A watch designer’s job is to create a relationship between the wearer and their watch. The new Roger Dubuis Excalibur Knights of the Round Table II watch does this is a clever way. By decorating the dial with a culturally significant diorama, the wearer is not only comfortable with an image they have seen many times before, but they are also susceptible to its potential as an emotional trigger. With a single glance, a whole gamut of feeling can be released: Pride, passion, patriotism, for example. The Roger Dubuis Excalibur Knights of the Round Table II picks up where the first Round Table watch left off, moving the design brief in a new direction and elevating the craftsmanship to a new level.
The emotive potential of objects is enormous. The Round Table of King Arthur featured on the original model from Roger Dubuis was an imitation of the ceremonial table that hangs on the wall of Winchester Castle. That table, and others just like it, were used to great effect during the reign of Edward III. When the Hundred Years’ War with France began (1337), Edward needed to rally his countrymen behind the cause. Leaning heavily on his royal connection to the Arthurian legend, Edward reputedly commissioned several round tables, around which he held assemblies with his most trusted knights. He even went as far as to bring Camelot to life when he ordered the total remodeling of Windsor Castle. With this cultural iconography reminding his knights and people that they were the subjects of greatness, he hauled his country into a war it would eventually win.
So the concept of a watch based on the Knights of the Round Table is perfectly sound from a cultural and emotional perspective, but it’s already been done, hasn’t it? I was skeptical that Roger Dubuis could employ the same brief and come up with something that was going to look new. Well, they made three immediately noticeable changes that laid my fears to rest. I was a fan of the first Round Table watch. I thought it was a charming novelty. But the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Knights of the Round Table II is a mature and magnificent follow up. And I think it is fantastic.
Change number one: The case is now in white gold as opposed to pink. It’s 45mm wide and 15.7mm thick. That’s a lot of gold to begin with, but it doesn’t end there. Surrounding the round table and set beneath the feet of the twelve knights is a white gold ring of satinated cobblestones. Further still, a white gold circular flange has been installed around the edge of the dial. The cobblestones are a particularly nice addition and a noticeable upgrade from the original. In the first Roger Dubuis Excalibur Knights of the Round Table watch, the knights were standing on a simple, brushed ring. This attention to detail in the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Knights of the Round Table II really completes the diorama.
Change number two: The knights are no longer pink gold; they are bronze. I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts on this choice. I certainly like the aesthetic change, as I think the darkness and slight patina of bronze really works with the high-polished white gold surround and the black jade table around which the knights’ swords mark out the hours, but some may be disappointed that Roger Dubuis chose a less precious metal for what was, in the original model at least, the centrepiece.
However, it should be noted that working with bronze on this scale is extremely rare and that the figurines, each one 6.5mm tall, is created using a process of casting followed by hand finishing. Each knight – and they are all individually styled to represent one of Arthur’s most trusted band of brothers – takes a full day of work to produce. The master engravers at Roger Dubuis are probably thanking their lucky stars that only 28 of these watches will be made. Even with that limited run, it will take them a combined 336 days of labour to produce them all (and that’s if they get them all right first time!).
Where the bronze really comes into its own, though, is when it is set next to the black jade table. And this is change number three, and the biggest of the bunch. In the original model, the watch played on the recognisable image of “Arthur’s” table from Winchester. With the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Knights of the Round Table II, Roger Dubuis has dispensed with sentiment, and instead, gone for a patterned table. Some may find this a bit risky – it is less immediately obvious what this watch is, because the table is just a table, rather than a globally recognised artifact.
But for that honesty, the sheer beauty of the material, the implied storm cloud that seems to hang over this Arthurian assembly, and the quality of the engraving, I rate this effort much higher than the first. It is a stylistic triumph and a much more reserved watch than the first. It is impressive how Roger Dubuis have evolved this watch so astutely. They have done away with the meretricious but recognisable table, placing trust in their fan-base to have cottoned-on to the concept by this point. Then they have replaced it with something far more technically impressive, but far more visually subdued. I mean, this is an incredibly expensive, and somewhat crazy watch, but can still be described as wearable because of its restrained colourway.
The bezel has the classic Roger Dubuis “notch” design, which really marries well with this watch. In some cases the notched bezel can be a somewhat superfluous distraction, but the cleanliness and symmetry of this dial make it a welcome addition. The watch features roughly the same closed case back design as the first, with the enamelled blue shield and three crowns logo, although no official pictures of this have been made available at this time. Hiding behind the case back, which guarantees water resistance to 50 metres, is an RD821 automatic calibre, boasting a 48-hour power reserve and the Poinçon de Genève (the Geneva Seal). It is humbling when a brand that has such a high quality movement keeps it hidden, but it is a decision some may struggle to understand when it is very much a joy to look at. On the subject of water resistance, it is unlikely anyone who has bought this watch will be taking it down to the depth it can reputedly withstand, but if they did want to test it out, they would notice there is no lume on the stubby hands. I actually don’t mind the short hands (designed to miss the swords of the knights), but they might not please everyone.
The strap is hand-stitched black alligator. It’s a fine looking strap, affixed by a white gold folding clasp, but the attachment between the lugs does annoy me a bit. I like the look of the “triple-lug” design, but I always like to imagine how you can customise a watch to make it your own. The easiest way to do that is to change the strap. With Roger Dubuis, you have no choice but to use a brand-official strap. It’s probably not a bad idea, as I’m sure they are designed to keep the watch on your wrist, but the limitation still grates on me a bit.
All 172 components of the Roger Dubuis are hand finished. This kind of dedication to the craft is what has earned every item produced by the fully-integrated manufacture the Poinçon de Genève. The Geneva Seal guarantees excellent quality and confirms the origin of the timepiece. The price of the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Knights of the Round Table II will be $268,000 – a king’s ransom, maybe, but if you can afford it you’ll be getting the jewel in the crown of this exciting brand in return. rogerdubuis.com