Usurping the tourbillon to take the throne?

With the Excalibur Quator, Roger Dubuis has pushed the limits of horological innovation. It has four sprung balances collaborating to provide enhanced timekeeping.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor in pink gold

Medieval knights and warriors feature in Roger Dubuis’s adverts. They have always embraced the world of daring aesthetics whilst paying due reverence to the tradition of haute horology.

I joined many journalists, retailers and industry professionals making the annual pilgrimage to Geneva to view the amazing novelties at SIHH 2013. Roger Dubuis did not disappoint. They have revisited their Excalibur line, originally launched in 2005. Since this date the collection has become an important member of the Roger Dubuis clan.

I was sceptical that the Manufacture from Geneva could better some of its previous creations. They have wowed the world of horology with matchless tourbillons, double flying tourbillons and skeletonised tourbillons. However, this year they may have surpassed even their previously elevated standards.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor in pink gold

When Abraham-Louis Breguet designed the tourbillon, it mitigated the negative effects of gravity on the accuracy of the movement whilst held in a vertical position. Clearly, wristwatches do not sit in a vertical position, but will be worn in a variety of positions. It is therefore, questionable how much a tourbillon truly enhances the rate keeping prowess of a watch.

This does not mean that I dislike tourbillons, quite the contrary. The charm of many tourbillons is not the notion of enhanced accuracy but rather the wonderful demonstration of the watchmakers craft. There are few talented artisans within the world of horology who can work on these most complex of movements.

With the Excalibur Quator, Roger Dubuis have pushed the limits of horological innovation. It has four sprung balances collaborating to provide enhanced timekeeping.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor in pink gold

A key strength of Roger Dubuis is they make their own balance springs. I have been to the Manufacture and the level of vertical integration is simply breathtaking. The RD101 pushes the boundaries of horology beyond the view of many rival brands.

The dial

A choice is provided to the would-be purchaser of a pink gold case or an avant-garde silicon case, a first in watchmaking. Whilst silicon is unusual and is as light as a supermodel’s lunch box, it is the rich hue of the pink gold version that induces my horological cravings.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor in pink gold

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor in Silicon – limited to 3 pieces

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor in pink gold

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor in pink gold – limited to 88 pieces

The selection of case material determines the tincture of the hands and other details adorning the dial.

The signature sword-shaped hour and minute hands take centre stage. However, they are smaller than usual, confined to a small central area. This does not unduly impact on legibility but allows the wearer to enjoy the intriguing mechanical spectacle.

Adjacent the hour and minute hands is a grille-like area. This is engraved with the brand’s nomenclature and the words, “Poinçon de Genève”. This contrasts pleasingly with the charcoal grey central dial area. A minute circle frames the central dial area using white transfers.

A novel power-reserve indicator is located to the westerly aspect of the dial, overlapping the central dial area.

Located at the quarter hours are gold markings, partly featuring Roman numerals, truncated to avoid obscuring the view of the movement. They may not be recognisable as Roman numerals at first glance, but the wearer should still know what they represent. This courageous and bold design language may not be to everyone’s taste, however, I appreciate Roger Dubuis “thinking outside the box” and treading an individual path.

The case

A blend of polished and satin brushed surfaces is expertly judged. The blend of finishes flirts with light with sublime results.

The castellated bezel is faithful to former Excalibur models, as is the three lug strap attachment.

The watch is sizeable and may not suit those of slight build. However, the case diameter of 48.00 mm would consummately suit my larger than average physique. Roger Dubuis are bold timepieces and they perfectly suit individuals who are opinion makers rather than slaves to convention who merely follow the masses. I applaud their fearless pursuit of uniqueness.

A sapphire caseback ensures the owner is able to see every nuance of the incredible finissage exampled on the movement. Whilst this timepiece is modern, it does not eschew traditional craftsmanship.

The movement

The hand-wound movement bears the Poinçon de Genève. This is no mean feat. The exacting standards required to certify a timepiece with the Hallmark of Geneva are onerous and the preserve of only a few elite brands. Moreover, Roger Dubuis are the only brand who can state “The only Manufacture to be 100% Poinçon de Genève certifed”.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor in pink gold

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor in pink gold

It took seven years of research to bring the RD101 to fruition.

The four spring balances work in pairs of two. Each sprung balance oscillates at a frequency of 4 Hz, however, in union they have a combined frequency of 16 Hz. Whereas, a tourbillon compensates for the effects of gravity every minute or so, the Quatuor compensates the effects of gravity, in all positions, instantaneously.

The aforementioned power reserve indicator is another innovation which the brand has had patented. Two crescents are located on a wheel, these move at the same speed as the two spring barrels, 4.5 revolutions per day. At the centre of the wheel are two hands, which move more slowly, indicating the stored energy in the twin barrels, courtesy of the tapering scale represented on the two crescents. If you pause and contemplate this feat, it soon becomes obvious that this form of power reserve indicator is incredibly complex and has necessitated ingenuity at an elevated level.

Five differentials feature within the RD101 movement. One differential joins the winding stem to the twin barrels. Another is linked to the power reserve indicator and the remaining three link the balances to the gear train. Of the three differentials linked to the gear train, one is connected to the centre wheel and the other two are connected to the third wheel. This approach further mitigates the variation of rate keeping when the watch is held in different positions. This attention to detail is remarkable.

Conclusion

The specification of the RD101 is awe-inspiring; 590 parts, 133 jewels, 5 differentials, 4 balance wheels and twin barrels. The creation of the RD101 movement was an ambitious project and not for the faint hearted.

Circular graining, black polishing and peerless bevelling distinguish this watch as a brilliant exemplar of the haute horology.

As stated earlier, the aesthetics may not to be everyone’s taste, however, they certainly capture my heart with the unique, flamboyant form which is the Excalibur Quator.

Does the Excalibur Quator usurp the tourbillon? I don’t know, but I would not be surprised if this pretender to the throne, goes on to reign supreme in the world of haute horology.

Technical specification

  • Model: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Quatuor in pink gold

  • Case: 18-carat pink gold; diameter 48.00 mm; sapphire crystal to the front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; 5 differentials; 4 balance wheels; power-reserve indicator.
  • Movement: RD101, manual wind; frequency 4 x 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 133 jewels; power reserve 40 hours; 590 parts
  • Strap: Brown alligator leather strap on pink gold deployant.

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