Throttle wide open, a little white boat hops from one wavelet to another, quickly leaving the narrow port of Amalfi behind. There are just two aboard: One at the helm of the powerful jetboat, with her eyes firmly set on the $150-million schooner scraping the sky with not one, not two, but three 200-foot masts, and the other with his arms wrapped around a heavy, unlabelled box, the size of a thick briefcase. Still just a tiny spec in the distance is the mining magnate owner who’s lounging on the poop deck — with a brain fried from the last twenty years of excess, he’s bored out of his mind. Few legal activities can truly entertain him anymore, and money couldn’t buy him friends who shared his passion for medieval studies or his admittedly unwonted taste in watches.
He’s all but forgotten about that 30-second call to his concierge some 18 months ago when he asked for an order to be placed at Roger Dubuis — that he carelessly pronounced Dubois — for “one of those watches with the knights on it.” He’s been busy expanding his collection of medieval books, scrolls, weapons, and other collectibles, and even brought some of them with him aboard the 305-foot yacht. He would not have spotted the little boat until much later was it not for one of the 21-strong crew delivering his casse-croûte — he’d still be lost somewhere in the colorful patterns decorating the pages of L’Arbre des Batailles, a 15th-century manuscript that he temporarily borrowed from the library he donates to so generously every year.
On this glistening day, as unbearably perfect as every other, look up and spot the hastily approaching boat he did. It’s been delivering packages every day since they’ve been anchored off the Amalfi Coast, but this time, for once, something clicked. Out of the blue, he remembered “the watch with the knights on it,” and his sixth sense was telling him already: “It’s got to be that watch!” Having new toys and collectibles delivered to him and unpacking them like it was Christmas morning remained among just a handful of affairs that could quicken his heartbeat — and, on those rarest of occasions when he’d give it a little more thought, justify all that he’s been through, and put others through. The captain of the little white ship, being the professional that she is, makes a quick swing to right and then to the left, killing the craft’s speed before gently pulling up in parallel with its 9-figure destination. Moments later, the cumbersome, unmarked cardboard box is aboard — increasing the megayacht’s value by 0.38% — and trades the resilient clutch of its courier for the support of a teakwood table.
Already with a fruit knife in hand, the tycoon rises from his chair, dismisses the deliverer with barely a nod, and gets at the package with quick, short, violent cuts. He’s done this more times than he’d care to remember. The wavy brown paper soon folds away to reveal a barely translucent silk paper embossed with interlocking “RD” logos — a thoughtful little detail that miserably fails to register in the jaded mind of its recipient. A massive box in dark mahogany is soon kissed by the Mediterranean sun — a special request, again, long-forgotten, made to Roger Dubuis so that the box of the new watch would match the display cabinets at home. “Too bad it’s such a poor match with the teakwood onboard,” he mutters in his helplessly critical way.
At the press of a button two heavy mahogany doors fold away to gracefully reveal the watch that is so rare not even he has ever seen it in the metal before: The Roger Dubuis Knights Of The Round Table Monotourbillon in pink gold. It is 45mm-wide but as heavy as though it were 55. Likewise, its presence is incomparable to any other 45mm-wide watch. Its combination of pink gold and purple is so stark, there has to be something in the way human vision is programmed that can’t save it from looking in its direction. It’s much later that he realizes how the exotic-looking triple lugs, the scalloped bezel, the ridiculously oversized crown and crown guards, and the thick strap are the way that they are so as not to pale into insignificance against the star of the show: The Knights Of The Round Table.
The Knights are twelve micro-sculptures crafted from solid gold by hand with incredible detail, representing the twelve characters that are involved in what Roger Dubuis refers to as a “quest.” What the quest is about and how the story unfolds the Geneva-based watchmaker leaves to the imagination of the owner — but he is well-equipped with both the literature and accessories to send this menacing dozen on an imaginary adventure of their own.
Roger Dubuis seated the Knights Of The Round Table not around a block of thickly varnished wood but one crafted from transparent sapphire crystal that is adorned with colorful, translucent blocks of Murano glass. “Ahh, Murano…” he murmurs, as he recalls how, at the very end of the High Middle Ages, the craftspeople possessing the secret know-how of Venetian glassmaking were ordered by law in 1291 to move from Venice into yet greater isolation on the Islands of Murano. There were no knights to protect them or their secret trade, and so glassmakers leaving the cluster of Murano islands without permission, or ever sharing their secrets, were crimes punishable by death. Following this quick detour to the opposite side of the Italian Peninsula, he refocused his laser-corrected vision on his latest toy. Even with his bare eyes, he could tell that some of these Murano glass pieces are smooth and clear while others have a rough, uneven finish. It took him years of repeated exposure to the finest handcrafted items before he could begin to accept imperfections in the costliest and most exclusive of manmade products. In truth, the bubbly finish on the purple blocks in particular annoyed him just a bit.
Before he’d know it he moved on to the next spectacle: Rotating the watch ceaselessly as though it was one of those spinning fairground rides, skimming through the twelve knights, inexplicably looking for a repetition among the dozen. There was no such thing to be found: Like the 8,000 soldiers in the Terracotta Army of Qin Shi Huang, all these little figures are truly unique, with their very own set of weapons, armor, helmets, gloves, and poses. Some are with their longsword drawn and ready to pierce, and others are about to fling their mace — a mace that weighs a fraction of a gram and yet appears to have the crushing heft and momentum of a real one. The only thing they all share is a fearless look and an almost mythical presence. Too bad the expansive and domed crystal of this Roger Dubuis watch has a fair bit of distortion and especially so when he tries to inspect the knights at a steep angle, leveling with them to look straight into their faces. If only he knew what a difference a high-resolution crystal — like the one on Grand Seiko watches — would make.
Minutes go by as he keeps spinning the watch in hand before he finally puts it on for the first time. Roger Dubuis has not cheapened out by adding carbon or titanium bits to the case of the Knights Of The Round Table watch: Crafted from solid 18kt pink gold, the massive exterior with its extra-long triple lugs and wide crown protectors has absolutely immense heft to it. The strap is almost ridiculously thick and padded and wide, yet it is to be fed through an 18kt folding clasp with a few inner edges sharper than those on that knight’s longsword. Too bad it’s also a challenge to fold: It’s difficult to tell if the clasp was closed properly and so it opens fully and unexpectedly as the clumsy billionaire is trying to put it on for the first time. He almost drops the mighty watch on the wooden table, thus marking the second time it has managed to make his heart beat faster. With a bit of luck, he manages to catch the watch just before impact. With his heart still pounding, he begins to analyze the situation: “I wonder, would these knights ever come loose if I banged this watch around? And what’s costlier to fix? The watch, or the table that’s fixed to a yacht that needs to be docked for the time of repair?”
In this moment of contemplation, a gentle nudge from the Sirocco — a Mediterranean wind that originates from Africa — rotates the boat gently around by just a couple of degrees, moving the shadow a foot or so away from him and allowing the sun to shine brightly at the Knights Of The Round Table Monotourbillon watch for the very first time. A breathtaking light show begins: The tiny cage and the golden balance wheel at every one of their poised movements throw reflections right at the knights. With their weapons and gold guises radiating with light, they appear to be protecting the centerpiece — the Monotourbillon — with magical powers. It’s almost as though there was a vivid little microcosm powered by light and magic that he gets to secretly gaze at through the sapphire crystal front. Too bad there’s no one around who would find this amazing rather than infantile and unnecessary.
The tourbillon at the center is powered by the RD115 caliber, a Roger Dubuis movement with 72 hours of power reserve, Hallmark of Geneva certification, and beautiful finishing on those few parts that are visible. For hundreds of thousands of dollars less — where he’d still be looking at $250,000-$350,000 watches — he could get higher performing, more complicated, more technical, and arguably more beautiful movements, from low-production independent watchmakers to the Grand Complication collections of historic luxury watch brands. Watches have for long fascinated the magnate, if not from a value proposition perspective, then from a technical one, and so, normally, he would be well aware of all that… And yet, “This time I did get fooled,” he thinks to himself as he realizes he paid $580,000 for a mechanically rather simple watch.
But that’s not a concern now. This timepiece is almost unbearably cool. “It is its own thing, it’s incomparable to those boring wannabe watches with calendars, chronographs, and even chimes on them.” Watches, after all, should be a tool for self-expression, and, at long last, he found one that would allow him to do exactly that, and more. His jaded mind is stimulated and fascinated as he is slowly understanding he can now bring his beloved knights from the fragile pages of old manuscripts with him everywhere he goes. He moves the heavy lump of a watch around on his wrist, winds the movement just enough to keep the tourbillon alive, and doesn’t even realize he has no idea how to read the time.
The Roger Dubuis Knights Of The Round Table Monotourbillon Pink Gold watch costs approximately $580,000 and it tells the hours and minutes with some golden markers installed beneath the sapphire crystal dial. You can visit the brand’s website for more information.