One of the watches we were most looking forward to seeing at SIHH was the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic Skeleton – the Geneva brands brand new entry level watch in their iconic Excalibur collection. And in the metal it certainly didn’t dissapoint. Deceptively light for such a large gold watch (turns out cutting out most of the movement reduces weight a bit – who knew), and a really comfortable wear on the wrist. We shot the pink gold model with baguette diamond set bezel, and while the bling isn’t for everyone this watch would like killer on the high rollers baccarat table.
And the movement, as you would expect from a brand who’s entire production qualifies for the Geneva Seal, is excellent. Often if a brand finishes a watch in a modern style like this they will cut corners on the quality of finish – citing ‘their industrial aesthetic’ and hi tech process. Not so with the Dubuis. The anglage and polishing is as good as anything you’ll see, and makes the movement stunning to look at up close.
Until relatively recently, if you wanted one of Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic Skeleton watches, you were going to spend over a $100,000 – easily. Then, last year in 2015, Roger Dubuis released the brand-new Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton watch collection that removed the tourbillon and added a micro-rotor based automatic movement. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that these skeletonized Roger Dubuis Excalibur watches are now “affordable,” but the core experience in a very wearable and attractive package is now available at a price that is a lot easier to stomach.
For review, I have this black DLC-coated version of the Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton which is the reference RDDBEX0473. In addition to value for the money, my question was really whether or not this collection of timepieces made for a comfortable and potentially daily wear.
The luxury watch industry is not by default concerned with making timepieces that you actually want to wear. Of course, there are dozen and dozens of beautiful and extremely comfortable timepieces out there, but you should not assume that a watch has necessarily been designed with ergonomics and comfort in mind. Recall that watch brands are selling luxury objects, first and foremost, and often times consider things like legibility, wearability, and overall comfort almost as an afterthought (and it can sometimes very much feel that way). I don’t say this to suggest that Roger Dubuis is a frequent culprit of these practices, but rather that avant-garde and showy watches like the Excalibur collection can often fit into these “nice to look at, but ultimately not wearable” categories.
At 42mm wide, the Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Skeleton Automatic already feels much more comfortable than many of the collection’s larger members that come in 45mm-wide cases. That size is, for example, what you’d find on your wrist if you bought an Excalibur with a double tourbillon. Even those aren’t unwearable, but at 42mm wide, the Excalibur doesn’t actually wear small, but rather has a very “grand appearance” on the wrist.
In black-coated titanium, I also got the impression that this is a very stylistically diverse “showy” watch. The monochromatic color palette lends itself well to a variety outfits, and for the most part, this Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton is probably the most versatile watch of its type that Roger Dubuis has produced. That is even in comparison to the carbon or gold versions of the same watch.
The wider lugs and thin bezel help the watch feel its largest, while on the wrist it is even thin enough to fit under sleeves. For this model, Roger Dubuis has opted for a totally matte finishing over the entirety of the black DLC-coated titanium surface, while “shininess” comes in on the movement itself. Finishing up with the case, it is water resistant to 30 meters, and has a proprietary strap connection system for the nicely made and tapering black alligator strap. The strap is connected to a matching black DLC-coated titanium folding deployant. I will end by saying that the case and strap together make for a very lightweight timepiece whose lack of mass aides in the comfortable wearing experience.
The reason anyone will get the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic Skeleton watch is because of the movement. Here, Roger Dubuis is at their best, and the name of the in-house movement in this watch is the caliber RD820SQ. The RD820SQ bears the prestigious Seal of Geneva – which is not only an indicator of its manufacture in the canton of Geneva, but also one of aesthetic and performance quality. Roger Dubuis claims that each caliber RD820SQ requires about 530 hours of manufacturing with 170 of those hours being dedicated to areas relevant to satisfying the requirements for the movement to bear the Seal of Geneva. Our visit to the Roger Dubuis manufacture here explores in-depth the Geneva Seal, its requirements, and exactly how Roger Dubuis specifically fulfills them.
The RD820SQ is made up of 167 parts and offers just the hours and minutes with the self-winding automatic rotor. Thoroughly skeletonized and open for the eye to view, this type of mechanism is perfect for those people who want to understand how basic mechanical movements work. One of my favorite things to do with the watch is simply hand-winding it because you see exactly how that action winds the mainspring barrel. Even the barrel itself is skeletonized so you can see the spring slowly tightening as you winding it up.
While hand-winding the watch, you can see the transfer of power from the keyless winding system to the gears which include the detachable transmission from the automatic winding system. These gears then transmit power to a gear that directly winds the mainspring. You can then see how power from the spring is released to the regulation system which then doles out small yet consistent amounts of power to the great train that moves the hands. It is all quite simple but wonderfully visible on either side of the skeletonized movement through the pieces of sapphire crystal.