The origin of Roger Dubuis
Roger Dubuis started his career at Longines, in the late 1950s, where he spent close to a decade in the after-sales department, repairing and caring for the brand's watches, including their prestigious chronographs. Shortly thereafter, he integrated Patek Philippe's complications department, where he has the opportunity to work on gongs, minute repeaters and perpetual calendars, among others. His time there coincided with the production of some of the manufacture's most sought-after, complicated models - from the ref. 2499 to the ref. 3448 - which Dubuis himself had the opportunity to work on.
Dubuis' enthusiasm for watchmaking was such that, when he had finished working a full day at the atelier, he would go home and work on repairing watches for private clients, auction houses and dealers around Geneva. In the '80s, he left Patek Philippe to establish his own workshop, dedicating himself fully to the restoration of pieces from the past. In 1995, following a partnership with businessman Carlos Dias, he would establish his own eponymous brand.
In 2003, after only eight years, Roger Dubuis himself left his eponymous brand. Though his output in the earliest days of the brand was limited, the design and quality of the pieces he produced have stood the test of time.
The first Roger Dubuis watches were acclaimed by collectors because they channelled the traditional Geneva watchmaking that Patek Philippe embodied, while having more stylistic flair. Dubuis' attempt to rival Patek Philippe themselves was obvious in some of his choices, from seeking the Geneva Seal for his movements to designing deployante buckles. In particular, the Hommage watches, as the name suggests, were designed as a homage to the great watchmakers of old, according to Mr Dubuis.
A Unique Piece
Traditionally, each variant of the Hommage series was limited to 28 pieces. However, in the early days of the brand, it is believed that Roger Dubuis also created a small handful of unique pieces for some of their most loyal clients. Few collectors were granted this opportunity, with even fewer of the watches having come to market since they were originally commissioned. In many ways, this approach to creating unique pieces is reminiscent of Patek Philippe's own way of doing things, considering they also carried out custom requests for some of their closest clients.
This particular Hommage Chronograph is housed in a platinum case, a metal which rarely ever appears in Roger Dubuis' collection. Most Hommage pieces were cased in white or rose gold, with a few pieces having also been made in palladium, though platinum appears to be the most uncommon of all the metals. The previous owner of this watch was told by Roger Dubuis himself that they made four platinum Hommage Chronographs in 40mm, all of them with a different dial. These dials were either black or white, with different details altered throughout, such as using different types of chronograph scales. It is understood that none of the other pieces have come to market publicly.
Considering the exclusive and prestigious associations which platinum has long enjoyed, partially through the efforts of manufactures such as Patek Philippe, it would make sense for the brand to hold it back for more limited or unique pieces such as this one. A sticker on the pouch which houses the paperwork for this H40 references the uniqueness of the piece, where it reads "Limited Edition - One of One".
The design is that of a two-register chronograph, with a shiny black dial and applied Arabic numerals. The polished surfaces and outer dial printing in silver form an excellent contrast against the black lacquer surface. The hour and minute feuille hands are skeletonised. The dial features a subtle perlage pattern on its base layer, which reveals itself more noticeably in certain lights.
The case is very distinct with its polished, stepped concave bezel and polished lugs. It is made out of platinum, which has more heft and a subtly different appearance than other white metals, such as white gold. A "950" hallmark is visible on the top left lug. The three-piece construction gives the watch a bold presence on the wrist, measuring 40mm in diameter. The chronograph pushers feature a flared finish, reminiscent of the design found on the Patek Philippe ref. 1463 "Tasti Tondi", another subtle hommage to the manufacture.
The watch is powered by the Calibre RD 56, based on the Lemania 2310, much like the Patek Philippe ref. 5070. The movement bears the Seal of Geneva and was regulated by Roger Dubuis himself. At the time of production, it was only Patek Philippe movements that carried the Geneva Seal, hence why Roger Dubuis felt that it was crucial to have the same hallmark of quality. The seal focuses on the art of decorating a movement with finesse and skill, in the style of Genevan watchmaking.
The complexity of the movement is revealed through an engraved sapphire case-back, featuring a 21 jewel, straight-line lever escapement, a monometallic balance adjusted to five positions, a self-compensating Breguet spring and a swan-neck micrometer regulator. As indicated by the "Bulletin d'Observatoire" signature on the dial, this movement was tested for accuracy at the Besançon Observatory, setting far more exacting standards than a test from the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC).
This Roger Dubuis H40 Chronograph is accompanied by its original outer black box, inner wooden box, black saffiano leather wallet, Besançon Observatory Certificate, Geneva Seal Certificate of Origin, Roger Dubuis Certificate of Origin and Warranty (left blank, but with an image of the watch) and plastic documents pouch (where the model, dial and movement numbers are indicated, alongside a "Limited Edition - One of One" indication).
It is also accompanied by business cards for Roger Dubuis and Carlos Dias; two of men at the inception of the brand. It comes on one of our stone grey Stockholm straps, as well as the original Roger Dubuis alligator strap and white gold tang buckle.
To find out more about the earliest days of the watchmaker, you can read our article on The Story of early Roger Dubuis.