Marching to the beat of its own drum
The highest form of tribute one can pay to tradition is raising the bar and developing new technology. And that is exactly the position Roger Dubuis has been adopting since its birth. But to have its name become synonymous with sophisticated beauty and cutting-edge technology unachievable by other watchmakers, this young maison had to take a perilous leap.
In 1980, the young Roger Dubuis departed from Patek Philippe to forge ahead on his own. It was a bold move for the watchmaker, who was only in his early 40s then. He found himself designing complications commissioned to him by horology’s leading brands, but it wasn’t till 1995 when he partnered Carlos Dias, who had recently discontinued his employment at Franck Muller, to set up the namesake Horloger Genevois, Roger Dubuis.
It did not bode well with the titans of the mechanical watchmaking world that Dias and Dubuis were going head on into competition against their monopoly, but the intrepid duo soldiered on nevertheless, doing what they did best – challenging themselves.
The brand slowly but surely made a name for itself by creating complicated masterpieces. It relished surprising watch connoisseurs with intricate grand complications and technological firsts, each made in extremely scarce quantity, and nonetheless hailed for their compelling beauty.
The pleasure Roger Dubuis derived from overcoming the odds led it to seek the Hallmark of Geneva for not just some, but all of its timepieces. A lofty guarantee that a watch has been stringently checked for durability, craftsmanship quality and consistency, and that it has been engineered by Swiss heritage and tradition entirely in Geneva, the Poinçon de Genève now certifies all of Roger Dubuis’ watches.Timepieces endowed with the Seal have to maintain precision and consistency in timekeeping, with minimal deviation. In summary, these watches comprise certain traditional mechanical parts made with particular specifications, are crafted and assembled in Geneva, and have Swiss-standard finishes applied to all specified components right down to the screws, gear teeth, springs and jewels. In addition, the brand designs, fashions and assembles all its watches in-house, and builds intricate oscillating systems — a task that many other watchmakers have attempted and fallen short.
Armed with the Seal under its belt, Roger Dubuis became the standout player to watch. Among the complications that the brand would present at each watch fair, collectors would anticipate at least one groundbreaking new calibre. In 2005, the brand celebrated its 10th anniversary with the double tourbillion-wielding Excalibur RD01 that told its time with retrograde hands, which would inspire avant-garde timepieces like the Velvet Secret Heart with a bi-retrograde jumping date RD821B later on.
And who can forget 2013’s Excalibur Quatuor? Its four sprung balances linked by five differentials distribute the effects of gravity across four planes, endowing it the nickname of ‘the tourbillion watch with no tourbillion’.
Roger Dubuis’ Easy Diver would also be the first sports watch of its kind to be fitted with a tourbillion, as well as the first to set a diamond into a rubber bezel. While the atelier’s forays are highlighted by pieces such as the Velvet Amethysts And Spinels, whose gems furnish a delicately brush-finished DLC dial, it also made its mark with complex feats of engineering like 2007’s Excalibur Perpetual Calendar Minute Repeater Tourbillion.
Today, Roger Dubuis’ creations are most known for its star-shaped skeleton or baroque-themed dials. Last year, it increased the visibility of its iconic openworking by diamond-encrusting the star bridge holding up the mainspring barrel. The exposed movement is made of dark grey rhodium to accentuate 14.93 carats of baguette-cut diamonds that decorate the high jewellery version of the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Double Tourbillon.
In recent years, the brand has set its sights on women’s luxury, but without compromising on mechanical movements. During this year’s SIHH, while debuting a new Excalibur with a carbon skeleton, the maison also unveiled Blossom Velvet, whose attention to detail is unparalleled among women’s watches; the Velvet Secret Heart, which is a proponent of making women’s watches more technical; and the Velvet Ribbon Haute Joaillerie, which is a statement that women should not be shy to flaunt their achievements.