For a long time, the Roger Dubuis name was thought to be over and irrelevant to collectors. With Dubuis watches of today having garish designs and proportions that are all wrong, it is no wonder why. The truth is, Roger Dubuis, the man, left the company in 2005 and while he was undoubtedly a brilliant watchmaker, he lacked business expertise.
It is this, and not his watchmaking skills, that caused the brand to be what it is today- devoid of emotion and controlled by business executives with no passion. You see, underneath this sheath of failure lies some of the most beautiful watches ever made. Early Roger Dubuis watches are nothing like what they are today- elegant in their design and finished to the highest standards, these watches rivaled and even bettered contemporaries such as Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. In fact, collectors have finally started to realize this and as a result, prices have been skyrocketing.
An independent brand with aspiration, I have no doubt that today’s indies have Dubuis and other pioneers of his time to thank for laying out the groundwork. Roger Dubuis formed his eponymous brand in 1995 after two decades at Patek Philippe and at the time, it not only took huge courage to start an independent brand but Dubuis had to also operate in an area that wasn’t as mainstream as it is today.
There were two main lines that Dubuis produced- the Homage series, which were more traditional round cased watches, and what you see here today- the Sympathie series. Featuring a more experimental case design, this is the most iconic Dubuis shape with an amorphous and angular shape.
This particular example is a Sympathie 40, denoting a 40mm sizing and houses a biretrograde calendar chronograph mechanism. With the legendary manually-wound Lemania 2310 movement as it’s base, the Cal. RD 5630 is fitted with a retrograde calendar module and finished to an incredibly high standard. Notice the capped column-wheel- a trait seen on Patek Philippe chronographs to this day. Furthermore, every early Dubuis watch bears the Geneva Seal and is chronometer graded by the Besançon Observatory.
Not only is the Sympathie case distinctively Dubuis, but his dial design also had a strong identity. This Sympathie 40 has a beautiful eggshell lacquer dial that is milky in its tone and features stylized lettering on both the Arabic numerals and the calendar display. The thing that strikes me the most about early Roger Dubuis watches is that not only is it of the highest standard, but it somehow manages to have a truly original design language- something that is truly lacking in most of today’s industry.
Each Roger Dubuis model from his time was made in limited editions of 28, making this example extremely special and rare.