The first BIVER Watches prototype sold for an eye-watering CHF1-million at auction.

By Debbie Hathway

What do you get as the victorious bidder when Aurel Bacs knocks down the first BIVER Watches prototype at a Philips auction in Geneva? Vintage Champagne – and cheese.

It’s not your average congratulatory gift, the bottle of 1949 Château d’Yquem was drawn from Jean-Claude Biver’s private collection, the year of his birth. The two kilograms of mountain cheese were from his not-for-sale limited production of cheese made from milk collected during the few weeks in the year when his cows graze on flowers rather than grass.

The prize went to an American collector who won the sale online, paying a record price for a 00/00 prototype of the first creation by father-and-son team Jean-Claude and Pierre Biver. This was only two months after watch industry luminary Jean-Claude Biver, who has half a century in watchmaking to his credit, and his son Pierre Biver at age 23, launched their hyper-exclusive brand.

A flurry of bids came in for the piece from collectors on three continents, vying for glory online, by telephone and in-room. Lot 128 sold in just 15 minutes in an electrically charged atmosphere that Aurel managed with typical aplomb.

The Bivers are passionate collectors and called on the best specialists in each field to create exceptional pieces. “We decided to decorate all the components of the movement on all their faces,” they explain. “To achieve this, we had to push our partners to find techniques to decorate certain parts of the pieces that, basically, are not made to be decorated. For example, the underside of the bridges are hand-pearled, which is rarely done.”

The first JC BIVER prototype, a Tourbillon Minute Repeater Carillon in titanium, a unique piece with a silvered obsidian stone dial, is just the beginning. Production of their first three Tourbillon Minute Repeater Carillon models (in pink gold, titanium, and two-tone skeleton) has just begun, with the first deliveries scheduled for September 2023.

The tiniest elements, including those that cannot be seen, have been decorated by hand – polished, satin-finished, pearled and flame-blued – the kind of exquisitely detailed finishing touches that are the Biver signature.

The first model was designed with an enlightened collector in mind, featuring a watchmaking complication close to their heart: a carillon minute repeater equipped with a tourbillon and a micro-rotor.

The Biver minute repeater is both a collector’s item and an object of curiosity because beyond embodying the art of watchmaking, just like art, it has a soul transmitted to it by the artists and craftsmen. It’s important to note that the technique serves the founders’ philosophy and not vice versa. “We give birth to the soul of the watch. We wanted the minute repeater to be the foundation stone of the brand,” explains Pierre. “But what had to come first was a design we could identify. To ensure that the movement serves the aesthetic codes that we had defined. A contemporary watch, in a neo-classical style, which is inspired by tradition but represents both my father and me.”

The masterpiece is powered by an automatic calibre, wound by a micro-rotor, to achieve a power reserve of 72 hours. The domed sodalite or silver obsidian hardstone dial highlights rose gold or white gold hour and minute hands that are satin-finished and hand-bevelled and applied gold hour markers in either metal.

Its 42mm case in titanium or rose gold or rose gold/titanium is complemented by a bracelet in the same combinations in an exclusive five-link BIVER design. An alternative leather strap is available on request. The watch is water resistant to about 50 metres. It retails for CHF 520,000 / EUR 520,000 / USD 550,000 upwards, excluding tax.

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