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.
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. 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.
A Classic Design
Roger Dubuis mainly produced Hommage Chronographs in three different sizes: 34, 37 and 40mm. This example features a 37mm case, reminiscent of certain vintage chronographs from the past, from the likes of Longines and Patek Philippe. Traditionally, it is understood that each variant of the Hommage series was limited to 28 pieces. According to Dias, the initial intention was actually limit each series to 25. Following the suggestion of a collector based in Asia, where the number 8 is considered to bring good luck, Dias decided to limit each series to 28 instead.
The design is that of a two-register chronograph, with a textured, two-tone silver and copper dial, with an unusual pulsometer scale. A nod to vintage chronographs, pulsometer scales were first used by doctors to accurately and quickly measure a patient's heart rate. Much less common than the popular tachymeter, a small handful of Roger Dubuis pieces are known to feature this unusual scale.
The dial of this vintage-inspired chronograph also features a sector layout, with closed concentric circles segmenting the dial in the middle portion. The polished surfaces, copper ring and subsidiary dials form an excellent contrast against the silvered finish, with anti-reflective coating on the sapphire glass further emphasising these details. The feuille hands are white-gold, while the chronograph hand is blued.
The case is very distinct with its polished, stepped concave bezel and brushed concave lugs. The three-piece case construction gives the watch a larger presence on the wrist than the 37mm case would normally suggest. The pushers feature a flared finish, reminiscent of the design found on the Patek Philippe ref. 1463 "Tasti Tondi", another subtle hommage to the manufacture where Roger Dubuis spent many years.
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 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 5 positions, a self-compensating Breguet spring and 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 H37 Chronograph comes on a grey saffiano leather strap and its Roger Dubuis white gold buckle.
To find out more about the earliest days of the watchmaker, you can read our article on The Story of early Roger Dubuis.