The world of horology accepts that skeletonizing a mechanical calibre and yet being able to maintain a high quality of chronometry is an expectational skill and artform. It showcases a watchmaker’s ability of remove from a robust movement’s bridges and plates, retain its time telling integrity and all at once create something beautiful by means of subtraction. This is generally how, classically speaking, skeletonized watches have always been made. But what are we to make of it when a watchmaker conceives a movement as a skeleton calibre, when developing a movement from the ground up?
You see, this is precisely what Roger Dubuis has pursued for their Excalibur family of watches. It has been a pursuit that has now become the very face and identity of Roger Dubuis. Late last year, Revolution and The Rake’s founder, Wei Koh, penned his thoughts on the Genevoise watchmaker as it has progressed today and how its founder’s spirit continues to compel it ever forwards, saying, “When you look at a Roger Dubuis watch today, an example of a vision that they call ‘Hyper Horology’, it would be easy to consider it purely the type of ultra-extroverted, larger- than-life, neon-lit — literally, for the Excalibur Twofold actually features a luminous light signature — horological pyrotechnics whose primary purpose is to celebrate life in the moment with a carpe diem/memento mori vigor. But for me, what is important to understand is that Roger Dubuis’ rebellious creativity has its roots deeply and inextricably linked with the ambition of the brand’s founder — to create real technically authentic watches expressed in a way that always has them blazing an inexorable path into the future.”
Gregory Bruttin, Roger Dubuis’s product strategy director, added to Wei’s thoughts, saying, “Roger was always about doing something executed at the very highest level, but completely differently. This was his motivation behind the world’s first double retrograde perpetual calendar, the case design of the Sympathie, the first world’s first in-line instantaneous perpetual calendar, our first skeletonised flying tourbillon, and our double tourbillon with differential.”
Roger Dubuis’ forward-thinking approach to watchmaking is exactly what has, today, given the brand it’s unique identity in the Swiss watchmaking landscape. Where the Excalibur family is concerned, the form of it is completely familiar now thanks to the distinctive star-shaped bridges on the open-worked dial. Therein, it is safe to suggest that the reason why such a disruptive design works and yet retains its chronometric integrity is that the brand imagined the Excalibur as a skeleton watch from the very get go, rather than a watch they had made and then later skeletonized.
Bruttin recounts that when Roger Dubuis, the man himself, was overseeing the conception of the Excalibur, the hand-finishing department at the manufacture advised, “No matter what, don’t make a skeleton movement where all the lines are straight because this is by far the most challenging to finish perfectly. Polishing straight angles is a nightmare.” Bruttin speaks on so share that the design department went back to sketch out exactly that which the finishing department had advised against. He says, “As you can imagine, when the finishing department received those plans, they thought we had gone crazy, but eventually they loved the challenge. Then we brought the movement to the Geneva Seal, and at first, they completely lost it. It was like showing them something that came from a time machine from the future. But eventually, they understood what we were trying to do and certified the movement.” In fact, today all of Roger Dubuis’ daring timepieces of “Hyper Horology” — as the brand refers to it — bear the Poinçon de Genève, a mark of unquestionable excellence.
The other aspect of watchmaking that Roger Dubuis is synonymous with, is without a doubt, its take on the tourbillon. Says Wei Koh, “There is perhaps no brand on the planet that is more closely associated with the tourbillon complication than Roger Dubuis, and that is because while it is the most visually arresting of watchmaking complications, it also offers the brand the opportunity to innovate.”
Adds Bruttin, “It was, of course, Roger’s ambition that we have a tourbillon that immediately set us apart from everyone else,” says Bruttin. “So we worked on a flying tourbillon with a cage that was as large as possible. Our large tourbillon cage, which measures 14mm in diameter, actually occupies one-quarter of the surface area of the dial, making it one of the most massive tourbillons in modern watchmaking.” Further to this, a little-known fact is that in 2005, when the brand had announced their flying tourbillon, they were the only brand in the world that made a tourbillon with an in-house hairspring.
The authenticity and uniqueness of present-day Roger Dubuis is perhaps best succinctly contained within their Excalibur Single Flying Tourbillon. But never one to rest on their laurels, at Watches & Wonders in Geneva this year, the brand gave this icon of theirs a complete overhaul with updates made to the design of the case and movement, along with a new gold alloy and even incorporated diamonds that glow in the dark 🤯
For the 2021 Excalibur Single Flying Tourbillon, Roger Dubuis has redesigned a thinner case with more dramatic clear lines, measuring in at a diameter of 42mm and a height of 12.7mm. The timepiece has been rendered in three variations starting with one in dark grey DLC coated titanium, with a grey double surface flange, an engraved minute track and transferred texts, polished along with rhodium plated hour markers that are Super-LumiNova® (SLN) filled in the center.
The second version is in white gold with a blue CVD coated double surface flange, the engraved minute track and transferred texts, polished and rhodium plated hour markers that are SLN filled in the center. And lastly, the version in Eon gold — a proprietary alloy of pink gold — with its grey double surface flange with engraved minute track and transferred texts, polished and pink gold-plated hour markers which are, likewise, filled with SLN in the center. The three versions of the watch will be produced in limited runs of 88 pieces each.
Yet more was also worked on with the movement within the watch. With the RD512SQ the Roger Dubuis star now seems to float above the movement barrel. The notched motif that is so prominent on the bezel is worked onto the hands, flange and even the tourbillon cage. On the subject matter of the cage, the tourbillon is now assembled with a titanium lower cage and a mirror-polished cobalt chrome upper cage, reducing the overall weight.
If, however, the newly designed icon of Roger Dubuis fails to meet your personal mark of a “wow-factor”, fret not, we’re not done yet. There is a fourth version of the 2021 Excalibur Single Flying Tourbillon, that the brand is calling the Excalibur Glow Me Up! A limited edition of just eight pieces, the watch is the first of its kind to feature luminescent diamonds. How’s this possible?
It’s not exactly rocket science but a clever implementation regardless by Roger Dubuis. Essentially, using a patented process, the manufacture loads luminescent material underneath the diamonds, in the grooves that are meant to hold the stones in their place. To further amplify the effect of the light show in the dark, the manufacture has used another one of its patented processes to paint the chamfers of the calibre with luminescent material to outline the star shaped bridge of the Excalibur.
Summing up the importance and significance of the timepiece Roger Dubuis CEO, Nicola Andreatta shares, “The Excalibur Flying Tourbillon is incredibly important for the brand. It created the iconic aesthetic code of a skeletonised star that seems to explode from around the barrel and reaches across the movement with these lines that express a sense of velocity and energy. As you can see today, this form of contemporary skeletonisation, which almost militates against the old art form of baroque, ornate curved forms, is our signature.”
More information: rogerdubuis.com