really well with the Carillon Tourbillon.

The case is large, but rather reasonable in size given all the things the movement needs to do well. Having an automatic minute repeater is one thing, but having one that also sounds really nice and that is nice to look at is another thing. This combination of complications is very uncommon, and nothing out there looks quite like this. Biver has further not limited their future watches to necessarily looking or feeling like the Carillon Tourbillon. What we do know is that Biver has a pretty long product pipeline planned that also includes a large number of different price points. The two new watches from Biver will focus on the chronograph and perpetual calendar. What is important about the design of the watches is that they make just one person happy: Jean-Claude Biver. He doesn’t need anyone telling him what makes for a nice watch or what the market wants. Jean-Claude Biver has enough veteran status in the watch industry to know how to answer all of these questions for himself. What is crucial is that his team satisfies his expectations, not an easy task. But surely he will go easy on his son. But will the challenges young Pierre faces in the next few years be enough to shape him into the more mature manager he will become, or will his father be too kind to him in an industry known for a “do-or-die” mentality when it comes to getting the sale or striking the deal?

As inexperienced as he may be compared to his legendary father, Pierre benefits from probably the world’s most valuable war room of consultants and generals any watch brand manager could hope for when it comes to solving almost any problem. If only for the circle of experts lent by his father, Pierre Biver is in an exceptional position to carry the Biver brand and help his father feel the zest of creativity, the astonishment of the reveal, and the collective applaud from the audience.

The most important thing the Carillon Tourbillon does well is sound as a minute repeater. The sliding mechanism to activate it is smooth, and the triple-gong carillon chime system sounds beautiful and clear. This is about as nice as you want a minute repeater to sound, and being in a full-titanium case made it sound even better since titanium is an excellent conductor to help reverberate sound. Other than being pretty well-made and looking bold yet classy, there really aren’t any weird quirks to the Carillon Tourbillon. It’s tasteful like a vintage high-end Cadillac with chrome all over and designed to the max in most every conservative way. If you like that type of vehicle look, then you will really admire this watch. If not, you will probably want something a bit sleeker and more contemporary. Again, Biver cannot please everyone, and the Carillon Tourbillon is a great answer to the question it sets out to ask.

The stone dial here is made from silver obsidian hardstone and has to be very carefully cut to shape. I love this type of watch dial with dauphine hands and applied baton hour markers. The tourbillon has a bridge, which makes it more sturdy and robust to wear. The finishing on the tourbillon bridge and cage parts is very lovely. Overall, the Carillon Tourbillon dial is not the most original look, but it is a good one. It is really very beautiful if you look carefully at the detailing. The Carillon Tourbillon case is just under 14mm-thick and wears on the heftier side with broad lugs. It is, however, pretty sensible on the wrist, even though it feels more appropriate on big wrists. The bracelet is cool-looking and closes on a spring-loaded deployant with some tasteful perlage polishing that is a welcome touch.

To read more about the tech specs and further launch details, read my debut news article about the Biver Carillon Tourbillon watches here. The watch is being made in a few versions, including additional pieces with a skeletonized dial, two-tone with mixed metals, and other handsome aesthetic variations. I will certainly want to spend more time with the watches and get to know the brand as Pierre and Jean-Claude develop Biver together. Price for the Biver Carillon Tourbillon watch in titanium is $570,000 USD. Learn more at the Biver watches website here.

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