From its inception, Roger Dubuis offered exceptional craftsmanship with a bit more flair than its contemporaries. These days, the brand seems to have moved away from the more elegant designs upon which it was founded, shifting instead to the bold lines and complicated dials found in its Excalibur and Hyper lines. The roots of the brand can still be enjoyed through the secondhand market, though, and the Roger Dubuis Hommage Chronograph H40 is an excellent example that comes from one of its original lines.
Roger Dubuis may not be a horological household name, but he should be. His career included tenures in Longines’ service department and a long stint with Patek Philippe working on some of their most complicated timepieces. Throughout his tenure working for other brands, he’d keep tinkering at home, servicing and restoring watches for private clients. Eventually the demands of those clients became too much, and he left the employ of Patek Philippe and formally set up his own shop. It wasn’t until 1995 that he founded his eponymous brand. Only eight years later, the watchmaker left the brand, and it has suffered for his departure. Instead of classical watchmaking with a bit of panache, the brand now focuses on outré designs, with no indication that anyone involved even knows who Roger Dubuis is.
Back when it first launched, though, the brand released two models: the Sympathie and the Hommage. Available in three sizes (34, 37, and 40mm), the Hommage is inconspicuously named for the inspiration it took from the brands where Dubuis cut his teeth: Longines, perhaps, but certainly Patek Philippe. The intention was to embody the highest craft, design, and quality of traditional Swiss watchmaking. The Hommage Chronograph H40 is a perfect example of the traditional skills and values that guided the brand at its founding.
True to its name, the Roger Dubuis Hommage Chronograph H40 captures the essence of the finest Swiss watchmakers, especially Patek Philippe and its ultra-traditional design language (references 130 and 1463 are clear inspirations). True to Roger Dubuis, the watch does its own thing. The Hommage H40 starts things off with a clean, round 18k rose gold case measuring 40mm. The lines may look familiar at first, but don’t be tricked. The concave bezel fives it a unique profile and plays with the light. Long lugs protrude straight from the midcase and curve down only slightly: this watch will sit flat on the wrist, though at 11mm, it will still wear nicely for a chronograph. On the right flank, pump pushers actuate the chronograph function, and feature sunburst medallion engraving. The crown between them features the brands “RD” logo. Contrasting the polished finish on the rest of the case, the midcase is brushed from lug to lug.
Rolling the case over, the sapphire dial crystal is matched by a sapphire display caseback, etched with the same “RD” logo on seen on the crown. The screw-down caseback helps achieve 50m water resistance and is engraved around the crystal with the brand’s name and “horloger Genevois,” as another reminder that the watch is from the Swiss canton of Geneva.
Coming back to the front, the dial is what really shines on this Hommage H40. Each H40 is presented in a limited run of 28 pieces (originally 20, but at the suggestion of a customer based in Asia, the number was increased to 28 as 8 is considered good luck), but this one is a bit special, with its gorgeous lacquer blue dial and gilt accents. The gilt accents cover the peripheral tachymeter ring and the concentric 360 degree chapter ring, as well as the Arabic numerals and ring son the two-toned recessed subdials. The entirety of the handset is rendered in gold, including the leaf subdial hands and the similarly shaped skeleton hour and minute hands.
The applied markers are a curious design choice: while the pointed markers are nothing out of the ordinary, the use of sans serif Arabic numerals pulls away from the smooth curves of the case and gilt and lacquer dial. While it may have been more congruous to use Breguet numerals like other H40s, an exploration of the entire Hommage line (and the entire early Roger Dubois collection) reveals a penchant for peculiar numeral choices. As on the caseback ring, the dial features the brand and location at 12 o’clock, while the movement certification accorded by the Besançon Observatory is at 6 o’clock.
The entire package is affixed to the wrist with a blue alligator strap to match the dial and a custom deployant clasp in the shape of the “RD” logo.
The Hommage H40 is powered by the in-house caliber RD56, based on the Lemania 2130, a movement that has served as the foundation of in-house movements for brands ranging from Omega to Patek Philippe. Of course, Roger Dubuis finishes its RD56 to high standards, including Côtes de Genève and anglage on plates and bridges. The manual wind movement features 21 jewels, a column wheel chronograph mechanism, and a swan neck regulator, all generating 45 hours of power reserve.
The plates and bridges are rhodium plated and the entire movement has garnered the Geneva Seal for its exceptional quality. Originally regulated by Roger Dubuis himself, the movement has been certified by the Besançon Observatory. While COSC is certainly more widely recognized, the Besançon certification (the “Tête de Vipère”) is ostensibly more reliable than that awarded by COSC. The former conducts the same testing as the latter, but only on fully cased movements; the Observatory believes that the process of finalizing and casing up a movement after testing affects accuracy enough that it renders invalid any test done beforehand.
Versus the Competition
Outside of its beautiful lacquer and gilt dial, the Roger Dubuis Hommage Chronograph H40 is not a particularly unique watch. Finding an alternative is not much of a challenge, as almost every brand at this level offers its own take on a classically-styled chronograph. One such timepiece is the Patek Philippe Looking 5170R chronograph, which features a similar case in 18k rose gold, though its dial is a bit cleaner and features lovely Breguet numerals. Staying under the Roger Dubuis name, one of the Sympathie models may be a better representation of the original spirit of the brand, with its unique cushion case. The Sympathie S40 with a bi-retrograde calendar display also comes in 18k rose gold and features an enamel dial, but significantly ups the ante things with its almost whimsical chronograph dial.
While more restrained than the Sympathie alongside which it debuted—and positively austere compared to Roger Dubuis’ modern offerings—the Hommage H40 chronograph remains an excellent option for someone looking for a timeless chronograph design from a brand that isn’t a (horological) household name. The rich blue lacquer dial with its gilt accents affords the owner an opportunity to express a dash of intrigue from his or her own personality.
The Roger Dubuis Hommage H40 Chronograph may not have the whimsy of the brand’s other early designs (and certainly not it’s modern offerings), but it presents a faithful expression of the late watchmaker’s commitment to excellence and his admiration for traditional watchmaking. The blue enamel dial paired with gilt accents and rose gold case take the classic design and elevate it to make this watch unique.