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by Angus Davies 6 months ago in designers
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The Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider EON Gold 39mm RDDBEX0816 is endowed with a single flying tourbillon and is exquisitely finished by hand.


In the esoteric world of Haute Horlogerie, timepieces usually encompass traditional craftsmanship, practised to an exalted level. Often these watches are made by long-standing companies, some with over 200 years of history. In some cases, such timepieces are classical, while others are best described as ‘contemporary’. Many of these finely appointed watches are endowed with peerless finishing, high complications and, in some instances, artistic crafts.

However, there are some individuals who crave paragons of horology that transcend mere modernity. Indeed, such buyers yearn for timepieces infused with space age materials and futuristic styling. The only problem with this genre of watch is that quality and mechanical integrity are often sacrificed on the altar of style. Moreover, a high retail price doesn’t necessarily imply excellence and may lull the naive into wasting money on a timepiece devoid of virtue.

The independent assurance of the Poinçon de Genève is one of the best means of providing consumers with peace of mind.

Roger Dubuis create watches worthy of the term ‘Haute Horlogerie’ and yet the brand rejects convention. Founded in 1995, the venerable Maison may be comparatively young, but rest assured its technical know-how is beyond reproach.

Since its inception, the firm has always been innovative, employing cutting-edge materials and conceiving remarkable mechanisms. With a penchant for making skeleton watches, Roger Dubuis has repeatedly shown its capacity for making otherworldly timepieces postdated for the next century. However, while Roger Dubuis is a brand free of dust and patina, it continues to respect many historic watchmaking techniques. Most pertinently, it is one of just a few companies that make visionary watches brimming with excellence. The focal point of this article, the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider EON Gold 39mm, is hallmarked with the coveted Poinçon de Genève.

From the outset, Roger Dubuis wanted to make watches hallmarked with the Poinçon de Genève, sometimes called the Geneva Seal. Moreover, good workmanship, innovation and a respect for watchmaking traditions have always been at the heart of the brand.

Poinçon de Genève – its history

During the 16th and 17th century, Huguenots, French protestants, fled from persecution and ultimately settled in Geneva, home to the preacher, John Calvin. It was their arrival in Geneva that ultimately led to the Swiss city becoming the epicentre of watchmaking during this time. Many Huguenots were highly skilled in goldsmithery and making jewellery.

Calvanism encouraged sobriety and shunned various forms of extravagance. For example, there were regulations governing the making of jewellery and prevented the manufacture of ‘crosses, chalices or other instruments of popish idolatry’. As a consequence, the refugees adapted their skills to making watches, albeit the artisans often decorated timepieces using techniques normally employed for jewellery.

Ultimately, the name ‘Genève’, when applied to watches, conferred status. Needless to say, unscrupulous individuals began ‘passing off’ watches that were inferior or made outside of the Canton of Geneva. ‘In 1886, the Grand Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva passed Law I 1.25 on the voluntary testing of watches in response to the obvious need for high-quality certification in watchmaking. This ultimately led to the creation of the Poinçon de Genève covering the craftsmanship, regularity and durability of operation, and certificates of origin.’

A few years ago, the scope of the Poinçon de Genève was extended. No longer was it restricted to the 12 historic criteria relating to a movement, but it also encompassed the exterior and performance of the watch.

Today, the Poinçon de Genève is a guarantee of provenance, craftsmanship, a token of quality and an indication of exceptional expertise. All watches must be assembled, cased and adjusted within the Canton of Geneva.

Formerly the Poinçon de Genève was overseen by the Geneva watchmaking school, however, today the standards are rigorously maintained by TimeLab and its team of independent auditors. Brands are subject to independent audits approximately once per month.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider EON Gold 39mm and the importance of the Poinçon de Genève

I recently spoke to a representative of Roger Dubuis who explained to me that the Poinçon de Genève is more than a certification, it is a philosophy.

If a watch is finished to a high standard it will inevitably be beautiful. The Maison believes that if a movement is beautiful it should not hidden behind a dial but freely shown. It is for this latter reason that the company has a penchant for making skeleton watches. Every detail is refined to the nth degree and contributes to the unique and extraordinary composition of a Roger Dubuis watch.

Prior to a watch being considered suitable for Poinçon de Genève, a dossier must be produced containing numerous documents. Each watch must be ‘controlled according to technical and precision criteria’. The dossier must be submitted to the Poinçon de Genève office in order to obtain certification.

As mentioned previously, the auditors visit the factory about once per month. They will ask for an unassembled movement kit of their choice. Each component is checked piece by piece, ensuring it conforms to the control sample. If there are deviations from the specified standard, the auditors will request corrective action takes place and will then reinspect the parts at the next visit. If the component doesn’t meet the standard, the certification body can stop the assignment of the Poinçon de Genève hallmark to the calibre in question. As my host pointed out, this has never happened at Roger Dubuis.

In terms of the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider EON Gold 39mm, it takes approximately 30 hours to assemble and ‘control’ the movement. The assembly phase is done entirely by hand and takes approximately 8 hours. The time expended on making components is determined by the batch size, however, the Poinçon de Genève adds about 25% to production time in order to fulfil the certification criteria.

The Poinçon de Genève encompasses both aesthetic and technical criteria. This includes the specification of numerous components such as the jewels. Fundamentally, there must be no traces of machining on any part, therefore all Roger Dubuis’ components are retouched and decorated by hand.

The Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider EON Gold 39mm and hand decoration

When hallmarking a movement or a case with the Poinçon de Genève, consideration has to be given to the act of stamping the surface. In some cases, contemporary materials preclude stamping. Roger Dubuis has pursued different ways of decorating contemporary materials such as carbon and ceramic. While the Manufacture fulfils the requirements of the Poinçon de Genève, it never stops investigating new and innovative materials.

When Roger Dubuis was deciding how to decorate the Excalibur Spider EON Gold 39mm, it rejected the highly popular Côtes de Genève motif. Although this form of decoration befits large surfaces, it does not suit the fine beams, typical of a skeleton movement.

Roger Dubuis’s technical department consider the geometry of components and select the most suitable forms of decoration. Indeed, the brand’s personnel are looking for the perfect marriage between the shapes of parts and the type of finish applied.

When discussing the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider EON Gold 39mm with a member of the brand’s technical team, he admirably conveyed the mindset behind the making of the watch. “There is perlage on the mainplate and the corners are highly polished. What is specific to the Poinçon de Genève is that you have exactly the same execution under the bridge, on parts that will only be seen by the watchmaker during assembly. This illustrates how the Poinçon de Genève is closer to a philosophy rather than merely complying with technical rules.”

Centre stage

The golden hour and minute hands on the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider EON Gold 39mm are openworked and feature diamond-shaped, luminescent tips. The minute hand floats above a pink gold plated flange, marked with transferred texts and a minute track. Meanwhile, a white ceramic upper flange sits above. Each hour is denoted with a diamond, save for 7 and 12 o’clock. These 10 diamonds are of VVS1 quality with a total weight of 0.60 cts.

The keyless works is partially disclosed. The Poinçon de Genève hallmark is presented adjacent the crown wheel, a suitable reminder of the model’s exalted finish. A flying tourbillon is positioned at 7 o’clock and features a pointer atop the cage, indicating the running seconds.

The German watchmaker, Alfred Helwig (1886-1974) invented the flying tourbillon in 1920. Like Abraham-Louis Breguet’s tourbillon, patented in 1801, the mechanism was designed to counter the adverse influence of gravity on the regulating organ, thereby improving accuracy. However, unlike a ‘conventional’ tourbillon endowed with upper and lower bridges, the flying tourbillon eschews the upper bridge, affording unrestricted views of the escapement, regulating organ and cage in motion. The notion of revealing more of the model’s inner beauty is wholly compatible with the brand’s ethos.

The tourbillon cage comprises 63 components and yet weighs a mere 0.55 grams. Surprisingly, this represents a 15% reduction in mass when compared with the previous model. This low mass ensures the tourbillon merely sips energy, contributing to the RD5105Q Calibre’s impressive 60-hour power-reserve. A further factor that has augmented the movement’s power-reserve relates to the wheels of the gear train.

With many gear trains, the energy transfer from the barrel to the escapement is inefficient. However, by using modern software, Roger Dubuis has optimised the shape of the teeth found on the wheels of the gear train, mitigating energy loss and thereby extending the power-reserve. It is this obsession with minutiae that helps Roger Dubuis repeatedly deliver excellence.

A 5-pointed star-bridge is a signature of the brand and assumes pride of place both to the front and rear of the watch. It is adorned with a white lacquered interior. The wearer is also indulged with views of the spring barrel. The openworked barrel affords views of the mainspring in various states of tension. There is a refreshing honesty with this watch. Nothing is hidden from view.

Roger Dubuis has used titanium extensively on the Excalibur Spider EON Gold 39mm. The two primary reasons for selecting this alloy are that it is light and non-magnetic, characteristics which prove very helpful in watchmaking. The Maison repeatedly shows its horological probity by choosing the finest materials for a specific position or role. For example, the RD5105Q Calibre also incorporates chromium-cobalt alloy. This latter material delivers exceptional polishability manifest with the brilliant white gleam of the mirror-polished upper tourbillon cage. Moreover, this latter alloy is, once again, unaffected by magnetism.

To the rear of the watch, various bridges and plates are shown for the delectation of inquisitive eyes. Moreover, when appraising the watch, whether to the front or rear, the wearer’s eyes are indulged with a myriad of different finishes. The mainplate and bridges are adorned with perlage and include polished angles. The tourbillon cage is suffused with a plethora of finishes, an important characteristic of the Roger Dubuis brand, while the wheels are embellished with circular graining.

Despite the avant-garde persona of the company’s watches, Roger Dubuis continues to use the same traditional finishing employed by the historic practitioners of Haute Horlogerie. The big difference with Roger Dubuis is the way the finishes are applied. Quite simply, they are a critical element to the overall design of the watch.

All forms of finishing are performed by hand. Most notably, behind each form of decoration there is a man or woman blessed with remarkable knowledge and skills. Part of Roger Dubuis’ paradigm is the perpetuation of such skills, passing them from one generation to the next.

The precision of the watch is tested using the criteria specified by the Poinçon de Genève. The Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider EON Gold 39mm is evaluated over a seven day period after which the time indicated must not have varied by more than one minute.

The case

Despite its obvious complexity, the Excalibur Spider EON Gold measures a mere 39mm in diameter with a thickness of 13.3mm, making it suitable for both genders.

EON Gold is 75% pure or 18-carat, however, the noble metal features ‘non-tarnish technology’, ensuring the watch retains its showroom-fresh appearance for life. This is yet another example of Roger Dubuis’ capacity for innovation.

Each caseband is openworked, reinforcing the skeleton theme. The case juxtaposes polished and brushed surfaces throughout, once again, demonstrating the brand’s artisanal prowess.

The bezel is endowed with white rubber inlays and white lacquer markings. Moreover, the crown incorporates elaborate fluting and nestles between the sturdy shoulders of a crown protector. Consistent with other Excalibur models, triple lugs unite the strap with the watch head. The watch is supplied on a white rubber strap with a calf leather inlay, while the inside of the strap features a Pirelli Cinturato pattern. Finally, wearers can change the appearance of their watch very easily courtesy of the brand’s Quick Release System – QRS.

Closing remarks

A potential weakness that can mar skeleton watch ownership is readability. Often the complexity of openworked bridges can create a cluttered background where the hands become seemingly lost, impairing intelligibility. Roger Dubuis is a master of skeleton watches and I can attest that the time indications on the Excalibur Spider EON Gold 39mm prove eminently legible.

With its refined finishing, this timepiece is an exemplar of Haute Horlogerie and stands comparison with the finest expressions of traditional watchmaking. Furthermore, the brand’s no-compromise standards are independently validated by the Poinçon de Genève, proffering consumers peace of mind.

While the Maison makes watches befitting the description ‘Haute Horlogerie’, the company prefers the term ‘Hyper Horology’. Certainly, the company’s description seems most apt. Indeed, Roger Dubuis has repeatedly challenged the status quo, making beautifully created, slightly decadent and highly innovative products.

By embracing new technology and exploring its potential, the firm has shown it can create interesting timepieces. Just a few years ago, the Excalibur Spider EON Gold 39mm, a skeleton sports watch in a modestly sized case, would have been impossible to realise. Now, Roger Dubuis has made it a reality. The brand’s penchant for innovation shows no signs of abating.


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Angus Davies

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