Big Time

Roger Dubuis un­veils an im­pres­sive, con­tem­po­rary twist on a his­tor­i­cal time­piece

Hong Kong Tatler - - Tatler Focus -

The pocket watch was the first time­piece worn by mankind, be­fore that we had to look at a clock to find out the time. The early ‘portable time-tell­ers’ were in­vented in the 15th cen­tury and were worn only by roy­alty and the wealthy elite for al­most three cen­turies. Those ver­sions were heavy—of­ten made from steel by black­smiths—and they only had an hour hand and had to be wound twice a day.

It wasn’t un­til the 17th and 18th cen­turies that the minute hand was in­tro­duced thanks to the de­vel­op­ment of bet­ter springs; and the ad­di­tion of wheels in the watch mech­a­nism meant they needed wind­ing less fre­quently. Around this era, jewels, such as ru­bies, be­gan to be in­tro­duced for bear­ings, which re­duced the wear on the mech­a­nisms, and also oil was used to help the time­pieces work much more smoothly.

By the time of the In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion in the US and Europe, pocket watches had be­come the way work­ers, such as rail em­ploy­ees, were able to de­vise more ac­cu­rate sched­ules. Then came the wrist­watch.

Al­though, wrist­watches had been around since the 14th cen­tury (it’s be­lieved the first one was made for Bri­tain’s Queen El­iz­a­beth I) they re­ally be­came pop­u­lar around the time of World War I for ob­vi­ous rea­sons, mak­ing the pocket watch vir­tu­ally ob­so­lete.

Aside from a few col­lec­tors of vin­tage pocket watches, there was lit­tle in­ter­est in th­ese tra­di­tional time­pieces for many years, and few com­pa­nies were cre­at­ing new de­signs. That’s changed fairly re­cently as some of the best-known watch brands have be­gun to de­sign strik­ing mod­els with a con­tem­po­rary twist.

As part of its 20th an­niver­sary cel­e­bra­tions this year, Roger Dubuis de­clared 2015 the “Year of the As­tral Skele­ton” and con­tin­ued to ex­plore the theme with the launch of the As­tral Skele­ton pocket watch at last month’s Watches & Won­ders ex­hi­bi­tion in Hong Kong.

The Swiss man­u­fac­turer presents, in the skele­ton, a won­der­ful show­case for its bril­liant tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise, guar­an­teed by the pres­ti­gious Poinçon de Genève qual­ity hall­mark that rep­re­sents ex­clu­siv­ity, ori­gin, ex­per­tise, per­for­mance and dura­bil­ity. The brand’s skele­ton de­signs are in­spired by fash­ion, ar­chi­tec­ture, paint­ing, sculp­ture, film-mak­ing and a plethora of other sources with the in­ten­tion of cre­at­ing fan­tas­ti­cally im­pres­sive time­pieces. It works. Big Time.

The Ex­cal­ibur Spi­der Pocket Time In­stru­ment—to give it its full of­fi­cial ti­tle— in­cor­po­rates un­mis­tak­able el­e­ments from pre­vi­ous de­signs in the Ex­cal­ibur col­lec­tion, in­clud­ing the edgy fluted bezel and the easy­grip crown. It also ben­e­fits from the incredible tech­ni­cal and ar­chi­tec­tural me­chan­ics of the Qu­atuor wrist­watch prin­ci­ple by adopt­ing its Cal­i­bre RD101. What’s more, it evolves the Spi­der con­cept by skele­ton-work­ing the “bow”, which pro­tects the 12 o’clock crown. In ad­di­tion, this typ­i­cally pocket-watch con­fig­u­ra­tion frees up the sides of the 60mm case, fur­ther mag­ni­fy­ing the open-worked ef­fect. Yes, that’s right—the case mea­sures 60mm across and is (al­most) 20mm thick. It’s mas­sive, but ob­vi­ously still light be­cause it’s made from ti­ta­nium just like the Ex­cal­ibur Spi­der mod­els re­vealed at the Salon In­ter­na­tional de la Haute Hor­logerie this year.

When it comes to the watch’s move­ments, the most im­me­di­ately no­tice­able fea­ture is its four sprung bal­ances. Work­ing in pairs to pro­vide im­me­di­ate com­pen­sa­tion for the rate vari­a­tions caused by the changes in po­si­tion, this ef­fi­cient four­some en­ables the move­ment to op­er­ate at the stun­ning fre­quency of 16 Hz and thus en­sures an ex­cep­tional de­gree of pre­ci­sion.

In ad­di­tion, the Roger Dubuis dou­ble moon-cres­cent patented power-re­serve dis­play pro­vides a clear in­di­ca­tion of pre­cisely how much run­ning time is left be­fore the time­piece re­quires wind­ing. Th­ese tech­ni­cal achieve­ments are in di­rect con­trast to tra­di­tional touches such as the dec­o­ra­tive Ro­man nu­mer­als; with the re­sult that it presents a unique take on the pocket watch.

Bold­ness and ex­trav­a­gance are im­por­tant el­e­ments of the brand’s style and, once again, Roger Dubuis ful­fills its prom­ise. The As­tral Skele­ton pocket watch has ev­i­dently been con­ceived as more than sim­ply a time­piece, it de­serves to be gazed at and lusted af­ter as it’s clearly a me­chan­i­cal work of art as well as a piece of con­tem­po­rary horo­log­i­cal his­tory.

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