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Goodbye Mr Dubuis
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Goodbye Mr Dubuis

Tuesday, 17 October 2017
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

“The desire to learn is the key to understanding.”

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4 min read

Roger Dubuis, who in 1995 opened a Manufacture that bore his name, has passed away at the age of 80. He leaves an extraordinary legacy in watchmaking, distinguished as much by an inimitable style as by groundbreaking mechanisms. We look back at an outstanding career.

In 2013, Roger Dubuis returned to Roger Dubuis. This was, assuredly, welcome news for the Manufacture which could once again count on its founder’s stamp of approval – it also bode well for the future of the firm, which through two successive deals had become a prized property of Richemont. And for good reason: from the very beginning, Roger Dubuis has stood out for its disruptive style and exceptional command of all things mechanical, thanks to which the brand has sailed through the past decade or more with barely a cloud on the horizon; a niche brand that leaves no-one indifferent.

I forged my character through restoration.
Roger Dubuis

Roger Dubuis knew early on that he would be a watchmaker. At just twelve years of age, he wound the weights of the village church clock. Curious to learn more about these cogs and wheels, he hung around the local watchmaker’s before enrolling at the Geneva watchmaking school, eager to pursue his passion for complex mechanics. Hinting at great things to come, he cut his teeth in the complications department at Patek Philippe, where he remained for 14 years before setting up his own workshop, Galerie d’Horlogerie Ancienne, in 1980. This new enterprise specialised in the restoration of antique timepieces. Not long after, it took the name of Antiquorum, well-known in collectors’ circles as the first to specialise in selling timepieces at auction. “I forged my character through restoration,” Roger Dubuis once recalled. “What could be more moving or more inspiring than to follow in the footsteps of these watchmakers from another era? I have always felt the most immense admiration and profound respect for their work, discipline, integrity and superior intelligence.”

Creativity without end

His encounter with designer Carlos Diaz would be instrumental in the creation of Manufacture Roger Dubuis in 1995. With it came a completely new style of watchmaking, with idiosyncratic models such as Follow Me and Golden Square, but also watches that showed a rare level of technical skill, the likes of Sympathie and Much More – ensuring the new brand’s first steps didn’t go unnoticed. Here at last was a watchmaker steeped in tradition and determined to safeguard this legacy while colouring outside the lines. Convinced that success would come through innovations in movement construction, he set off on a creative blitz. In just a few years, an in-house balance-and-spring assembly made its debut, together with thirty-some movements, each straight from the imagination of Roger Dubuis. They were joined by other tours de force, such as an in-line perpetual calendar, a minute repeater and the famous double flying tourbillon inside the Excalibur, the jewel in the crown of a Manufacture now synonymous with skeletonisation. Proof of its success, it moved into a new building, equipped with the very latest production technology, on the outskirts of Geneva in 2005.

Roger Dubuis, founder © Roger Dubuis
Roger Dubuis, founder © Roger Dubuis

That same year, when tempers began to fray between Carlos Diaz and Roger Dubuis, the watchmaker decided to pull out of the business to focus on other projects. They included working with Maîtres du Temps, co-signing Chapter One and Chapter Two for the horological collective. In the meantime, Roger Dubuis, the brand, was outgrowing itself and in 2008 became part of the Richemont stable. An opportunity for the master watchmaker to return to his first love – not at the workbench but as the father of a style of watchmaking that bore his name. He declared, “when I set up the company in 1995, I wanted to create a watch that would demonstrate my gratitude towards my masters, my friends, and all those who helped me to learn and to perfect my art.” A wish he more than fulfilled.

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