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INTERVIEW: Jean-Claude Biver and Pierre Biver on the Carillon Tourbillon Biver Watch

Pierre and Jean-Claude Biver.

Industry titan Jean-Claude Biver and his son Pierre share more on their family brand’s first watch.

When Jean-Claude Biver first announced that he was coming out of retirement to create a watch brand in the family name with his son Pierre, the entire industry wondered what that watch would look like. (By coincidence, 2023 marks 50 years since Jean-Claude Biver first stepped into the watch industry with Audemars Piguet in 1973.)

The Carillon Tourbillon Biver in titanium case and five-link bracelet with silver obsidian dial, a unique piece for Philips Auctions.
The Carillon Tourbillon Biver in titanium and five-link bracelet with silver obsidian dial, a unique piece for Phillips Auctions.

Wonder no more. The Carillon Tourbillon Biver is the first timepiece under Biver Watches, featuring a self-winding carillon minute repeater movement and available in three executions – titanium, rose gold and titanium, and rose gold. The entire series will total 60 pieces to be delivered over the next four years. We speak with the duo to learn more about what went into the making of this timepiece.

So when did the idea of starting a watch brand and making your own watch first start brewing?

Jean-Claude Biver (JCB): The idea to start our own watch brand began 14 months ago. But in some ways, it’s been in my head for 15, maybe 20 years. I guess, in some way, I never processed the selling of Blancpain. [Ed’s Note: Jean-Claude Biver acquired the rights to Blancpain in 1981 with Jacques Piguet and sold the brand to SMH Group in 1992 for CHF60 million.] I was so attached to the brand that when I sold it, it was like selling my soul. And the only way I could think of to overcome this was to create something with my son, which would add another dimension to it. So when Pierre grew up and developed his own passion for watches, it was finally the right time to realise this. 

Jean-Claude and Pierre Biver at the launch of Biver Watches' Carillon Tourbillon timepiece.
Jean-Claude and Pierre Biver at the launch of Biver Watches' Carillon Tourbillon timepiece.

Pierre Biver (PB): In our family, we often have spirited discussions on watchmaking, heritage, tradition, and contemporising design for the modern age. So I guess, in some way, the idea of creating our own watch has been around for the last 15 years. Around four years ago, we debated if we should buy a brand or launch our own, or just keep collecting watches. But things began to align, and we began formally developing this last year. In February 2022, when we decided we would do this, we didn’t have anything at all. We had to set up the company, design our logo, and then think about what type of watch we would create. 

What was the first thought you had when you decided to make your own watch? 

PB: We knew that we wanted to create a minute repeater watch. To me, the repeater has a very important philosophical position among the many complications in the industry. In the spectrum of mechanics, it’s outside of that. Yes, the components are physical, but what they create is something magical out of vibrations. And you can use the same gong and hammer but get a different sound when a different watchmaker works on it. We see and hear it with the prototypes that we’ve developed. 

A closeup of the Carillon Tourbillon Biver's movement.
A close-up of the Carillon Tourbillon Biver's movement.

What was the next detail, the tourbillon? 

PB: Adding the tourbillon was about animating the dial. We want to have that dynamism in the watch but without being gimmicky. That’s why we decided to make the regulating organ a tourbillon device. And we also made it an automatic movement because we want the watch to be wearable even at the level of complexity that we’re offering the watch at. That’s also why we made the watch water-resistant to 50m. Then we worked on the case, dial, and bracelet. 

The titanium and rose gold model of the Carillon Tourbillon Biver features a skeleton dial that reveals all the details of the movement.
The titanium and rose gold model of the Carillon Tourbillon Biver features a skeleton dial that reveals all the details of the movement.

What was the concept behind the case design? 

JCB: It’s about opposites. This contrast between strong and soft, cold and warmth, powerful and fragile, smoothness and hardness. I mean, you should never compliment yourself, but this is really my favourite watch today. And I do own a lot of watches. It’s exactly the type of watch I would love to wear, and I’m proud that we did it, and I’m especially proud that I did it with Pierre. 

The titanium model of the Carillon Tourbillon Biver watch.
The titanium model of the Carillon Tourbillon Biver watch.

You’ve chosen some specific details on this watch. What’s your favourite and why? 

JCB: Just one? Okay, my two favourite details are the blue of the sodalite dial and the dauphine hands with the angled crests. It’s just marvellous, the blue of the dial. With the little flecks of white or grey in it, the blue is like the sky and the sea, and it has lots of meaning, but mainly, I just love it. And the hands with multiple angles on each, it’s like a miracle. I won’t say how many we broke to get to the ones we have, but that’s part of the challenge of making this watch. 

Pierre and Jean-Claude Biver discussing aspects of the watch in their studio.
Pierre and Jean-Claude Biver discussing aspects of the watch in their studio.

PB: I think as I interact with the watch each day and I share our story with new people, I find new aspects of the watch that interest me, so maybe tomorrow it might be a different detail. But the finishing on the titanium cage of the tourbillon is something that I absolutely love, and the upper bridge of the tourbillon as well. The design and the detail, the level of quality that goes into these elements, they’re modern and contemporary expressions of classic watchmaking. And the big challenge we face now is how do we integrate the same design language with our watches in the future when we create different types of complications and watches. That’s the next challenge for us.  

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Editor

Darren has been writing about, and admiring the craft of watchmaking for over a dozen years. He considers himself lucky to live in a golden age of horology, and firmly believes that the most difficult watches to design are the simplest and the most intriguing to discover.


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