Roger Dubuis Excalibur Skeleton Double Flying Tourbillon by Angus Davies
Visit Escapement.co.uk page on Watchonista
Two heads are better than one
The idea of two heads or two minds being better than one is a moot point. Some will argue that two opinions can lead to indecision, inactivity and inert compromise. However, others may counter that consensual resolutions avoid extreme opinion or foolhardy mistakes.
Are two minds better than one? I am ambivalent when it comes to answering this question with one notable exception. When it comes to haute horology, two minds are definitely better than one as evidenced by an incredible timepiece from Roger Dubuis.
A tourbillon is a complication which is held in the highest regard among the cognoscenti. It counters the effect of gravity on the rate of the movement. Typically a carriage is held by two bridges. Roger Dubuis take this elevated level of watchmaking to even greater heights with a flying tourbillon which is secured to only one fastening point. It appears to almost float within the carriage.
I did not think watchmaking could soar much higher. But, Roger Dubuis have ascended through the clouds and reached a dizzying altitude with the Excalibur Skeleton Double Flying Tourbillon. Two flying tourbillons feature on the dial of this truly exceptional timepiece.
The presence of a double tourbillon with differential is a huge step along the perfection highway towards that elusive destination beyond the horizon. The synergistic relationship between the two regulatory organs is greater than the sum of its parts.
Roger Dubuis are relatively young in watchmaking terms, founded in 1995, but the skills exampled by their artisans have now become legendary. Modernity is ubiquitous throughout the brand’s range, yet traditional craft is at the heart of the company’s paradigm.
I recently toured the production facility on the outskirts of Geneva and I was amazed at the attention to detail. The finissage of the models is simply incredible and must surely rank among the finest available today.
The watch industry functions on outsourcing some tasks, sourcing components from alternative suppliers and in some cases engaging specialists for engraving or producing very limited edition pieces. It is rare that the movement of a watch will be 100% in-house. Even some of the most prestigious names will source balance springs from Nivarox et. al. However, Roger Dubuis bucks the trend, it makes all of the movement at the modern Atelier including the balance spring.
I could wax-lyrical about my time at Roger Dubuis but that may detract from the task at hand, talking about one of my favourite watches of 2012.
Skeletonisation has dispensed with the conventional dial, allowing the wearer to see through the watch. The fine structure of the plate indulges the enthusiast, inviting them to see every flawless surface. This timepiece transcends the mechanical, resembling a human-like entity. The two minds whirl with excitement, the cerebral thought processes can be seen as components efficiently interact. There are few spectacles in life that could make my pupils dilate more.
Sword shaped hands, worthy of gladiatorial combat, are typical of the Excalibur design language. However, the hands on this model, whilst following the house-style, are skeletonised congruent with the rest of the watch.
A charcoal flange clings to inside of the caseband and frames the dial. The Roger Dubuis name resides at the most northerly aspect of the flange and circular markings feature, indicating the hours.
A castellated bezel conjures images of medieval, feudal times, keeping marauding enemies outside the city walls. The bezel has a bold appearance, attractive, bestowing a feeling of guardianship to the valuable community of components within.
The rugged aesthetic is repeated with the treatment of the crown, adjacent crown protectors and the generous proportions of the case. I should qualify my use of the word “rugged” relates to the masculine form of the watch. Roger Dubuis have bequeathed a decadently luxurious persona to the watch worthy of any black-tie occasion. Whilst a black DLC titanium version was launched at SIHH in 2012, it is the pink gold and white gold versions which I unreservedly covet.
Originality is at the epicentre of Roger Dubuis’s culture and this is evidenced with three lugs attaching the strap to the caseband.
The RD01SQ skeleton double flying tourbillon comprises of 319 components. It takes 1200 hours of manufacturing of which 360 hours are devoted to the Poinçon de Genève.
Roger Dubuis claim to be, “The only Manufacture to be 100% Poinçon de Genève”. I have pondered this statement and admit I cannot think of another company who could make this claim.
The Poinçon de Genève, or Hallmark of Geneva is not restricted to the movement but the whole of the watch. Inspectors from the Laboratoire d’Hologerie et de Microtechnique de Genève (Geneva Laboratory of Horology and Microtechnology, or LHMG) regularly visit Roger Dubuis, typically twice per month, to inspect processes and ensure that the high standards of the quality mark are upheld. Moreover, as part of the Hallmark of Geneva each timepiece is tested and receives COSC certification.
The rigorous standards include photographing the watch with a special camera. This records the position of the minute hand at day zero and then the same watch at day seven is photographed again. The watch must be within +/- 1 minute in seven days.
Any claims relating to water resistance must be challenged and may be subject to scrutiny by the inspectors. Moreover, the watch must demonstrate it can deliver the stated power reserve.
The finissage is truly wonderful. Perlage or dressage is expertly applied as required.
Bevelling is applied by hand to gear-train wheels on their upper and lower surfaces. The desired angle of 45° is achieved by hand.
Every surface of the pinion is finely finished, even the tip of the pinion is decorated with a leather-like piece of material.
Components are skilfully dragged over diamantine paper in an imaginative figure of eight. This is referred to as black polishing according parts a matchless mirror-like appearance.
Close examination of the skeletonised spring barrel reveals sunray-brushing on its upper and lower planes.
Whilst touring the Manufacture, I smiled as I saw a circular disk, forged from a beer mat, revolving at dizzying speed. It was used to polish a surface and apparently is the best material for the task. It would appear that much research took place using materials from the local hostelries. A Champagne cork is used to drag some components across diamantine paper. The watchmaker explained a wine cork would not suffice. The technique sounded like justification for voracious quaffing of alcoholic beverages but the results were splendidly sublime.
I have handled hundreds of different watches over the year, several of which have toyed with my affections with all the allure of a scantily clad femme fatale. Several could easily have gone back to my place for coffee. However, there are only a few watches which I would choose to promise lifelong fidelity.
Is the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Skeleton Double Flying Tourbillon likely to engender horological monogamy? Possibly. But like, many men my head still turns when I see an attractive ankle. Roger Dubuis have produced a masterpiece with this particular model.
I think my new found love for this particular watch is profound but could be set aside if this atelier on the outskirts of Geneva revealed a younger model with even more enticing cleavage. SIHH 2013 may well result in a wayward eye and a temporary promise of undying love.
One thing I can say is I am very attracted to this timepiece and Roger Dubuis has overwhelmed me with its omnipotent talents. I look forward to being seduced once more.
• Model: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Skeleton Double Flying Tourbillon
• Reference: RDDBEX0283 (pink gold); RDDBEX0281 (white gold)
• Case: Pink or white gold case; diameter 45.00 mm; Height (to be advised by Roger Dubuis), Water resistant to 5 bar (50m) sapphire crystal to front and case back.
• Functions: Hours; minutes; and double flying tourbillon.
• Movement: RD01SQ Calibre, manual wind; frequency 2 x 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 28 jewels; power reserve 48 hours.
• Strap: Black leather alligator leather strap supplied on matching gold deployant.