Until relatively recently, if you wanted one of Roger Dubuis‘ cool skeletonized Excalibur watches, you were going to spend over a $100,000 – easily. Then, last year in 2015, Roger Dubuis released the brand-new Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton watch collection that removed the tourbillon and added a micro-rotor based automatic movement. I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that these skeletonized Roger Dubuis Excalibur watches are now “affordable,” but the core experience in a very wearable and attractive package is now available at a price that is a lot easier to stomach.
For review, I have this black DLC-coated version of the Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton which is the reference RDDBEX0473. In addition to value for the money, my question was really whether or not this collection of timepieces made for a comfortable and potentially daily wear.The luxury watch industry is not by default concerned with making timepieces that you actually want to wear. Of course, there are dozen and dozens of beautiful and extremely comfortable timepieces out there, but you should not assume that a watch has necessarily been designed with ergonomics and comfort in mind. Recall that watch brands are selling luxury objects, first and foremost, and often times consider things like legibility, wearability, and overall comfort almost as an afterthought (and it can sometimes very much feel that way). I don’t say this to suggest that Roger Dubuis is a frequent culprit of these practices, but rather that avant-garde and showy watches like the Excalibur collection can often fit into these “nice to look at, but ultimately not wearable” categories.At 42mm wide, the Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Skeleton Automatic already feels much more comfortable than many of the collection’s larger members that come in 45mm-wide cases. That size is, for example, what you’d find on your wrist if you bought an Excalibur with a double tourbillon. Even those aren’t unwearable, but at 42mm wide, the Excalibur doesn’t actually wear small, but rather has a very “grand appearance” on the wrist.
In black-coated titanium, I also got the impression that this is a very stylistically diverse “showy” watch. The monochromatic color palette lends itself well to a variety outfits, and for the most part, this Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton is probably the most versatile watch of its type that Roger Dubuis has produced. That is even in comparison to the carbon or gold versions of the same watch.The wider lugs and thin bezel help the watch feel its largest, while on the wrist it is even thin enough to fit under sleeves. For this model, Roger Dubuis has opted for a totally matte finishing over the entirety of the black DLC-coated titanium surface, while “shininess” comes in on the movement itself. Finishing up with the case, it is water resistant to 30 meters, and has a proprietary strap connection system for the nicely made and tapering black alligator strap. The strap is connected to a matching black DLC-coated titanium folding deployant. I will end by saying that the case and strap together make for a very lightweight timepiece whose lack of mass aides in the comfortable wearing experience.
The reason anyone will get the Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton watch is because of the movement. Here, Roger Dubuis is at their best, and the name of the in-house movement in this watch is the caliber RD820SQ. The RD820SQ bears the prestigious Seal of Geneva – which is not only an indicator of its manufacture in the canton of Geneva, but also one of aesthetic and performance quality. Roger Dubuis claims that each caliber RD820SQ requires about 530 hours of manufacturing with 170 of those hours being dedicated to areas relevant to satisfying the requirements for the movement to bear the Seal of Geneva. Our visit to the Roger Dubuis manufacture here explores in-depth the Geneva Seal, its requirements, and exactly how Roger Dubuis specifically fulfills them.The RD820SQ is made up of 167 parts and offers just the hours and minutes with the self-winding automatic rotor. Thoroughly skeletonized and open for the eye to view, this type of mechanism is perfect for those people who want to understand how basic mechanical movements work. One of my favorite things to do with the watch is simply hand-winding it because you see exactly how that action winds the mainspring barrel. Even the barrel itself is skeletonized so you can see the spring slowly tightening as you winding it up.
While hand-winding the watch, you can see the transfer of power from the keyless winding system to the gears which include the detachable transmission from the automatic winding system. These gears then transmit power to a gear that directly winds the mainspring. You can then see how power from the spring is released to the regulation system which then doles out small yet consistent amounts of power to the great train that moves the hands. It is all quite simple but wonderfully visible on either side of the skeletonized movement through the pieces of sapphire crystal.Roger Dubuis ensures proper visibility via use of effective amounts of antireflective (AR) coating on the sapphire crystal as well as finishing on the movement which is attractive but that does not cause glare. The deep gray finishing exists over traditional forms of decorating such as perlage and beveled edging. You also see the iconic “star bridge” design over mostly the mainspring barrel assembly. Even the automatic micro-rotor has some skeletonization to it.One thing that you should be aware of is that, given the relative lack of metal between the movement and the user, you can hear a lot of what is coming from the movement. Some people like sounds from a movement, and others do not. Wind the movement, and you’ll hear a “whine” coming from the gears. Move the watch around, and you’ll hear the rotor moving about. Of course, you will also hear the rapid ticking from the escapement if the watch is close enough to your ear.The RD820SQ movement also operates at a modern 4Hz (28,800 bph) and has 60 hours of power reserve. I sort of miss having a running seconds hand, but I wouldn’t call it a deal-breaker. Roger Dubuis actually has a special customization department whereby customers can have some of the skeletonization and bridge work custom-made with their initials or other imagery. This might be reserved only for their more high-end products such as tourbillons, but I believe if you really want it, they could do some bespoke work on the movement of the Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton as well.
Around the periphery of the open area to view the movement is a traditional ring of applied hour markers along with printed minute markers. This is combined with properly sized hands whose design I happen to like quite a bit. Dauphine in shape, the hands are slightly skeletonized themselves and also contrast-finished with polishing on one side and satin-finishing on the other. This makes them look cool, and also enhances legibility to a large degree.Aside from the brass color of the balance wheel and some minor red hue from the synthetic ruby jewels, the caliber RD820SQ and the overall Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton watch is monochromatic thanks to the black case and the charcoal gray rhodium-plated movement bridges and other parts. I wouldn’t per se call it a “black out” or “phantom” watch, but you do get that cool all-black look without really sacrificing legibility or a high-end feel. Price for this ref. RDDBEX0473 Roger Dubuis Excalibur 42 Automatic Skeleton watchFor SIHH 2016, Roger Dubuis will unveil a new carbon-cased version of the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic 42 Skeleton watch (hands-on here) that was originally introduced at SIHH 2015. One year later, we see a new carbon-cased version which adds an interesting flavor to the Roger Dubuis brand that we haven’t seen yet. I’ll remind you that the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic 42 Skeleton was the first non-tourbillon skeletonized version of the Excalibur watch released by the brand. If you wanted this signature skeletonized look you needed to go full tourbillon, but no longer.
The 2016 Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic Skeleton Carbon (“42” was, seemingly, taken out of the name) continues where its related watches left off last year with a sportier version that will, no doubt, sit lighter on the wrist than a metal-cased version. Carbon is becoming a very appealing material for luxury watch makers, with Richard Mille and Audemars Piguet generally getting credit for making this trend into something high-end watch makers are taking seriously. To my knowledge, this Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic Skeleton Carbon is the first watch from the brand to have a carbon case.Given the complexity of the Excalibur case and all the little detailed angles (such as on the bezel), I am very interested to see how this case measures up in real life. I further expect significant weight savings compared to the 18k rose gold model but actually not too much compared to the existing DLC-coated black titanium version of the Excalibur Automatic 42 Skeleton that was released last year. The Carbon version will also be black but have a more textured look to the case, of course. You also have a lot of red color elements on the dial for the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic Skeleton Carbon, whereas the DLC black titanium model has a mostly monochromatic dial. In terms of weight, I don’t think the difference between the carbon and titanium case will be that different.
The Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic Skeleton Carbon will be “the” sporty model to have for the real high-end lifestyle experience. At 42mm wide and 12.14mm thick, the Excalibur in this size works really nicely. Water resistance is 30 meters, which isn’t great, but this is only a “sporty” watch, not an actual sports watch.Inside the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic Skeleton Carbon watch is the in-house made Roger Dubuis caliber RD820SQ automatic which uses a micro-rotor that can be easily seen from the dial side to the top left. The movement, as the non-skeletonized RD820, was originally released in 2005 and continues to be a great workhorse. In skeletonized form, the movement looks really cool finished with a dark tone. Note the delicate perlage decoration on the highly web-like movement bridge surfaces.The movement operates at 4Hz (28,800 bph) with a power reserve of 60 hours and is produced from 167 parts. The movement features just the time with hours and minutes and looks amazing when operating on the wrist given all the visual movement. Calibers like this are actually great when trying to learn how a mechanical movement operates because you can literally see everything working in front of you. Given the production effort and processes involved in making the movement as well as where it is made, Roger Dubuis is able to put the coveted Seal of Geneva mark on the movement, like most other Roger Dubuis timepieces.I have a feeling that I will like the Roger Dubuis Excaliber Automatic Skeleton Carbon watch when we see it in Geneva at SIHH 2016 in January. Roger Dubuis is really focusing on consolidating what they are good at and offering customers looking to spend between $50,000 and $80,000 a lot more bang for their buck than before. With that said, the brand continues to be decidedly niche, offering a bold and avant-garde take on classic Swiss watch making. The Carbon version of the Excalibur Automatic Skeleton is not part of a limited edition. Price for this reference RDDBEX0508 Roger Dubuis Excalibur Automatic Skeleton Carbon