Since its founding in 1995, Roger Dubuis is ceaselessly making a name for itself as a creator of timepieces that display both fine watchmaking savoir faire and avant-garde design. Known as disruptor, the manufacture has debuted a number of world-firsts over the years, be it aesthetic or technical innovations. Examples of this include 2013’s Excalibur Quatour, which presented a novel movement fitted with four sprung balances; and more recently, this year’s Black Velvet, which saw gems being set on a carbon case for the first time
To celebrate its progressive and innovative spirit, Roger Dubuis held an exclusive four-day event at the trendy South Bund district in Shanghai. Titled Dare to be Rare, the affair saw the event space at the The Waterhouse At South Bund hotel turned into a conceptual exhibition that showcased its watchmaking expertise. Also unveiled at the occasion ahead of next month’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) were three new watches from its Excalibur line — the collection which Roger Dubuis will be focusing its efforts on enriching for 2017.
Headlining the trio of pre-SIHH timepieces is the Excalibur Quatuor Cobalt MicroMelt — a new take on its 2013 Excalibur Quatuor. The latter made waves upon its debut, thanks to its impressive 590-component RD101 movement that beat at 16Hz and featured four sprung balances with five differentials. This escapement serves as an alternative to the tourbillon by distributing the effects of gravity across all four balances, hence negating its effect on timekeeping accuracy.
The latest edition of this horologe — fitted with the same exceptional calibre — is causing chatter for a different reason: Its material. The timekeeper’s 48-mm case, bezel, case back and crown are forged from cobalt chrome, a high-performance alloy that is often found in the aeronautics and automobile industries.
“Our customers have a lot of steel, gold and platinum watches. But no one has any cobalt chrome watches,” says Jean-Marc Pontroué, CEO of Roger Dubuis of the decision to incorporate such an unconventional material in its latest creation. “We strongly believe that a brand like ours has the mission of being very innovative when it comes to new materials,” he adds. Produced using MicroMelt technology, the molten metal is first placed under a high-pressure stream of gas to melt and atomise it into a fine powder. After which, the powder is blended and screened to a controlled diameter before being poured into canisters that are sealed and subjected to hot isostatic pressing, then compressed to achieve full density. Following that, the material is rolled into bars before being processed into its final size.
The result is a robust alloy that is lighter than steel, extremely corrosion-resistant, capable of withstanding very high temperatures and completely biocompatible. That said, Pontroué admits such properties may come across as superfluous: “Are you ever going to be exposed to a temperature of a thousand degrees C? I hope not. But I think it is part of a brand’s storytelling — to develop things that make it unusual,” he says. “It’s like how some of the supercar brands create cars that can travel at speeds of up to 400km/h. But do you ever drive at that speed? No way.”
A new colour scheme has also been introduced in this version of the Excalibur Quatuor. The dial of this watch has been PVD-coated in blue and printed with red and white accents on its minute track. It also presents rhodium-plated indexes and white gold hands that are tipped in red. To complete its aesthetic, the eight-piece-only watch is paired with a blue alligator leather strap with red stitching.
Another piece that also made its debut is a new variant of the Excalibur Spider Skeleton Automatic. Part of the 2015-introduced Excalibur Spider collection, this timepiece continues to run on the calibre RD820SQ — the manufacture’s very first automatic skeletonised movement — that powers all watches within this range. What is different in this model, however, is its bi-material concept and colour scheme. The ticker presents a 45-mm case made from a combination of titanium and titanium DLC, and showcases a skeletonised upper flange varnished in matt black with a blue varnished lower flange. It also sports a crown in titanium DLC, vulcanised with red rubber. To complement the red-and-blue colour palette of this piece, a black rubber strap with blue leather inlay and red stitching is used. The Excalibur Spider Skeleton Automatic will be produced in a limited edition of 88 pieces only.
A new variation of the unisex Excalibur 36 was also unveiled. Now presented in a 36-mm black DLC-treated titanium case, the watch displays a blue PVD-coated dial with sun-brushed finish. Like all Excalibur pieces, it showcases the range’s trademark radiating Roman numerals, fluted bezel and triple lugs. Powered by the same RD830 calibre found in all previous editions of the Excalibur 36, the timekeeper offers a small seconds indicator and date window at six o’clock. Adding to the elegance of this 28-piece-only watch are 48 blue sapphires, totalling approximately 1.5ct, set on its bezel.
These pieces, according to Pontroué, are but a small teaser of what Roger Dubuis plans to reveal at the upcoming SIHH. In line with the brand’s focus on materials for the coming year, yet another interesting metal will be introduced. “It is a metal which is known and has been used in the past before — but not to this extent for the case and movement,” he hints with a smile.