Roger Dubuis: Yes, haute horlogerie and haute couture can coexist!

Some people are of the opinion that Roger Dubuis produces watches that are more about fashion than fine watchmaking. I respectfully beg to differ. Regardless of whether you find their bold, expressive style fabulously beautiful, or overwhelmingly flamboyant, one simply must admire the horological achievements of the brand born in 1995 through the joint efforts of Roger Dubuis – the highly respected former watchmaker for Patek Philippe – and Carlos Dias, a watch connoisseur and entrepreneur. In a very short time span, Roger Dubuis has managed to accomplish, on a horological level, amazing things fully on par with the most famous and historically significant houses which have existed for one hundred years or more. The fact that they do this in a fresh and fashionable way sets their offerings apart from everything else on the market.

From the beginning, the company made the decision to place a special emphasis on execution – the fine detail that separates a great and artistic watch from one that is merely very good. Every aspect, from the finish of the case in its myriad subtleties, to the polish and construction of the movements components, was approached in a way that put emphasis on and at the same time paid tribute to the great classical Genevan traditions, as well as the perpetuation of technical specialties such as tourbillons, perpetual calendars, and minute repeaters. I’ve had the chance to handle quite a few watches, and yet, when I get to see a new example from Roger Dubuis, be it basic or complicated, I can always find something new to get excited about – the synthesis of the whole is spectacularly striking with this brand.

Case in point: Just this last week, I had the chance to play with the new Golden Square skeleton tourbillon; this particular example was in titanium, a first for Roger Dubuis in that metal. Aside from the impressive dimensions of the Golden Square design, the company further dared to make this casing in a very modern and extremely lightweight material, rather than the more expected and traditional gold or platinum. Pushing the envelope even further, this particular tourbillon has a beautiful skeleton movement, revealing the delicacy of the hand engraved bridges, and laying open the fascinating motion of the one-minute tourbillon. The impeccably finished titanium casing was most attractive in its deep grey color, and the feathery weight made it seem to float on the wrist, despite the generous size.  In fact, this watch could possibly be dubbed the “Air Tourbillon” as its open-worked movement combined with the titanium casing makes for a watch that is so comfortable you can almost forget that it is on your wrist.  Yet, this is hardly a superficial or forgettable watch – it’s visual appeal and presence is exceptionally strong, with the love for detail that is a special hallmark of Roger Dubuis.

I’ll put forth one last tidbit of food for thought: When a noted watchmaking house introduces a new manufacture movement, the watch press goes crazy with adulation. This is understandable, as the infrastructure required to produce a movement in-house is intensive and extremely challenging, well deserving of immense respect. Imagine then, a house which introduces six – SIX – new movements in one year! Well, Roger Dubuis has done that this year, and that is nothing short of a tour-de-force!  The new calibers, several of them extremely complicated, join the rest of the Roger Dubuis movements, all of which are produced in the company’s own factory; it must be noted that all of the Dubuis movements are hallmarked with the prestigious Seal of Geneva, testifying to their traditional level of finish and construction as specified by the long established guidelines of the Canton of Geneva for watches of the highest echelon. Among Genevan producers of high watchmaking, Roger Dubuis remains the only manufacturer, along with Patek Philippe, who insist that every single one of their movements be able to obtain this traditional honor.

Yes, by comparison to the first pieces the company introduced, the contemporary offerings are quite grandiose in size, as suits the current demand for large watches, as well as the expressive design aesthetic of company owner Carlos Dias. But, at the same time, we have a watch firm not even 15 years old who has not only produced a dizzying array of the high complications, but has managed to ultimately achieve this on a completely independent, manufacture basis. All of this is accompanied by an obsession with traditional watchmaking quality that has been unwavering from the very beginning, shepherded by the intimate and continued involvement of a watchmaker considered a living legend amongst his peers.

So please, how again is Roger Dubuis just a fashion watch?