Keeping an eye on the time: new releases and bygone classics
by Richard Holt
You know where you are with cars. Whether you are in the market for a road-legal racer or a frill-free shopping car, you have access to a load of information telling you just what it can do: your purchase is underpinned by stats.
With watches things are less simple. Not that the performance of mechanical watches isn’t important, far from it. Very many hugely skilled people dedicate their genius to making wristwatches with inner workings that function with ever-increasing brilliance.
It’s just that, for the average punter, such things are a little difficult to quantify. That’s why reputation is so important. You may not know exactly how your watch is better than the next person’s, but you know it should be because it is from a grand old brand with a long and lofty history, whereas his is from some newbie maker barely old enough to vote. So it’s all the more impressive to consider the speed with which Roger Dubuis has gained repute.
The company was formed in 1995 on the crest of a wave of confidence in an industry getting used to that fact that no amount of electronic gizmology would stop people feeling passionately about the lovely little clockwork machines on their wrists.
Founded by a Geneva watchmaker who gave the company his name, Monsieur Dubuis and business partner Carlos Dias concentrated on carving out a place in a crowded market using a combination of exuberant design and horological excellence. Roger Dubuis rightly makes much of the fact that every stage of the manufacturing process is certified by the Geneva Seal, a rigorous quality control system.
Now part of Richemont’s enviable stable of high-end brands, Roger Dubuis has made a speciality out of skeletonisation, the process of painstakingly trimming away all unnecessary parts from the watch mechanism, allowing you to see the wheels and the gears working away. It has now revealed two new watches and with it is rather boldly declaring 2015 the “Year of the Skeleton”.
The Excalibur Spider Skeleton Flying Tourbillon takes the theme beyond the movement itself, cutting metal from the hands and case as well. The Excalibur Automatic Skeleton, meanwhile, is its first self-winding skeleton, incorporating a micro-rotor in the pared-back design.
Both watches display the signature Roger Dubuis star, a reminder that, however important the engineering may be, these watches are a bold style statement. In a world where it can be hard to know what you are getting, Roger Dubuis puts it all out there for you to see.
From a watch that gives you a lot to look at, to one that is an exercise in beautiful simplicity. Seeing it for the first time, you may be forgiven a double-take at its singularity. But the concept of one-handed timekeeping is nothing new, with sundials and early mechanical clocks rendering the minute hand a bit of a latecomer.
MeisterSinger has been making one-handers since 2001 and has won many design awards. The new Circularis is a first for the company, having a movement that is designed in-house, although made in Switzerland. The large 43mm face and five-minute intervals make it easy to tell the time as accurately as you need for anything short of a rocket launch, but this is not a watch for those worried about counting the seconds.
The £3500 Circularis comes in three different colours with either an alligator strap or stainless-steel wristband.
Ref. 1579 chronograph
From young upstarts to a grand master. Celebrating its 175th year, Patek Philippe is a watchmaker that commands respect from all corners. One of its most sought-after pieces is the Ref. 1579 chronograph, introduced in 1943.
Most of them were made in yellow or pink gold, but much more rarely in steel, like this 1947 example. It is only the ninth steel example to appear in a public sale, according to Christie’s, who sold this one in the Hong Kong Important Watches sale for HK$4.7m (circa £390,000).
That is a relative bargain, however, compared to the even rarer platinum model. There are said to be only three in existence, with prices comfortably into seven figures, providing you can find someone willing to sell.