A visit to the relatively modest premises of Roger Dubuis in Meyrin, on the outskirts of Geneva, reveals a text book example of what a true manufacture should look like. Not only is every step of the movement manufacturing process mastered internally but the brand is also the only one to certify its entire production with the Poinçon de Genève (Geneva Hallmark – see the article “Putting the seal on quality” in Europa Star 04/2012).
On presenting a selection of Roger Dubuis’s new products for the SIHH 2013, CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué stressed that there should be two watchmakers for every other employee if a brand wants to claim a genuine status as a manufacture. In Roger Dubuis’s case, 160 of the total workforce of 250 are indeed watchmakers. He also emphasised that 40 per cent more time is required to produce watches in accordance with the criteria for the Geneva Hallmark.
The Excalibur collection will be the focus of the brand’s attention in 2013. It accounts for 30-40 per cent of total sales and is the number one seller in most major countries. The collection, launched in 2005 with a 45mm case and a double tourbillon movement, is distinguished by its grooved bezel, triple lugs, integrated strap and elongated Roman numerals on the dial.
Covering a wide price range from CHF 13,000 to CHF 550,000, the Excalibur collection offers gents’ and ladies’ models, with the former accounting for two-thirds of the collection and the latter the remaining third. It currently uses fifteen different Roger Dubuis calibres, a figure that will increase next year with the launch of three new calibres in the collection, in addition to a new material in a new 47mm case diameter and one entirely new case. The 29 new references to be presented at the SIHH in January include new metal bracelets for the 36mm and 42mm case sizes—a first in the Excalibur collection. One such model in the 36mm case diameter is set with no less than 624 diamonds on the new bracelet in red gold, with a further 48 diamonds on the bezel (for a total weight of approximately 4.78 carats). This model is powered by the RD821 self-winding calibre with small seconds display.
In the 42mm case diameter, Roger Dubuis presents a new chronometer-chronograph in stainless steel and with a blue dial. This model will be sold exclusively through the brand’s 20 own-name boutiques and is driven by the new self-winding RD681 chronograph calibre with a micro rotor, whose 280 components work in harmony to display the chronograph seconds centrally, the 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and small seconds at 9 o’clock.
The Excalibur 42 Skeleton Tourbillon takes its cue from the popular 45mm Double Skeleton and shows off its distinctive, mirror-polished tourbillon cage in the form of a Celtic cross to maximum effect. Only the bare minimum of material has been left after the skeletonisation of the RD505SQ calibre, leaving a supporting structure whose finish is reminiscent of wrought ironwork. This tourbillon is also a COSC-certified chronometer and is available with a case in red or white gold.
Undoubtedly the pièce de résistance in the batch of new Excalibur models presented by Roger Dubuis at the SIHH 2013, the Excalibur Round Table pays homage to the legend of King Arthur (after whose magical sword the collection is named) and the Knights of the Round Table. The scene is captured beautifully on the piece’s dial, with an enamel disc forming the table, around which three-dimensional sculptures of the twelve knights are seated, each with their hand-forged gold sword laid on the table to form the twelve hour markers. The self-winding calibre RD822 powering this limited edition of 28 pieces displays only the hours and minutes. A wise choice, since the continuous movement of a seconds hand would disturb this exquisite sculpture.
Roger Dubuis currently has 20 own-name boutiques, the latest of which, located at the Macau Wynn casino, is the smallest of all. The brand is distributed in a further 170 doors worldwide, a figure that is unlikely to change much, according to Pontroué, who says “our growth will not come from increasing the number of points of sale”. He also proudly points out that, in a survey by the Richemont Group of 600 retailers, three Roger Dubuis stores came in the top ten in terms of customer service. The brand’s in-house design team have created a relaxing lounge-style environment for the own-brand stores, where customers can relax on comfy sofas surrounded by bookshelves—so much the better for an unhurried examination of the intricate finish of the brand’s timepieces.
Roger Dubuis really does master the entire production process in its facility in Meyrin, Geneva. It starts with the top-secret workshop where two employees produce balance springs behind secure, windowless doors. The springs then arrive in a small escapement workshop, where the balance springs are fixed to the balance wheels and the pallet stones are fitted to the lever by hand, checked for position, then glued in place. Elsewhere, milling and wire erosion machines produce movement blanks and individual components, while in a separate workshop that is unlikely to be found in any other watch factory, a whole department works on all components by hand to ensure that they meet the requirements of the Geneva Hallmark. Working to within the strictest tolerances, gear wheel teeth are polished, bevels painstakingly created by hand and the signature Celtic cross of the tourbillon mirror-polished by hand on a diamond stone, the abrasive surface of which actually feels smooth to the touch.
All the Geneva Hallmark components are then meticulously cleaned using a variety of methods before moving on to the assembly line, where watchmakers work in pairs (each one assembling a specific half of the movement), before handing the finished movement over to another watchmaker for adjustment. The movements are then tested to ensure that they meet the new precision criteria for the Geneva Hallmark (a variation of no more than 60 seconds over a period of seven days). Only once they pass this test are they cased up and tested for water resistance—also in accordance with the new Geneva Hallmark criteria.
Source: Europa Star December - January 2012-13 Magazine Issue
See the other SIHH 2013 previews in this issue:
- “Audemars Piguet: infusing a new way of thinking”
- Baume & Mercier’s seaside odyssey continues
- Cartier’s new manufacture chronograph
- Panerai’s celebration of classic yachting
- Piaget’s strident voice from a slender body
- Ralph Lauren’s Sporting World Time in steel
- Richard Mille’s support for road safety