Roger Dubuis is steering its creativity in a new direction with a partnership that promises to move its innovative streak up a gear. This year’s SIHH debuted the brand’s alliance with Formula One tyre maker Pirelli, launched on the back of a “dare to be rare” campaign for the first of the novelties.
They are the Excalibur Spider Pirelli Double Flying Tourbillon and the Excalibur Spider Pirelli Automatic Skeleton, featuring straps made from a Pirelli tyre, but not just any old tyre.
The collaboration was initiated at last year’s Monaco Grand Prix, and the straps are made from the tyres of the winning car driven by Lewis Hamilton. The blue stitching on the straps replicated on parts of the dial represents Pirelli’s colour coded tyres according to conditions on a given race day, in this case, wet.
“Pirelli is a worldwide leader in rubber. In the watchmaking industry, we may test three new forms of rubber each year; Pirelli tests 2,000. Their knowledge [of rubber] is huge,” says Gregory Bruttin, director of movement at Roger Dubuis. “In terms of our timepieces, definition and texturisation, this is a very interesting partnership to find new, more comfortable straps.”
The ruggedly bold Excalibur Spider was the natural choice for the collaboration. Launched in 2015, the skeleton movement demonstrates the watchmaker’s modern vision; a star-shaped movement defines the gear positions and structure, and four of its five tips correspond to hour markers.
The 47mm Excalibur Spider Pirelli Double Flying Tourbillon has a black DLC titanium skeleton case, with a new RD 105SQ hand-wound calibre. The flying tourbillons at 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock are rimmed by a speedometer-style seconds counter, while the multicoloured power reserve indicator is a nod to racing-car fuel gauges.
The Excalibur Spider Pirelli Automatic Skeleton is a smaller, but nevertheless robust 45mm that houses the RD820SQ automatic skeleton movement that debuted two years ago.
While the straps give the timepieces a collectors’ quality surely to appeal to those chasing a certain lifestyle – the lucky eight owners will be guests at a future Grand Prix race and privy to a two-day, behind-the-scenes experience – the collaboration is only the beginning of a focus on material development.
Having proven itself adept in complicated movements – to date, every single Roger Dubuis watch has the Poinçon de Genève accreditation – the watchmaker is exploring new materials to pair with collections like the Excalibur. “We can sing the same song but change slightly the wording; that is the beauty when you have an iconic product, you have to learn every year a new line,” says CEO Jean-Marc Pontroue. “Our real competence is movements, but we are working with suppliers to find some spectacular materials. We make life complicated for pleasure. The challenge is to find materials not used by others.”
A recent example is T700 carbon, a hi-tech, expensive material used in racing cars that the watchmaker has applied to the case and movement parts in the new Excalibur Spider Carbon. This particular carbon is highly resistant to shocks and extremely light; when combined with titanium, the 45mm Excalibur Spider Carbon is a lightweight, in literal terms.
echnically of course, it’s as complex as every other Roger Dubuis timepiece. In addition to the case, carbon is used extensively all the way to the movement plate, upper tourbillon cage and bridges.
The 30 per cent reduction in weight improves the rotation of the tourbillon, and the ultrathin layers of construction of the carbon give it more rigidity that makes it less susceptible to vibrations, improving precision; the resulting honeycomb aesthetic gives a nice touch that mimics race car radiator grilles. The 28-piece set is the first carbon watch to be accredited with the Poinçon de Genève accreditation.
Cobalt chrome is another innovation from Roger Dubuis, featured in the new Excalibur Quatuor Cobalt Micromelt. The high-performance alloy is made using a trademarked Micromelt technology usually associated with aeronautics.
The material is melted and atomised into a fine powder before being processed into a complex, usable form that controls porosity and stability. In laymen terms, that makes it extremely resistant to corrosion.
The watch contains the impressive 590-part RD101 Quatuor movement with five differentials and four sprung balances, in six positions – meaning it can achieve almost instantly what a tourbillon can usually accomplish in 60 seconds, by compensating for rate variations caused by gravity.
Other new releases include a handsome interpretation of the Excalibur Spider Automatic Skeleton combining pink gold, titanium and grey leather, and the Excalibur Essential 36 Automatic. Features include a small seconds sub-dial, date display and a bezel set with 48 blue sapphires.