stablished in 1901 and now in the hands of the fourth generation of its founding families, Dubois Dépraz – which employs some 430 staff across four production sites in the Vallée de Joux – is Switzerland’s leading specialist manufacturer of modules which, combined with a base movement, add complications to a mechanical watch.
The company, whose client list extends to more than 50 brands, mostly in the top- and mid-range segments, has built up an impressive catalogue. “An integrated movement is what it is, whereas a modular movement has the advantage of being flexible,” Pascal and Pierre Dubois explain. “With a modular movement, we can easily adapt the type and position of the indications, play around with them to give the customer exactly what they want.”
An impressive range
Modules by Dubois Dépraz cover the lion’s share of Swiss mechanical watchmaking: perpetual calendar with large date (a module that allows for a crisp, clean display by combining month and leap-year indications in a single subdial between 7 and 8 o’clock); perpetual calendar with moon phases; annual calendar; automata; jumping hours in an aperture; GMT; world time; date and moon phases; retrograde seconds, regulator-type display, and of course the all-important chronograph.
Indeed, Dubois Dépraz was one of the leading protagonists in an adventure that launched a new chapter in wristwatch history. Introduced in 1969, Calibre 11 was the first modular chronograph movement. It would go on to power watches by Heuer, Breitling and Hamilton.
- Europa Star 5 / 2019, for the 50th anniversary of Calibre 11
As befits such a specialist, Dubois Dépraz offers a full range of options, starting with an extra-thin automatic chronograph (movement and module have a combined height of 5.97mm) with date, in tri-compax and bi-compax formats. Also, seven versions of the standard automatic chronograph (6.9mm); five monopusher chronographs; six automatic chronographs with central minutes, with the option of a flyback function, 24-hour hand and a power-reserve indicator; four chronographs with large date, centre seconds, including fully and partially skeletonised versions, and skeletonised automatic modules. And this is even before getting to the automatic chronograph module with a perpetual or an annual calendar.
First integrated chronograph movement
Now the company has embarked on a new leg of its journey, as the two Dubois brothers explain: “We are branching out into complete movements. Our first integrated column-wheel chronograph calibre is available for delivery. We started from a blank page and have more major projects in the pipeline.”
First to launch was calibre DD540, with automatic winding, column wheel and flyback function. The specifications include: centre seconds, concentric 60-minute and 12-hour counters, small seconds, power-reserve indicator (72 hours) and instantaneous date in an aperture. Total thickness is 6.6mm with a casing diameter of 32 millimetres.
- Calibre DD540: in-house self-winding column wheel flyback chronograph movement. Central 60-second counter, concentric 60-minute and 12-hour counters, small seconds, power reserve indicator (>72 hours), Window date. 32.00mm x 6.60mm.
Next in line will be the DD545, with twin hour and minute counters, the DD570 with automatic winding, flyback function, pointer months and tourbillon, and the DD580, also automatic with flyback function and a perpetual calendar with pointer-type displays. The company also has its sights set on a three-hand base movement, which should see daylight within the coming months or years.
What about price? “We start from CHF 3,300 for an integrated flyback chronograph.” Dubois Dépraz are clear about the direction they are taking, aimed firmly at the high end of the market. As brands take their ranges upmarket, alongside heightened competition among movement manufacturers, this new offering is certain to attract attention. Particularly as Dubois Dépraz, an integrated manufacture, has the means to match its ambitions, and vast knowledge of the chronograph acquired through decades of experience.
A manufacturer of complications and components
Describing itself as a Manufacture de Complications, Dubois Dépraz has reached a high level of integration. “We make everything in-house, the only exceptions being assortments, which we source from Nivarox, and jewels. Our products are our intellectual property and we make them available to customers. We are also a Manufacture de Composants. Working alongside customers, we develop specific components or complex manufacturing processes. We also provide bespoke services. This could be developing completely new complications or derivatives of existing complications, or adapting complications to an in-house movement.”
- A further development is the DD540 modular chronograph movement with central 60-second counter, 30-minute counter, small seconds, large window date, window moon phases and moon phase corrector. The module measures 32.00mm in diameter and 4.40 deep for a total thickness of 8.0mm.
The company has the resources and skills to carry out dozens of specialisms, starting with cutting and machining components, and makes use of the latest technologies such as laser cutting. The smallest or more complex parts are formed on micro-turning machines, with a separate fleet of machines reserved for large-scale production, which is finished on one of the many pinion cutters. Wheels are finished on another set of cutting machines. These two units are capable of handling several million components a year. Staffs and pinions are shaped with a tolerance of two to one micron.
Decorations are applied using industrial or traditional methods, as per each customer’s wishes and the degree of added value they require. Similarly, assembly may be automated or done by hand. A design office, prototype workshop and laboratory, methods and industrialisation, quality controls and measures complete this top-flight manufacturing plant.
- Dubois Dépraz has also developed a perpetual calendar: the DD56000 calibre. Central seconds, month indicator, leap year indicator and large date in a window. Total thickness 5.60 mm, module depth 2.0mm, diameter 31.0mm.
And, of course, the integrated chronograph movement with which Dubois Dépraz is joining the race to measure short elapsed time intervals.