Out of Roger Dubuis' Silicon Valley-like manufacture comes watches characterised by their use of super high-tech materials and ultra-modern – and yes, polarising – design
1 May 2020
Even by the outré standards of the erstwhile Salon International de Haute Horlogerie – the no-expense-spared Geneva watch show attended by the likes of Cartier, IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Vacheron Constantin each year – Roger Dubuis’ booth has a tendency to stand out.
Last year, the brand mounted a Lamborghini behind its reception desk. A few years earlier, watches were presented beneath a 30-ft golden eagle, while a real-life eagle looked on. There have been make-believe film premieres, Fangorn Forest-like setups and human-sized cuckoo clocks. It’s all part of the parcel. Spectacle, as you may be able to deduce from the not-exactly-unassuming timepiece on this page, is Roger Dubuis’ shtick.
The company, established in 1995 as a venture between by Roger Dubuis, who’d spent 14 years developing complications for Patek Philippe, and Carlos Dias, a watch designer who’d previously worked with Franck Muller (the original rock-star watchmaker), operates at the highest end of haute horology – or, as the brand itself likes to call it, hyper horology – manufacturing ultra-complicated, tortuously-ﬁnished timepieces in limited-run batches. Prices run into the hundreds of thousands. The brand’s most limited – and ergo expensive – pieces are often sold before they are even announced.
Several years ago I was invited on a tour of Roger Dubuis’ headquarters in Geneva. The second thing to shock you, once you’ve comprehended the sheer size of its five-storey nerve centre (above), is that no one who works there, as was the case back then anyway, appears to be over the age of 40. From the receptionists to the marketing and PR teams to the watchmakers themselves, the then-49-year-old, then-CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué, whom I was there to interview (and who, in 2017, made way for the equally high-spirited Nicola Andreatta, previously GM of Tiffany & Co.’s watch department), may have been the oldest person I met all day.
Out of this Silicon Valley-like manufacture comes watches characterised by their use of super high-tech materials and ultra-modern – and yes, polarising – design. Watches, that in fashion circles, might be called ‘street’ (if the streets being talked about belonged to Monaco or Dubai).
The brand’s dialed-up, leave-nothing-in-the-tank approach to watchmaker made it the Lamborghini of horology long before the two companies signed a five-year partnership in 2017.
The first watch yielded by that meeting of minds – possibly the most synergistic powwow in the history of automotive-watchmaker mashups – was the carbon-fibre Excalibur Aventador S, which had two escapements and a movement inspired by the engine block of its Lamborghini namesake. The second, the Excalibur Huracán Performante, featured a honeycomb mainplate evocative of a Lamborghini grill and was unveiled at last year’s Salon International de Haute Horlogerie – alongside that wall-mounted Lambo.
The 2020 edition of SIHH, or Watches & Wonders, as the event was anglicised last year, was cancelled in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the fair’s organisers, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, commendably came up with a digital plan b. Brands that had been scheduled to exhibit new watches at the show were invited to do so via an online portal.
Roger Dubuis used the opportunity to drop two new, typically-bonkers super-watches: the one-of-a-kind Excalibur Diabolus in Machina – a skeletonised minute repeater with a flying tourbillon, already sold for £495,500 – and the incandescent Excalibur Twofold, a watch forged in the fires of Roger Dubuis’ R&D division that can lay claim to three watchmaking world firsts.
To begin with, the case and bezel of the Twofold are made from a material called Mineral Composite Fibre, or MCF, an ultra-white, super-light compound consisting of 99.95 per cent silica, specifically developed by Roger Dubuis.
Secondly, the brand has patented a new luminescent paint, 60 per cent longer-lasting than standard Super-LumiNova, that it has applied to every angle of the movement’s upper plate.
Thirdly, strips of another new luminescent technology – LumiSuperBiwiNova™ – have been imbedded, rather than stitched or applied, to the Twofold’s rubber strap, meaning you’ll never struggle to find the timepiece in the dark.
Like all Roger Dubuis watches, the Excalibur Twofold is stamped with the Poinçon de Genève, or Geneva Seal, a prestigious hallmark, independently adjudicated, that can increase production times by up to 40 per cent. (The only other watchmakers that regularly submit their movements for Geneva Seal certification – you have to be based in the canton, mind – are Cartier, Chopard and Vacheron Constantin).
You can register an interest to view one of the eight Excalibur Twofolds that Roger Dubuis will be manufacturing at the brand’s Bond Street boutique when doors reopen. If, of course, there are any left by then.
Excalibur Twofold, £238,500, Roger Dubuis, rogerdubuis.com