Roger Dubuis’ Skeletonized Cases & Other 2015 Models

Roger Dubuis is known for its contemporary approach to the tourbillon and offers more double (flying) tourbillon models than any maker in Switzerland. In fact, double tourbillon models, which Roger Dubuis introduced seven years ago, are the company’s top sellers. This explains why the average sale at this Geneva-based manufacture hovers around $80,000.

But many of the company’s whirlwinds also feature another technical and stylistic twist that further defines the brand’s look: skeletonized movements.

This year, Roger Dubuis expands its avant-garde approach to high-horological design beyond these now well-known sculptural movements. With the latest Excalibur collection, debuted at the recent SIHH in Geneva, Roger Dubuis skeletonizes its watchcases, hands and inner bezel ring, while also adding color, rubber components, gems and luminosity to the Excalibur Skeleton’s distinctive web-like design.

Named to recall nature’s own web, as created by spiders, the new Excalibur Spider Skeleton Double Flying Tourbillon and its single-tourbillon twin model, the Excalibur Spider Skeleton Flying Tourbillon, harness new techniques and materials while retaining the proven appeal of Roger Dubuis’ contemporary approach to Swiss watchmaking. A third 2015 model, the Excalibur Automatic Skeleton, adds another Roger Dubuis specialty, the micro-rotor, to create the collection’s first non-tourbillon skeleton version, but with yet another twist: the micro-rotor is openworked, adding another dimension of transparency to the modern design.

“We give skeletons a very modern face,” says Roger Dubuis CEO Jean-Marc Pontroué. “The skeleton for us is a platform. It’s not a new line, but this year’s Spider is another, more casual, approach to the skeleton, and this year we want to re-highlight the beauty of the skeleton.”

Where many more traditionally minded Swiss manufactures cut metal from, and engrave onto, existing calibers when creating skeletonized models, Roger Dubuis builds its openworked movements from the idea phase to the finished product. Skeletons at this company are planned from the start. Rather than sculpting around existing gears and components, artisans calculate their locations for each watch to account for the technical needs and aesthetic desires Roger Dubuis envisions for each model.

Thus, the star seen centered above (and strengthening) the winding barrel on each openworked Excalibur skeleton model is a functional five-point openwork bridge with tips that helpfully point to hour indicators. Roger Dubuis explains this melding of the artistic with the technical as “a true contemporary art form serving a three-fold purpose: improved visibility, intricate sculptural effects and enhanced transparency.”

While the star shapes inside these three calibers are not brand new, the extension of this openwork motif to the rest of the watch is the defining element of the new Spider collection for 2015.

The 47mm Excalibur Spider Skeleton Double Flying Tourbillon’s red-tinged crown, red aluminum inner bezel and red-tipped gold hands clearly enhance the watch’s three-dimensional appeal, boosting (to my mind) its immediate readability while adding more than a hint of sportiness. That hint continues around each of the flying tourbillons, which are surrounded by a speedometer-type seconds indicator. Through the sides of the newly opened titanium case the wearer can eye the red aluminum inner bezel dotted with luminous applied screws that double as hour makers. Roger Dubuis will make 188 examples of this 2015 debut.

Though without the red accents, and with one less flying tourbillon, the 45mm Excalibur Spider Skeleton Flying Tourbillon exhibits most of the elements of transparency seen on its sportier cousin. With this single-tourbillon edition, Roger Dubuis offers two options: One model offers the same brushe and notched titanium bezel seen on the dual-tourbillon model, while for the other, Roger Dubuis unexpectedly sets 60 baguette-cut diamonds into black rubber, essentially replacing the sportier bezel with a decidedly glittery one.

The diamond-set rubber bezel is a watch industry first, according to Roger Dubuis. The diamonds are set into the rubber molding over the metal bezel, a technique that calls for precise measurements. Roger Dubuis dedicated two years of research developing this ability and has registered a patent for the technique, which it calls “stones in the sky.”

Just beneath this glittering and notched ring of black rubber lies the blackened caliber RD505SQ that provides a perfect backdrop for the more than two-carats of diamonds that circle it. The titanium case and lugs for this diamond edition are also black, allowing light to reflect primarily from the bezel and the polished tourbillon carriage. The non-diamond edition, however, offers brushed titanium lugs that extend to its black rubber strap.

Both Excalibur Spider Skeleton Flying Tourbillon models of course feature Roger Dubuis’ perfected one-minute flying tourbillon with its carriage shaped like a Celtic cross and with one gear only in yellow gold, an accent also seen on its multi-tourbillon models. The carat-set model is made in a limited edition of 88 pieces, while the diamond-free edition is not limited.

While all the above-noted new skeletonized models are wound manually, another openworked debut in 2015 offers automatic winding via a component well-known to Roger Dubuis aficionados: the micro-rotor.

Since 2005, Roger Dubuis has used micro-rotors for all its automatic models, a decision that is the result of both the company’s aesthetic direction and its technical research. Ten years ago, Roger Dubuis watchmakers perfected the mix of required rotor weight, rotor materials and the design of the miniaturized bearings micro-rotors require to power movements.

Since then, the company has placed these minimally sized oscillating weights in numerous models, including last year’s tour-de-force Roger Dubuis Hommage Minute Repeater Tourbillon Automatic that famously featured two gold micro-rotors.

The smaller diameter of these oscillating weights allows the company’s movement designers to expose a greater expanse of the watch’s caliber to the wearer via a clear caseback. With less of the movement hidden by a larger weight, the caliber’s finishing and its bridge design gain greater visibility as the entire movement back is seen at all times.

This year, Roger Dubuis takes a decade of micro-rotor experience to the next level by cross-referencing it with the company’s deep skeletonizing know-how. The result is a skeletonized micro-rotor, an unexpected and wholly unusual feature that is among the highlights of the new Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic Skeleton.

This 42mm pink gold model emphasizes its three-dimensional aspect. Where a traditional solid metal weight, even one with the smaller diameter of a micro-rotor, would inhibit the transparent nature of a traditional open-worked watch, this newly conceived skeletal rotor counterintuitively powers its barrel spring as effectively as a solid weight. Indeed, given this watch’s long 60-hour power reserve, the effectiveness of this seemingly less “weighty” rotor is not an issue at all.

Balancing the open rotor’s airy appearance is the Roger Dubuis’ star-shaped skeletonized bridge, here seen at the 4 o’clock position rather than at the top of the dial, as is the case in the company’s other skeletonized 2015 debuts. The sight here of the winding gear train, not an issue in the aforementioned manual-wind debuts, only adds to the movement’s symmetry. As this gold model is a dress watch, Roger Dubuis maintains the tapered tips of its gold dauphine hands, adding no wide or luminous ends as it does in the new sportier Excalibur models.

The appearance of this Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic Skeleton offers Roger Dubuis fans a new, non-tourbillon option for those who have long sought an Excalibur skeleton model. It also adds a twist—a skeletonized micro-rotor—sthat only enhances its importance to both collectors and to Roger Dubuis. For this group of collectors, the watch also offers another attraction: it’s not a limited edition.
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