A while ago, I wrote about why I go to Basel, the post is just below.
I realised this year that this was my 16th or 17th Basel, my visits have expanded from my initial two-day jaunts to six days this year and I began to question to myself ‘What is the point, anymore?’
When I first began going, the job was all about being there for the first moments of opening day, dashing to the Rolex, Patek & Omega stands, grabbing quick digital photographs, picking up the press packs and running up to the Press Room, hoping to score one of the half dozen or so internet enabled computers and posting the news here on TZ. But now the news is available on the brands’ websites the moment the show opens (and sometimes even before then), they all send full press releases to Jorge and better images and more detailed technical information often appears on TZ before I can have my first meeting. So, why bother?
The answer is ‘Because of everything EXCEPT the stuff in the press releases’; by which I mean the chance to exchange information/rumours/gossip with insiders, who range from company CEOs and brand suppliers, to other journalists. Obviously company CEOs are hardly likely to gossip about their own brand, but as they are well ensconced within the industry they are often the best source of info on their competitors, whilst suppliers can tell you who has increased or reduced their orders and so provide confirmation of rumours whilst (let’s be honest here) the journalists are always the best sources of rumours, gossip & scandals.
One of the other reasons to go to the shows, especially Basel is that it is the best place to stumble across stuff you never even knew existed from firms that you have never heard of. Proof of this is that my watch of the show is made of plastic, sells for under €200 and comes from a firm I had never heard of before I stumbled across their booth whilst I was looking for another firm.
The final reason to go is that it is only by attending the shows that you can get an overview of the industry, to spot rising trends, to see which brands are on the rise, and whose star is on the decline. But more than anything, being there allows you to see the reality behind the press releases, to handle the watches themselves and not be swayed by the photoshopped images the brands provide. Handling the watches is really important, as no matter how much we try and rationalise our purchasing decisions by talking about ‘heritage’, accuracy and ‘craftsmanship’; the truth is that we buy watches with our hearts not our heads and it is only by putting a watch on your wrist that you can feel any connection with one. And it is important for you to know that this connection will work differently with every person and every watch, so a watch I consider to be one of my favourites might well be one you hate. So my subsequent reports on the shows are simply my opinion and, as such, worth exactly what you paid for them.
So, bearing all this in mind, I am writing my reports on both shows and breaking it down into five categories:
Superb; things that just knocked me out
Surprising; stuff I never expected
Serendipitous; the ‘stumbled upon’ stuff
Same old same old; what more needs to be said
Stupid; see above
That was my post of a few weeks ago, so here I go with the first of my reports, this one is on the new watch from Roger Dubuis, the Pulsion.
Superb: Roger Dubuis Pulsion.
At the SIHH they launched a new model called the ‘Pulsion’, a sporty chronograph utilising the new movement introduced last year in the Monagasque. I can hear you all thinking, “Well that sounds more like ‘Same old, same old’ than ‘Superb’”, but hear me out. Whilst the movement in the Pulsion may be last year’s news, the rest of the watch certainly isn’t; it is little less than a total reimagining of how you build a watch.
Looking at the image above, it is difficult to understand what I am talking about, it looks pretty much like any recent Roger Dubuis chronograph, but instead of the straight on shot, have a look at this side view.
And you realise that it has neither a dial nor a bezel, the tachymeter graduations are on the underside of the sapphire crystal and the 12 and 6 numerals are actually attached to the main movement plate. The sapphire crystal is attached to the case by six ‘Tork’ screws, (the same type as used by Richard Mille), enabling the watch to be made waterproof to 100m despite the absence of a bezel. The most bizarre fact about the watch is that because the numerals are applied directly to the movement they have to be finished to the same Geneva Seal standards as the rest of the watch. This means that the numerals need to be finished with anglage, perlage and Cotes de Geneve before black PVD is applied and then they are screwed on to the movement plate.
Speaking of the Geneva Seal, Dubuis are still the only manufacturer whose entire output is Genva Seal certified.
Turning my eyes to the case, it is an amazing assembly of surfaces and finishes, it is a three piece design, with the matt upper section fitted into the polished case centre, the sapphire fitted above them both & the whole thing held together with the Tork screws, which form an important part of the case design. Note how the pushers are integrated into the crown protecting shoulders and how the shoulders are mirrored on the other side of the watch but in a slimmer form. Not so easily seen is how the 0 to 60 numbers are engraved into the reverse of the glass & then the resulting void is filled with Superluminova. I particularly like how only the arrowhead tips of the hands are luminous, with the main body of the hands being open, this allows the subsidiary registers to be read clearly no matter where the hour and minute hands are on the dial, thereby solving one of the main problems with analogue chronographs.
I had the good fortune to sit down with Lionel Favre, who is the head designer for the firm & whose initial drawings for the watch are shown below.
Looking at the drawing you can clearly see the multi layered three-dimensional effect of the various levels, which give the watch great presence, I also like the way the rubber strap is integrated into the overall design of the watch and how it is moulded to give the impression of a metal bracelet formed from links. It is the spacing between these ‘links’ which enables an otherwise quite thick strap to be very flexible and conform to the wrist perfectly. The way the rubber strap fits into the case pays homage to the three lug design of the previous RD designs, it is little, easily ignored, details like this which carry the ‘Brand DNA’ from the old designs to the new.
Go back and look at the drawing again, notice something really unusual about it? It is a drawing NOT a computer rendering, which makes this watch (and all of Dubuis’ new models) very different from almost all other current watch firms; Lionel designs his watches the old way, with a pen & a pad, not on a screen, unlike the movement department, who utilise the latest technology.
It is this mixture of old fashioned craftsmanship, remember what I said about every watch they make being Geneva Seal certified and the very latest in technology, (having spent a couple of days at their factory I can affirm that it is one of the most technologically advanced ones I have ever seen) that makes Roger Dubuis unique in today’s horological world.
The watch is 44mm diameter, but wears smaller when on the wrist & the very flexible rubber strap and the titanium case combine to make it a very easy and comfortable piece to wear; considering the quality of workmanship in both the case & the movement, it is comparatively inexpensive at 35,000 Swiss francs for the titanium model. In a lengthy interview with George Kern, the firm’s CEO, he said that the only way for Dubuis to survive was to charge the same price as the other high end Swiss companies, but offer a lot more. And this watch certainly does, with its in house Geneva Seal automatic chronograph movement and unique case construction; it isn’t a watch for everyone, and (in truth) I probably wouldn’t wear one, but that doesn’t stop me admiring the watch & what Richemont are doing with the company now and that is why it is one of two watches this year that I will file under the heading ‘superb’.