Swiss watchmakers are taking timepieces to a bold newlevel
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Carlos Dias and Roger Dubuis are seated at a Geneva restaurant, smoking Montecristo A's and conjuring up watch designs on paper napkins. In an industry bound by tradition, it's quite unusual to find a Portuguese ready-to-wear fashion mogul (Dias) associating with a scholarly Swiss developer of complex mechanical watch movements (Dubuis). Yet Dias and Dubuis are stirring excitement among the cognoscenti. The duo founded Manufacture Roger Dubuis only five years ago and offers timepieces from $10,000 to $1 million.
The Sympathie Bi-Retrograde Perpetual Calendar Chronograph, in a square-cambered 18-karat rose gold, white gold or platinum case, epitomizes Dubuis's devotion to moving art ingenuity and flawless mechanics. This fly-back piece (the two hands, known as bi-retrograde hands, indicate the month and day of the week) also features phases of the moon and date, and is mechanically programmed for two centuries; it is the first time that these horological functions have been combined into a single watch. Like all of Dubuis's meticulously assembled pieces, this limited-edition watch, which sells for as much as $59,100, bears the Geneva Seal, the highest hallmark of quality given to Swiss timepieces.
"The critical difference between us and other brands is that if someone buys one of our pieces, they know it's only one of 28 watches in the world," says Dias, who financed the shop setup and now manages the business, in addition to designing all the dials and cases. "We want to be unique, to present new complications that automatically become collector's items with lasting value. That's the dream. To let our imaginations soar way into the future, and to develop a whole new heritage of innovative movements."
That ambitious goal has already been partially realized by the Hommage self-winding window perpetual calendar with moon phase in 18-karat white gold, the $260,000 Bi-Retrograde Perpetual Calendar Minute Repeater, and their newest creation, the Much More mono-push chronograph with a large 47-by-34-millimeter case and ivory-lacquered dial.
Dias and Debuis are now working on a table clock, due to be released this year, that they will sell for $6 million. A gem-studded timepiece with a Grand Sonnerie, a bi-retrograde perpetual calendar, a constant force tourbillon, and 32 days of power reserve, this pièce de résistance is a yearlong effort that's meant to usher the firm into another rarified market.
"This marvel is just the beginning," says Dias. "We want to do more complicated clocks and pocket watches, quality pieces that won't hit you over the head but will be as magnificent as Cohiba Esplendidos and Hoyo de Monterrey Double Coronas."
Edward Kiersh is a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado.