Lot 810, Roger Dubuis Ref. H40 Hommage. A highly attractive and rare limited edition white gold single-button chronograph wristwatch with certificate and presentation box, numbered 17 of a limited edition of 28 pieces. Estimate HK$250,000 - 500,000
The story of the late Roger Dubuis, the watchmaker who was a co-founder of the eponymous brand that is now within the Richemont stable, is fascinating for its twists and turns. Dubuis, born in 1938 in Corbeyrier, Switzerland, a town near the eastern side of Lake Geneva. From a very young age he was bitten by the horological bug, spending much of his free time in the workshop of a local watchmaker. Upon graduating from the prestigious École d’Horlogerie de Genève, the oldest one in Switzerland, he first worked at Longines, but his fascination with high complications brought him to Patek Philippe, where he would work for 14 years in the complications department. Not unlike a few other reputed watchmakers, he would leave to start his own workshop in the 1980s, but it wouldn’t be until 1995, at the prompting of Portuguese entrepreneur Carlos Dias, that Dubuis would put his own name on a watch, a somewhat unusual move given that he was already in his late 50s. Nevertheless, his horological genius and appreciation for the traditional aspects of watchmaking finishing and artistry set the tone and guidelines for the brand, namely that it would only produce a very limited series of watches, and they would all ascribe to the acclaimed Poinçon de Genève, or Geneva Seal, which dictates very specific criteria for the finishing and assembly of timepieces.
The early days brought two key collections to the fore, the Sympathie and the Hommage. The former was more flamboyant, with a very distinctive case shape, while the latter was a tribute to the watchmaking codes that inspired Dubuis through his formative years and much of his professional life. In particular, these H40 monopusher chronographs have become highly sought after, as representations of the skill and dedication to the craft that Roger Dubuis exhibited. The RD caliber 65 is based on a well-known Lemania movement, and was worked on by Dubuis himself, again to the standards required by the Geneva Seal. The Bulletin d’Observatoire designation refers to a chronometric certification performed at the Observatory of Besançon, in France, which also has deep roots as one of the first such testing centers for the industry, and to this day has much stricter rate variation and accuracy requirements, resulting in only a small number of movements being submitted each year.
The appeal in the H40 lies in this very classical treatment, coming across as a piece coming from an esteemed independent watchmaker rather than a “brand” per se. Its restrained design belies the extravagant designs that would characterize how the brand evolved from then on, before Dubuis took a step back and worked on other projects, ultimately returning to the brand as a mentor a few years later. It will likely draw considerable attention though from knowledgeable collectors who will immediately recognize and be drawn to it due to its rarity and impeccable design.