Many watchmakers have an icon in their line-up, be it something Genta-flavoured and sports-luxe like the Royal Oak or Nautilus or as archetypal as the Submariner or Carrera. They’re all integral parts of their creators’ histories, an instantly-recognisable part that’s shaped their identities.
Roger Dubuis however is the rare watchmaker that’s all but defined by its iconic contribution to horological canon. That might seem a tad reductive – the brand’s built plenty of different pieces in the past – but when there’s as much to a watch as there is the Excalibur, it’s anything but.
Originally conceived in 2005 (yes, it’s been around that long) the severe level of skeletonisation and the resulting, instantly recognisable star-shaped bridges made for a show-stopper right out of the gate. The fact that its inauguration came with a double tourbillon and a minute repeater tourbillon likely had something to do with that, but more important were the seeds of what was to eventually shape the modern watchmaker.
At the time, Roger Dubuis had a solid number of collections under its name, including the eponymous collection of much more classical pieces. They were all impressive, but, honestly, a touch confused when taken as a whole. So it didn’t come as too big a surprise when, by the mid-2010s, the Genevan watchmaker opted to focus almost entirely on the Excalibur. Which probably drove the finishing department to the brink of insanity.
It wasn’t just a case of focusing on a single collection; the Excalibur was incredibly demanding both technically (as mentioned earlier it was no stranger to a high complication or three) and to finish. Straight bridges are more than a pain to polish and the Excalibur’s signature style is all straight lines. It feels designed to frustrate one particular department, especially when the Poinçon de Genève, the ultimate award in Swiss finishing, was on the line.
Still Roger Dubuis went full steam ahead, re-centring its entire personality to reflect the Excalibur: bold, extreme and ultra-modern. And it did well for them. Very well, in fact. But no icon can survive without moving with the times. That includes the Excalibur and, back in 2021 Roger Dubuis took the chance to evolve its flagship.
The evolution was kickstarted with the Excalibur Double Flying Tourbillon, which introduced a new element to the movement – the star as decoration. Where previously it had been functional, here it was turned into an architectural marvel, floating above the barrel. This technical change coincided with a revamp of the movement as a whole, which now boasted a 72-hour power reserve, a serious feat for a double tourbillon, thanks to lighter cages made from titanium. It wouldn’t be the last time Roger Dubuis would successfully experiment with materials.
The stylistic overhaul was pushed further with the Single Flying Tourbillon a few months later, which streamlined the entire look of the watch. It was thinner, with more space in the movement, both of which served to show off the clean lines and focus on the strong visual identity of the Excalibur star. You could tell at a glance that this was a watch worthy of the Poinçon de Genève.
Roger Dubuis had also thought about comfort. Where previous models were generally huge, the Single Flying Tourbillon was available in 42mm and in a lightweight titanium case. It was visually as subtle as ever – meaning not – but it didn’t compromise on wearability to get there – and last year the Excalibur saw what might well be its final form in that sense.
2022’s Excalibur Monobalancier was a micro-rotor equipped automatic version of the Excalibur DNA, further streamlined, even more wearable and with ever more innovative horological tech funnelled into its creation. The star still floats freely, but underneath the movement includes a new diamond-coated silicon escapement, greater shock resistance, better energy transmission and, of course, finishing worth of the Poinçon de Genève.
With Watches and Wonders once again on the horizon, there’s no doubt that Roger Dubuis will be showing off some intense new take on the Excalibur. The two are, after all, inextricably linked. Just as the watchmaker built the timepiece, so too has it moulded its particular approach to watchmaking. There’s also no doubt that whatever Roger Dubuis decides to show off, it’ll be pretty damn impressive. It’s written in the star.
More details at Roger Dubuis.