Dare to be different
Watchmaker introduces hand-wound model with four sprung balances, writes Vivian Chen
While other fine watchmakers try to counter the laws of gravity by perfecting the mighty tourbillon, Roger Dubuis' Excalibur Quatuor, unveiled at this year's SIHH, has pursued a different path.
Its hand-wound, 590-part calibre RD 101 features four sprung balances, which perform the same function as a tourbillon to correct the rate variation caused by gravity, as a watch constantly changes position when its wearer moves. However, what a tourbillon can do in a minute, the pending patented mechanism of four sprung balances achieves instantly.
The complex design, which Gregory Bruttin, the young and talented head of movement development, is responsible for, stunned Roger Dubuis. "It's crazy," says Dubuis, the founder who is now an ambassador for the brand. "First, it's amazing for [team Bruttin] to have ever thought about it and it's even crazier that they made it work."
To make it work wasn't easy. The four sprung balances were strategically placed, one in each quadrant of the watch, oscillating at different times to trick the laws of gravity. The four regulating organs that determine a watch's precision led to an impressive frequency of 16Hz for its basic movement, about four times that of an average watch.
The novelty continues to break grounds in complication and material with this novelty.
The Excalibur Quatuor features an original power-reserve indicator, patents applied for, incorporated into the moon-phase double display, improving readability on the semi-skeletonised dial.
With only three pieces available, the calibre is housed inside a silicon case. The material was chosen for its low weight and hardness - half the weight of titanium and four times harder than steel.
Given its mechanical complexity, silicon - with similar atomic structure to diamonds - has never been used to create an entire case until Excalibur Quatuor. In Roger Dubuis' manufacture in Geneva, the silicon version takes up to 1,500 hours to make.
There is a pink gold version, limited to 88 pieces, like the silicon one with a 48mm case, stamped with Poincon de Genève and providing 40 hours of power reserve when fully wound.
This year's Excalibur Collection features two other limited collector's novelties - the Skeleton Double Tourbillon and Excalibur Round Table.
The Skeleton Double Tourbillon, limited to 188 pieces, is powered by a manual-winding movement with 48 hours' power reserve, housed in a 45mm, pink gold case with ceramic bezel and alligator strap.
The Double Flying Tourbillon, launched in 2005, features a differential system that averages the rates of the two tourbillons for greater precision, and it is said to have laid the technical foundation for the Excalibur Quatuor. This year's updated version features a case that is 12 per cent thinner.
While the other novelties might showcase the brand's mechanical complexities, the automatic-winding Excalibur Round Table, 45mm in pink gold and limited to 88 pieces, is a work of art. Inspired by the legend of King Arthur and his knights, Dubuis' veteran craftsmen replaced the traditional hour markers with 12 miniature sculptures of knights holding swords. It takes a skilled craftsman five days to make each three-dimensional sculpture standing a mere 7mm tall and made of gold and grand feu enamel.
For women, Dubuis adds a full gem-set novelty in the Velvet family - a limited series of 28 pieces. The 36mm, white gold Velvet High Jewellery has a dial fully paved with baguette-cut diamonds and flange set with brilliant-cut diamonds. The novelty, running an automatic movement, has 13.5ct diamonds on the case, dial and clasp.
When asked about Dubuis' favourite piece in this year's SIHH collection, he singles out the Hommage, Tribute to the Minute Repeater, limited to eight pieces.
The 45mm, pink gold novelty drives an automatic-winding calibre with a double micro-rotor in platinum, featuring flying tourbillon and minute repeater equipped with centrifugal sound diffuser.
The Hommage family reflects the brand's tribute to its founder, who started the brand in 1995. Dubuis departed in 2005 before returning as an ambassador in 2011.