2014 Premiere: Roger Dubuis Hommage Double Flying Tourbillon with hand-made guilloché
An ode to fine watchmaking, the new Hommage collection showcases the best of Roger Dubuis – mechaphiles, you have been warned
The Hommage is the very first watch collection by Roger Dubuis, and so it bears all of the most distinctive hallmarks that make the manufacture remarkable. Firstly, its design is classic in that it has a standard round case and twin lugs. The stylised Roman numerals and the prominence of the crown echoed by the Excalibur have also been turned down several notches.
Guilloché, specifically hand guilloché, is considered one of the most revered forms of traditional watchmaking métiers d’art. Like grand feu enamel, it is an arduous process that cannot be mastered from books, only through apprenticeship and years of practice. Essentially, guilloché is the engraving of repetitive patterns on a metallic plate. In watchmaking this is commonly done on dials and occasionally plates and bridges. The main idea of guilloché is to etch gentle grooves on plain surfaces, protecting those surfaces from blemishes. Over time, these etchings become recognised as decorative works of art in their own right. Indeed, the art of traditional hand guillochage calls for such inordinate and anachronistic levels of meticulousness and raw artistic talent that if care wasn’t taken to keep it alive, it will eventually become a lost art.
Thankfully, traditional hand guillochage has gained more traction today than ever before. Watch aficionados keenly appreciate the artisanship invested into a beautifully guillochéd dial and this in turn fuels the industry’s zeal for the craft. Numerous styles of guilloché have greeted the eyes of collectors including clous de Paris, pavé de Paris, grain d’orge, vieux panier and sunburst. The latter has been a strong inspiration to the manufacture and it also happens to be the design chosen by Roger Dubuis for the new Hommage Double Flying Tourbillon with hand-made guilloché (price unavailable). But true to the spirit of Roger Dubuis, it is no ordinary sunburst guilloché.
To begin, the watch eschewed the use of a conventional dial. What you’re looking at is the movement’s main plate functioning as the dial. Correspondingly, the sunburst motif is applied directly onto the main plate, so there’s absolutely nothing between you and the movement except a thin piece of sapphire crystal. With sunrays emanating from a central point that is the cannon pinion, what’s also impressive about this artistic endeavour is the fact that each groove line had been scored no less than four times. Ordinarily, the sunburst motif is created using the straight-line machine (as opposed to the rose engine machine) which chisels off bits of the base material line by line. Each incision has to be accomplished with one smooth, swift stroke – no more and no less.
Guilloché as a technical process almost invariably involves a finishing step known as crémage where surfaces are treated wet talcum powder to create a ground-down finish. The objective of crémage is to conceal the tiny micro-scratches resulting from the guilloché process. However, Roger Dubuis had a different plan in mind. It wanted to obtain a polished effect as opposed to the ground-down finish.
By going over each line a staggering four times, Roger Dubuis achieves a striking depth that alternates with polished surfaces, thus catching and reflecting light so dramatically unlike any other timepiece in this category. And lest one forgets, the perennial challenge with guilloché is to always ensure consistently perfect incisions. This means every stroke the craftsman makes could potentially introduce a fatal flaw, and should that happen, he would have to discard his work and start afresh. Literally intensifying this operation by four times, the Hommage Double Flying Tourbillon with hand-made guilloché is therefore a demonstration of Roger Dubuis’ yen for reinventing tradition and raising the technical bar.
Looking at the dial side of the movement, in addition to the main plate and winding stem bridge, which is adorned with sunburst guilloché, there is another notable aesthetical element. Traditionally in haute horlogerie, applique hour numerals or markers are attached to the dial in a process that involves a fair amount of grinding which inevitably leaves scratches onto the surface. This is fine for a dial, as it would eventually be coated with lacquer or some such material. In the case of this watch, however, even the tiniest of scratches would not be acceptable since the main plate is the dial.
Calibre RD100 is architecturally similar to the existing double tourbillon movement, Calibre RD01, with the obvious exception of its guilloché decoration. It is a hand-wound movement comprising 452 parts and finely adjusted in six positions.
The most pleasurable moment of watch appreciation must be to discover the movement within. Unlike most watches, the Hommage Double Flying Tourbillon with hand-made guilloché can be admired from the front as well as the back. But for tradition’s sake, we will begin from the back. Through the sapphire crystal, which is ingrained with Dubuis’ signature, one can observe the power reserve indicator (50 hours) at 12 o’clock before moving down to admire the perfectly symmetrical bridges. The two flying tourbillons are also visible through the case back, as is the differential system in between which averages out the rate difference between the two rotating escapements.