Borrowed Time: A Few Weeks With the Dubey & Schaldenbrand Grande Dôme DT

Regular visitors to Watchtime.com may recall our story from a few months ago, which announced the imminent return to the U.S. market of Dubey & Schaldenbrand, an elegant Swiss watch brand that had been absent from our stores here for several years.

Recently, I was made the proverbial offer I couldn’t refuse by Dubey’s U.S. director of sales and marketing, Christopher Daaboul. He would send me his personal watch — a stainless-steel version of the Grande Dôme DT, in the brand’s well-known tonneau case — to wear and live with for a week and share my impressions of the timepiece.

The watch arrived in its impressively appointed box with its polished wood-grain finish. It reminded me so much of a high-end humidor that I found myself craving a good cigar (admittedly, though, I do that often.) The first impression is that you almost want to be able to wear the watch without removing it, so impressive is the presentation. The push of a button opens the lid and allows access to the shiny timepiece, hugging its black cushion.

I tried several adjustments of the stainless steel double-folding clasp, with it’s polished and brushed surfaces and stylized Dubey “D” on the buckle, before deciding on the most snug fit rather than a slightly loose one – just a personal preference. The watch is quite comfortable on the wrist, and despite the rather large dimensions of its barrel-shaped case, it is not too thick to fit seamlessly under a shirt cuff.

Dubey & Schaldenbrand_wrist shot

The polished steel case is an eye-catcher, as is the multi-layered dial with the symmetrical, overlapping-circles design. The hours and minutes are on traditional center-mounted hands, the day and month are in two side-by-side apertures below the 12 o’clock position, and the date is indicated by a 31-day scale in the center and a center-mounted pointer. There is no indication for running seconds (the central seconds hand is for chronograph seconds and the subdial at 12 o’clock is for counting chronograph minutes.) There is also a subdial at 6 o’clock for moon-phase indication.

Dubey & Schaldenbrand Grande Dome reclining

First step was to wind the watch and set it. The Grande Dome DT has a chronograph as well as a calendar function, so I had to take several steps to prepare it for useful everyday wear. To set the calendar functions, starting with the day, you need to press an inset button on the left side of the case. (My loaner watch didn’t come with a correction tool, but there is one included with newly purchased models.) My improvised device, the tip of a pen, accomplished this task rather easily. However, to set the month, you need to use the crown (in its second position) to cycle the date pointer all the way through, 1 to 31, each month until you reach the right one. There is not a quick adjustment for this function. Also, the date numerals on the scale are so tiny — and printed in black on the silver scale — that they are very difficult to read at a glance. Unless your eyesight is lots better than mine, you will want to have a loupe on hand when setting the date pointer.

While it looked good with various outfits, this timepiece is in its element when worn with a black or gray suit. In fact, for better or worse, seeing this watch on your dresser in the morning might make you feel obligated to dress up more than usual to give it the stylish ensemble it deserves.

The chronograph start pusher clicks into place with an audible snap. The return-to-zero pusher makes a slightly quieter clicking sound. Both pushers are just a little stiff, but this makes it easier to avoid engaging the chronograph accidentally. The teardrop-shaped buttons are a tactile delight; I found myself looking for events to time so I could play with the chronograph. The power reserve is listed as 48 hours, and from my experience, this is a lowball number; my watch was still ticking after two days of sitting idle.

The movement, a modified and decorated Valjoux 7750, is on display through the flat sapphire exhibition caseback. Dubey & Schaldenbrand has partially skeletonized the rotor, embellishing it with a letter “D” in the brand’s familiar font. The decorations include circular côtes de Genève and blued screws. The “D” engraving also adorns the steel clasp and the crown.

Dubey & Schaldenbrand Grande Dome clasp

Dubey & Schaldenbrand Grande Dome caseback

Despite the minimal contrast in tones between the white hands and silvery dial, the time is for the most part easy to read at a glance, though, again, not with the utmost precision due to the lack of seconds hand and the very tiny hour and minute strokes. And, as mentioned before, while reading the day and month in the windows is easy, reading the date on the inner scale is exceedingly difficult without squinting and tilting the watch into favorable lighting. Depending on the date, the date pointer and numeral can also be totally obscured by the hour or minutes hand… a minor inconvenience in service to the larger purity and symmetry of the dial design.

The Grande Dome DT certainly drew positive attention on the wrist at various occasions — again, especially as part of a snazzy suit-and-tie ensemble. Parting with the watch, as I did recently when Daaboul came to town to fetch it, was tough. To procure one of your own, you’ll need to part with $11,300 — a steep price, but one that Dubey & Schaldenbrand no doubt arrived at after considering the multiple complications and the modified, embellished movement.

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About Mark Bernardo

Mark Bernardo is the digital media editor of WatchTime magazine, responsible for developing and overseeing the editorial content on WatchTime.com as well as for WatchTime's tablet editions for the iPad, Nook, and Kindle. As WatchTime's managing editor, from 2006 through 2011, he has written about numerous watch companies from major brands like Omega, TAG Heuer and Piaget, to exclusive artisan lines such as Jean Dunand, De Bethune and DeWitt. Prior to joining WatchTime, he was the editor of Smoke, a lifestyle magazine for cigar enthusiasts, whose beats included cigars, watches, cars, wines and spirits, celebrities, men's fashion, and other subjects, and has written about luxury items for a variety of men's-interest publications, including Robb Report, Robb Report Motorcycling, Stratos, Worth, and Bloomberg Markets.

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