Source: Roger Dubuis

Have Half a Million Dollars? Here’s a Massive Roger Dubuis Pocket Watch

Unveiled at Watches & Wonders in Hong Kong, its four balance wheels take it from the realm of traditional timepiece to “time instrument.”

Roger Dubuis is a brand that's never shy. If you're a fan, you probably use adjectives like "bold" and "pioneering" to describe the ornately skeletonized watches that come from the Geneva-based manufacturer. If you're not a fan, "florid" might seem a less generous description.

Whatever your taste, though, there's no denying that the new Excalibur Spider Pocket Time Instrument is flat-out insane.

This is a monster of a pocket watch. The case is 60mm across and just shy of 20mm thick. Luckily it's made of titanium, so it's not so heavy that it rips right through your pocket when you stash it away. There's a matching titanium chain, as well as a desk stand in case you don't want to carry the watch around all day. 

The real emphasis is on the oversized RD101 movement, which has four separate balance wheels counting out the time. Yep, four. They're placed at opposing angles and are connected through a series of differential gears so they compensate for each other's slight inaccuracies. It's more a theoretical benefit than something that has tangible outcomes, but practicality clearly isn't the goal with this watch.

 

Even for a complicated pocket watch, the Excalibur Spider Pocket Time Instrument makes a big statement.
Even for a complicated pocket watch, the Excalibur Spider Pocket Time Instrument makes a big statement.
Source: Roger Dubuis

The Excalibur Spider Pocket Time Instrument is the second Roger Dubuis watch to use the RD101 movement, the Quatuor wristwatch from 2013 being the first. The Time Instrument looks mostly like a blown-up version of the Quatuor, with a few aesthetic adjustments: The case is no longer black, the minutes and hour track has been moved from the center to the edge of the dial, and the finishing and accents are higher contrast. 

The entire thing has also been rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise, so the power reserve sits at 6 o'clock instead of 9 o'clock. That indicator has two crescents and a double-sided hand, but it tracks a single power source. The two-sided layout is purely for looks.

The Quatuor is the ancestor of the Excalibur Spider Pocket Time Instrument.
The Quatuor is the ancestor of the Excalibur Spider Pocket Time Instrument.
Source: Roger Dubuis

The RD101 contains 590 components—a ton for a watch that only shows the time and power reserve. (It doesn't even have a running seconds indicator.) Of those, 113 are jewel bearings, meaning almost 20 percent of the total components are dedicated to making sure everything runs smoothly. If the four balance wheels and the gears that connect them get gummed up, you could have big problems here.

Roger Dubuis's marketing materials for the Excalibur Spider Pocket Time Instrument suggest that the four 4Hz balance wheels run at an effective 16Hz. This isn't exactly true. The four balances' timekeeping is averaged, and that's what the hands display; a 16Hz balance would beat faster and with greater inertia, making it more impervious to shocks and deviations. The effects might be similar, but the methods are very different.

Like all Roger Dubuis watches, the Excalibur Spider Pocket Time Instrument carries the Poinçon de Genève, or Geneva Seal. This means the entire watch is made in the Canton of Geneva and adheres to extremely stringent standards of finishing, accuracy, and assembly.

Looking at the creation purely objectively, there's a lot to love: The engineering of the movement is unique, every tiny component is carefully considered, and Roger Dubuis hasn't pulled any punches in terms of its point of view. Whether you like that point of view (or carrying something called a "Time Instrument") is another question entirely.

All of the movement's inner workings are immediately visible.
All of the movement's inner workings are immediately visible.
Source: Roger Dubuis

Strangely, Roger Dubuis wasn't the only brand to show a pocket watch this week at Watches & Wonders, a luxury-watch trade show in Hong Kong. Baume & Mercier, best known for more budget-friendly watches, showed off the Clifton 1830 Five-Minute Repeater, a solid gold pocket watch that chimes and carries a $54,000 price tag (not bad for a repeater; a lot for a Baume & Mercier).

Both of these come just weeks after Vacheron Constantin unveiled the most complicated watch ever made, also a massive pocket watch. I don't think we're in a pocket watch renaissance, but I do think watchmakers are looking for new ways to show off what they can do to the most dedicated group of collectors.

The Excalibur Spider Pocket Time Instrument is limited to just 28 pieces worldwide and is priced at $468,500.

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