Roger Dubuis’ Excalibur Knights of the Round Table

Roger Dubuis, one of the best-known names in modern watchmaking, has died at the age of 79. Dubuis was born into a family of woodsmen but became enamoured with horology as a child after being shown the mechanism of the church clock in his home village on the shores of Lac Leman. He subsequently enrolled at the Geneva watchmaking school, then worked for Longines for almost a decade before joining Patek Philippe in 1966, where he spent 14 years developing high-complication mechanisms.

After setting up on his own as a restorer of antique clocks and watches, he joined forces with designer Carlos Dias in 1995 to establish the Roger Dubuis dial name. It quickly became known for producing limited edition watches that, while sufficiently well finished to qualify for the prestigious Geneva Seal, were unashamedly ostentatious. In 2008, Mr Dubuis sold 60 per cent of the company to the Richemont group, which bought the remaining shares from another investor in January 2016.

Rolex record

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona
© face2face studio

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona given to actor Paul Newman by his wife in the early 1970s has fetched a record $17.8m after selling to an anonymous buyer at Phillips in New York following 12 minutes of bidding. The Reference 6239, when fitted with specific dial options, has become known as the Paul Newman Daytona because of the actor’s association with the model and has soared in value — but Newman’s own (above) is regarded by collectors as a horological trophy.

In 1984, the actor gave it to James Cox, a friend of his daughter Nell, as a thank-you for rebuilding a treehouse at the Newmans’ Connecticut home. The previous record for a wristwatch was $11m, paid at Phillips in Geneva last year for a Patek Philippe Reference 1518.

Bye-bye, Baselworld

Historic watch brand Eberhard and Co has pulled out of Baselworld after 70 years of unbroken attendance. The Biel-based maker marked its 130th anniversary this year with a new stand location on the ground floor of the show’s prestigious Hall One, but managing director Mario Peserico, in an interview with horological website World Tempus, said Eberhard would not be there in 2018 because of the expense of attending.

He added that Baselworld has become “ an exhibition for the few” which is “not going in the direction an independent brand would like”. Baselworld declined to comment.

A Gran(d) alliance

Gran Turismo Sport — the latest version of motor-racing video game Gran Turismo — features TAG Heuer’s live timing technology, the first instance of a luxury watch brand being associated with such a product. Sony’s Kazunori Yamauchi, who designed Gran Turismo more than 20 years ago, says the new feature provides “unparalleled timing solutions within the racing experience”.

TAG Heuer has been integrated into the game as official timekeeper and official watch on the initiative of chief executive Jean-Claude Biver, who hopes Gran Turismo’s reach (almost 77m copies sold to date) will enhance the brand’s appeal to a younger audience.

Time bandits

Scooter-riding robbers targeted two of central London’s leading luxury watch outlets on consecutive days last month. The first incident happened on October 9, when the Mappin & Webb store on Regent Street was attacked by a gang of six, who used an axe and a hammer to smash open display cabinets before escaping with watches and jewellery.

Builders thwarted another raid the following day, this time on the Avery Row premises of pre-owned specialist Watchfinder, by wrestling a man to the ground and binding his wrists with nylon cable ties. He and up to five alleged accomplices — who fled the scene on scooters — had tried to break through the store’s glass door.

The Aurum Group, which owns Mappin & Webb, Watches of Switzerland and Goldsmiths, confirmed it had since employed security company UK Protection, which counts former special forces personnel among its staff.

To the second

Watch company Zenith claims to have created “the world’s most accurate mechanical watch” by inventing a system that substitutes the 30 or so parts of a traditional oscillator with a single component that is half a millimetre thick.

The oscillator is made from monocrystalline silicon and does away with the usual assembly, adjustment, testing and lubrication — yet is said to lose or gain no more than 0.3 seconds per day. This makes it as accurate as a quartz movement and more precise than what chronometer certification now requires (minus four to plus six seconds per day). Initially Zenith will make 10 examples of the SFr30,000 ($29,900) Defy Lab, each one cased in Aeronith, a “solid metal foam” that is the world’s lightest alloy.

Big hitters

A 1947 Patek Philippe that was given to the baseball player Joe DiMaggio by the owners of his team, the New York Yankees, carries an estimate of up to $300,000 at Christie’s New York on December 7. The gold chronograph (above), which was among the star attractions in this summer’s Patek Philippe “Art of Watches” exhibition in New York, is being sold by an anonymous vendor.

At the same auction, a travel watch given to Amelia Earhart by fellow aviator Amy Johnson in 1932, shortly after Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, could realise $120,000. The Cressarow watch is inscribed on the back “To Amelia, in sincere admiration, Amy”.

Astronomical price

A gold pocket watch by the late horologist Dr George Daniels became the most expensive English watch ever sold when it fetched £3.2m at Sotheby’s in London in September. The Space Traveller watch was made by Dr Daniels in 1982 and featured seven complications, including displays to show the age and phase of the moon, sidereal time (time derived from the stars, not the sun) and mean solar time.

It was called the Space Traveller because Dr Daniels once said that “when you are on your package tour to Mars, you need a watch like this”.

Chocks away

Bremont is marking next year’s Royal Air Force centenary with a series of watches (above) featuring propeller-shaped winding rotors made with metal salvaged from a Bristol Blenheim, a Supermarine Spitfire and a Hawker Hurricane which flew during the summer of 1940. The GMT chronographs are limited to 75 examples in red gold, 75 in white gold and 275 in steel, costing £8,495-£16,995; some of the proceeds go to the RAF Association charity.

Rival brand Christopher Ward has also made a centenary watch with a back incorporating aluminium from a Hurricane that rammed a Luftwaffe bomber over Buckingham Palace.

Breitling, meanwhile, will unveil the only official anniversary watches: small editions based on its Colt Skyracer, Avenger GMT II and Navitimer 01 models. A unique Navitimer bearing the RAF crest will be auctioned for the RAF100 appeal.

This watch is fast

Independent maker Parmigiani Fleurier has unveiled a SFr295,000 ($294,800) watch to complement the €2.5m Bugatti Chiron hypercar. The Type 390 tourbillon features an engine-style cylindrical movement that can be slid from the wedge-shaped case for maintenance and transmits energy to the dial through a worm screw arrangement. Twin spring barrels provide 80 hours of power reserve, which can be monitored on a fuel gauge-style indicator.

The watch will be available in two editions, 10 in white gold and 10 in red.

Star performer

A 1971 Vacheron Constantin watch that was presented to astronaut Alan Shepard by a group of Geneva citizens fetched $81,311 in a sale of space memorabilia staged by online auction house RR last month. The ultra-thin watch, featuring an enamel dial depicting the Apollo 14 mission patch of 1971 (which Shepard was on) and the surnames of the crew — Shepard, Stuart Roosa and Edgar Mitchell — was bequeathed by Shepard to the vendor’s grandfather.

A similar watch gifted to Mitchell fetched $62,500 at Christie’s last year.

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