Even though Roger Dubuis may be considered small and young compared to other watch companies in the Richemont Group, there’s no denying that it has established itself as a daring brand that strives to be different. As CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué says: “We don’t take a ‘me too’ approach. We don’t follow what others are doing. We want to distance Roger Dubuis from other brands by creating things that others haven’t done yet.”
“More bold, more extravagant” seems to be the brand’s mantra, resulting in audacious creations that combine fine watchmaking mechanisms with daring designs.
Lately, its series of complicated skeleton timepieces, in which the entire production process received the demanding Hallmark of Geneva stamp (as with all Roger Dubuis watches), have been wowing deep-pocket fans. Skeleton watches have no dials. They are stripped down to their bare essentials, revealing as much of the watch’s interior as possible.
This year also happens to be Roger Dubuis’ 20th anniversary. To celebrate, the brand declares 2015 as the year of the “Astral Skeleton”, unveiling a number of skeletal interpretations which Pontroué says will continue to impress watch connoisseurs.
“We will be showcasing new interpretations at Watches&Wonders. One is a high jewellery version of the Excalibur Double Tourbillon called the Excalibur Star of Infinity. Another is the Excalibur Brocéliande, a new jewellery interpretation for ladies, and the third is the Spider Pocket Time Instrument and lastly, there is the Excalibur RDDBEX0499,” Pontroué says.
According to Pontroué, Roger Dubuis has been in the skeleton business for the past 10 years. “Skeleton movements for many years have been associated with classical finishing and classical interpretation. But ours are probably one of the very few highly recognisable contemporary models.” Roger Dubuis has taken the position that being very strong in terms of mechanical content does not mean that the overall design of the watch has to be traditional.
“Our watches have a strong and eye-catching design which makes them stand out,” says Pontroué, who adds that, “our fine calibres, and the limiting of our wristwatches to small series, guarantee credibility and exclusiveness”.
“Whether design comes first or the movement comes first all depends on the type of watch that we’re making. We have the ability to keep technical content on one side and design extravagance on the other, at equally high levels.
“We don’t specifically focus on one aspect of watchmaking over another. For us, it’s never just about the movement or just about the design.”
The Excalibur Star of Infinity features a skeletonised double flying tourbillon where the case and part of the movement have been ornamented with diamonds. The star-shaped bridge that supports the mainspring barrel is also set in diamonds and the rest of the movement has been plated with dark grey rhodium. The concept behind this is to produce a stylised visual impression of a star in a halo of light, floating in the night sky. Only 28 pieces are offered.
The Excalibur Brocéliande is named after the legendary French forest and features decorative jewellery elements – 18ct gold vines set with white round diamonds and coloured ivy leaves made of precision cut coloured gemstones that are artfully added to the tourbillon movement without disturbing its operation. Diamonds also cover the slim 18ct bezel and flange, topped with a rose-cut diamond set on the crown for a total of 3.44 carats. There are only two pieces of this watch.
But the piece that Pontroué is most excited about is the Excalibur Spider Pocket Time Instrument. “This is a pocket watch and really shows off Roger Dubuis’ specialisation in high-end complications. This watch has inherited all the essence, spirit, flavour and know-how that Roger Dubuis is able to express.”
The Excalibur Spider Pocket Time Instrument carries certain selected Excalibur design codes, including the edgy fluted bezel and the easy-grip crown. It is powered by the Calibre RD101. Like the Excalibur Spider models unveiled at the this year's Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie with their hi-tech contemporary materials, the Pocket Time Instrument is made of titanium. It has a skeletonised bow to protect the 12 o’clock crown. In addition, its pocket-watch configuration frees up the sides of the generous 60 mm case, exposing more of the open-worked effect. Only 28 pieces are on offer.
The new Excalibur RDDBEX0499 features a 42 mm pink gold case and a hand-engraved stone dial. It is powered by a self-winding mechanical movement, RD622, with micro-rotor. It comes with a chestnut brown hand-stitched alligator strap and has a power reserve of 52 hours. Only 188 pieces are made.
For Pontroué, who has been helming the brand since 2011, Watches&Wonders provides a perfect platform for Roger Dubuis to get closer to its Asian customers. “Our strength is creating spectacular horlogerie concepts, and we want to make Roger Dubuis more well-known by people in this part of the world.” Roger Dubuis has stores in China and the Middle East and plans to open in New York and Los Angeles next year. “Our plan is to make Roger Dubuis one of the top five references in the world of haute horlogerie,” Pontroué says.