Review: The New Roger Dubuis Excalibur Dragon Monotourbillon

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Two things are certain when the Year of the Dragon rolls around: a sharp rise in birth rate within the Chinese community, and a glut of Chinese zodiac-themed luxury watches. It’s a no-brainer for manufacturers, because the Dragon – associated with intelligence, confidence and charisma – is by far the most popular zodiac of them all.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Dragon Monotourbillon

Where themed watches are concerned, few are quite as flamboyant as Roger Dubuis – just take a look at the Knights of the Round Table collection or the Lamborghini collaboration. No better time then for the Geneva brand to introduce a special Chinese zodiac-themed piece. And so came the Excalibur Dragon Monotourbillon. Interestingly, this isn’t the first time that Roger Dubuis has done a Chinese dragon-inspired watch. The Excalibur Long (dragon) – alongside the Excalibur Feng (phoenix) – was released a few years back in tribute to China’s rich culture. This year’s Excalibur Dragon Monotourbillon may be one tourbillon short of the Long’s double tourbillon, but it features a more unique expression of the mythical creature, befitting of the Year of the Dragon. Here, we bring you the details and our honest thoughts on the Roger Dubuis’ latest Excalibur watch.

The Case, Dial, and Hands

The case of the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Dragon Monotourbillon measures a contemporary 42 mm x 12.6 mm which, by the manufacturer’s usual standards, is mid-sized. Rendered in pink gold, its distinguishing traits remain as prominent as ever, and these include the crown guards, notched bezel, and triple lugs. A striking blend of brushed surfaces and polished bevels defines the case and lugs. For user convenience, the black calfskin strap can be swapped out instantly and tool-free thanks to the quick-release mechanism – the only downside is that it can only be for other proprietary Roger Dubuis straps.

The Excalibur case with its notched bezel and crown and triple lugs is recognisable even from afar.

As impressive as the case looks, it is outdone by the skeletonised dial that it encases. The highlight of Roger Dubuis’ latest Excalibur is the flowing brass dragon that dominates the visage of the watch. It comprises 27 individual brass pieces, each embellished with black lacquer on the sides and plated with pink gold on the polished top surface. The pieces are set on 25 different levels and at different angles for a more voluminous, three-dimensional look. The dragon also appears on the underside of the watch, metallised on the inside of the sapphire crystal case back. Since there is technically no dial, the hour indices – which resemble the notches on the bezel – are marked unto the gold-plated brass flange and filled with black luminescent material. The time in hours and minutes is indicated by two skeletonised hands which are also tipped with luminescent material. Completing the look of the Excalibur Dragon Monotourbillon is of course a flying tourbillon at 7 o’clock.

Roger Dubuis’ expertise in the art of openworking is evident in the Excalibur as the movement and dial aren’t just pared down efficiently, but also artistically.

The Movement

Driving the Excalibur Dragon Monotourbillon is the 194-part, 19-jewel Calibre RD512SQ, Roger Dubuis’ resident monotourbillon movement. This same movement is also used in over half a dozen other references but executed in different ways depending on the theme. The key feature of the Calibre RD512SQ is of course its singular flying tourbillon. The flying tourbillon – the only type Roger Dubuis crafts – is mounted only on one side and isn’t supported by a bridge on top. In the Calibre RD512SQ, it alone consists of 63 individual components. Typically a significant drain on energy, weight reduction is an important consideration in tourbillon construction. The upper and lower tourbillon cages of the Calibre RD512SQ are made of amagnetic and lightweight cobalt-chrome and titanium, respectively. As a result, power reserve of the manually wound movement can be optimised to a respectable 72 hours.

The Calibre RD512SQ as seen through the front crystal

The aesthetic of modern Roger Dubuis calibres has always been bold and the Calibre RD512SQ is no different. The movement is meticulously skeletonised via hours upon hours of additional milling, creating more facetted surfaces that subsequently require more hours of finishing. The regular version of the Calibre RD512SQ is known for its skeletonised star-shaped bridge, but in the Excalibur Dragon Monotourbillon, it has been replaced by the brass dragon. The movement may appear trendy and contemporary, but unlike its most direct competitors, it is finished to the exacting standards of the Hallmark of Geneva. Highlights include beveled edges, polished bevels, polished screw heads, sharp angles and, of course, the co-star of the show, the mirror-polished tourbillon cage.

The case back features a metallised print of the dragon which unfortunately does obscure the view of the movement.

The Competitive Landscape

There are no shortages of Chinese zodiac watches come Chinese New Year, especially not in the Year of the Dragon. The Roger Dubuis Excalibur Dragon Monotourbillon remains one of the more refreshing dragon-themed watches to hit the market this year. The brand’s abstract dragon is distinct from the typical realistic sculptures or paintings of the mythical creature that its peers favour. Priced at CHF195,000, the watch is limited to 28 pieces and available in boutiques only.

The Excalibur wears larger than it looks due to the way the lugs and strap work. The strap flares out near the tip of the lugs and will therefore not follow the curvature of a smaller wrist.

Having previously presented the elegant Classico Enamel Champlevé Dragon back in 2012, Ulysse Nardin has opted for something more contemporary and three-dimensional this Year of the Dragon instead. The Blast Tourbillon Dragon features a hand-sculpted dragon rose gold coiling its way around the skeletonised X structure of the movement. From its scales to its rippling tail, the dragon is engraved and micro-painted by hand with utmost precision. Like its Roger Dubuis counterpart, the watch co-stars a flying tourbillon, except in the Blast Tourbillon Dragon, the top of the cage is adorned with a pearl. While movement finissage falls short of the Roger Dubuis Excalibur, the Blast Tourbilon Dragon is significantly more accessible, priced at SGD142,400 and without a hard cap on production numbers.

The Ulysse Nardin Blast Tourbillon Dragon

Clearly, ‘a dragon coiling near a circular spinning object’ is a popular design choice for Year of the Dragon watches. That’s technically true as well for the new Arnold & Son Luna Magna Red Gold “Year of the Dragon”, except it’s not a tourbillon that’s spinning, but a spherical moon phase display. The sphere in question is huge, at 12 mm, and expectedly contributes to the girthy 15.9 mm height of the watch. It is made of red gold in one hemisphere, and either black onyx or pietersite (as seen in the image below) in the other depending on the reference. The sculpted, hand-engraved dragon is immensely detailed and further highlights the three-dimensional quality of the timepiece. While not as exhilarating as a skeleton movement with flying tourbillon, the Arnold & Son Luna Magna Red Gold “Year of the Dragon” is hands down the most elegant piece of the three here. Priced at CHF79,600, the watch also offers great value relative to the ‘wow factor’ it packs.

The Arnold & Son Luna Magna Red Gold “Year of the Dragon”

Concluding Thoughts

Make no mistake, the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Dragon Monotourbillon’s extroverted aesthetics will not appeal to everyone. That said, there is no doubt surrounding its craftsmanship. And as far as Year of the Dragon watches are concerned, the Excalibur Dragon Monotourbillon is most likely to attract younger clients thanks in large to its skeleton design and abstract take on the dragon.


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