When Jean-Claude Biver told me that he was starting his own watch brand (he operates the Biver brand with his son Pierre), it was pretty clear that art was going to be a major inspiration for his timepieces. I expected that Biver, an avid art lover, would explore his interests and creative whims in the inevitably ultra-high-end Biver brand watches. Last March, I finally went hands-on with the first Biver brand timepiece, the lovely and classic Biver Carillon Tourbillon. The Carillon Tourbillon as a platform is not an art watch, per se, given its tendency to capture traditional form and wristwatch structure. That said, the dial of the watch (and other decorative options) gives Biver the ability to add artistic dimension to the composition, and that is exactly what the company has done with this one-of-a-kind Biver Carillon Tourbillon La Danse.
The Biver Carillon Tourbillon La Danse du Temps (“the dance of time”) watch is intended to be sold at the annual SIAR wristwatch show in Mexico City. It is a hotbed of high-end interest and a half-million-dollar-plus watch like this can easily find a customer there. It is, of course, somewhat ironic that the name of the watch is in French (indeed, Biver is a French-speaking company) when its inspiration is mostly from Mexico. So why not change “La Danse” name from French to Spanish? According to Biver, this unique watch is meant to honor Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday. Not living in Mexico, I question whether this might be a default subject for almost any luxury watch being produced for the Mexican market. It is sort of like all those watches meant for China that revolve around the number 8 theme. Do Chinese consumers see right through this tactic? Do Mexicans tire of this theme in luxury watches? Is there such an appetite in the market? Apparently, there is, or at least enough room for one more Day of the Dead-themed watch from the Maestro Biver. Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more originality from the Biver brand since the Carillon Tourbillon La Danse feels rather commercial (i.e., easily accessible by the market given its adoption of a popular theme).
The dancing skeleton art has a much deeper meaning outside of being a cool hand-engraved gold composition on the dial of an amazing watch. According to Biver, the dial artwork was designed by Mexican artist Joel Niño (though engraved in Switzerland). Biver mentioned that the dial work was meant to create a Diego Rivera-style Day of the Dead skeleton. Inspired by previous etchings, Rivera painted a 45-foot mural and, drawing from indigenous elements, reimagined what had been a satirical La Calavera Catrina (a female skull with an oversized hat) into a full skeleton, dressed in the style of Frida Kahlo, thus inventing what became the modern Catarina, an icon deeply rooted in Mexican identity and central to Day of the Dead celebrations. Catarina dances exuberantly with Catrin, her male counterpart.
Originating 3,000 years ago in indigenous rituals and dance, then influenced by Catholic rituals and feasts when efforts to abolish the festival failed, the Day of the Dead holiday in Mexico is a joyful celebration of life — a riot of bright fiesta colors, and a time when families come together to remember their loved ones through music, dance, food, and the decorating of graves and family altars.
The underlying Carillon Tourbillon watch comes in an 18k rose gold case with a matching 18k rose gold five-link metal bracelet. The watch case is 42mm wide with 50 meters of water resistance, despite being a chiming musical minute repeater. The base dial is a black onyx stone with applied markers and indexes. The Carillon Tourbillon was intended to be both luxurious and wearable on a daily basis. Indeed, the La Danse dial is less legible than most given the added art on the dial, but in general, the wearability of the Carillon Tourbillon is high and the dial is readable. To impress the wearer (and perhaps onlookers, as well), the Carillon Tourbillon includes both a tourbillon and a complex carillon-style minute repeater (high number of notes) as part of the caliber JCB.001-B movement. More so, the movement is automatic using a gold micro-rotor. The 390 component, hand-decorated movement operates at 3Hz with 72 hours of power reserve. You can view the movement, including the chiming hammers against the gongs, through the sapphire crystal on the rear of the watch.
Visually, the hat-wearing, dance celebration skeletons on the dial of the one-of-a-kind Biver Carillon Tourbillon La Danse watch are attractive and make for a competent and culturally appropriate composition. Jean-Claude Biver himself is typically a more intellectual art lover, and when taking low risk on a one-of-a-kind timepiece, I would have expected something a bit more artistically distinctive from the Biver brand. But will it sell? More than likely. Price for the Biver Carillon Tourbillon La Danse du Temps watches is $675,600 USD. Learn more at the Biver website.