Poker Face: Testing the Roger Dubuis Chronograph La Monégasque


How does Roger Dubuis’s Chronograph La Monégasque, named for the glamorous gambling Mecca of Monaco, fare in a high-stakes game of a WatchTime test? Alexander Krupp gives us the scoop. With photos by Nik Schölzel.

With a name that means “the lady from Monaco,” one would expect Roger Dubuis’s La Monégasque collection to have all the flash and sparkle of a Monte Carlo casino. The collection is meant to pay homage to the luxurious world of Monaco and everything it brings to mind: fast cars on narrow cliff roads over the Mediterranean, high-stakes games of baccarat, James Bond, Grace Kelly, and the like. So it comes as a surprise that, compared to many of the other collections from the usually flamboyant Roger Dubuis, the Chronograph La Monégasque is decidedly understated.

The red tachymeter scale is the only contrast color on the gray dial.

In fact, its only colorful accent is a red tachymeter scale printed on the flange along the perimeter of the dial. The rest of the face is gray, black and silver, with white scales on the main dial and subdials. One has to look past the immediately obvious in order to appreciate some of the design’s appealing details: sunburst decoration, tasteful white rings in the subdials, and an hour ring with circular satin finishing. Like the numbers on a roulette wheel, the applied hour numerals are laid atop lacquered fields. The three silver-colored hands for the hour, minutes and running seconds and the little hand on the elapsed-minutes subdial each have a longitudinal ridge down the midline to separate the hand’s two facets. The elapsed-seconds hand has a lacquered white tip. The quality of craftsmanship lavished on the dial is very high, but when we examined it through a loupe we found a tiny drip in the lacquered surface of the “2” on the hour ring, as well as a very slight irregularity in the lacquer on the tip of the seconds hand.

The craftsmanship of the cushion-shaped steel case, which is 44 mm wide, is even better than that of the dial – almost immaculate, in fact. Although the case has corners and edges, its shape as a whole is fluent and soft. This impression is further underscored by the downwardly curving, gently rounded lugs. On the bezel, the chronograph push-pieces and the sides and back of the case, certain facets have been polished with great care to stand out from largely satin-finished components.

The 31-mm caliber RD680 bears the Geneva Seal as a sign of its superior craftsmanship.

The very slim push-pieces have been neatly inserted into the case’s milled apertures so that there is no gap around them. The upper push-piece runs as smoothly as a hot knife through butter, but somewhat more force is needed to operate the lower button. The large fluted crown is not threaded and can be easily pulled; because it doesn’t screw into the case, though, the watch is not especially water resistant. Still, its rating of 50 meters is generally high enough for a luxury watch like this one. The case fits comfortably against the wrist. The caseback is held in place by four screws with custom heads. It holds a sapphire window through which you can see the in-house caliber RD680. Thanks to its attractively open architecture, the movement offers an unobstructed view of its chronograph mechanism. The chronograph is controlled via a column wheel, while vertical coupling (visible to the right of the balance in the photo) comes into play when the chronograph is engaged. This type of coupling guarantees that the chronograph seconds hand starts without the shudder often seen in chronographs with horizontal coupling. The movement components are beautifully finished. The edges are perfectly beveled and polished and the surfaces have immaculately executed Geneva waves and cloud patterns. The screws have polished heads and the chronograph levers a satiny, brushed finish. Thanks to the careful workmanship, this movement, like all Roger Dubuis movements, bears the Geneva Seal, which is visible above the watch’s balance.

The strap is impeccably crafted, but the reptilian scales aren’t so attractive.

There are, however, several aspects of the RD680 movement that are disappointing. The absence of a stop-seconds function makes it difficult, if not impossible, to set the time precisely, since the seconds hand continues running even when the crown has been pulled out. This might be understandable in a model developed a long time ago, but in a new one it is inexcusable. Another shortcoming is the adjustment, which is carried out via a very simple index; it lacks any sort of additional mechanism for finely setting its position. A manufacture watch in this price category ought to have a freely oscillating balance with regulating screws along its rim or a swan’s neck fine adjustment mechanism. Although Roger Dubuis employs a swan’s neck in its other calibers, there isn’t room for one in this movement because of the adjacent microrotor. Other self-winding calibers from this brand have a centrally axial rotor that turns above the escapement. The third failing of this otherwise excellent movement is its less-than-perfect rate performance. Our Witschi timing machine calculated the deviation among the several positions at an acceptable value of five seconds with the chronograph off and six seconds with it on. Unfortunately, though, the watch consistently ran 2.7 seconds slow, both on the timing machine (chronograph off or on) and on the wrist. (This slight daily loss isn’t necessarily a severe problem, since a luxury watch is usually taken off and left at rest for a few days, then reset the next time it’s worn.)

The caseback of the Roger Dubuis Chronograph La Monégasque

On the other hand, the rate values and amplitude were nearly identical in each position, both with and without the chronograph running. This consistency means that the chronograph’s mechanism was engineered to conserve energy. It also confirms what the Geneva Seal certifies:  that the movement’s components are so well finished that they interact with very little friction. We found that the watch is often hard to read. There’s not enough contrast between the dial and the hands, and the dark numerals in the subdials are hardly visible. On the plus side, though, is the fact that each hand is exactly the right length – a fine detail that’s often left out on luxury watches. Even brands famed for their highly functional timepieces often fail to make the tips of all hands extend to the inner ends of the strokes on their designated scales. The care put into the hands’ lengths improves legibility, as does the white tip of the central elapsed-seconds hand, which contrasts with the gray hues on the rest of the dial.

The watch is very pleasant to wear. The caseback, strap and safety folding clasp all fit closely and comfortably on the wrist. Furthermore, both the strap, which is made of alligator, and its closure, are beautifully crafted. The strap is fully remborded and the clasp milled from a solid block of metal and neatly polished. The only unsightly element of the watch we tested was the dull finish and unattractive reptilian scales on the strap. Horological aesthetes would regard this as a minor lapse of attention on an otherwise beautifully made timepiece. In all other details, one certainly cannot accuse the watchmakers of being inattentive. All components are distinguished by very high quality and each one is meticulously matched with its peers. The Chronograph La Monégasque functions well, looks good and is well crafted, but its price ($25,200) nonetheless seems somewhat high given that the brand is less well-known than some of its competitors.

+ Beautiful manufacture movement with Geneva Seal
+ Interesting design
+ Good craftsmanship

– No stop-seconds function
– The rate was consistently slow.

Manufacturer: Manufacture Roger Dubuis, Rue André-de-Garrini 2, CH-1217 Geneva, Switzerland
Reference number: MG44-680-90-00/0ER01/B
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds; chronograph with counter for 30 elapsed minutes
Movement: Manufacture caliber RD680, automatic with microrotor, Geneva Seal; 28,800 vph, 42 jewels, fine adjustment via index, Incabloc shock absorption, column wheel, vertical coupling, 48-hour power reserve, diameter = 31 mm, height = 6.3 mm
Case: Stainless steel with domed sapphire crystal that’s nonreflective on both sides, four screws hold the back in place, back includes a sapphire window; water resistant to 50 meters
Strap and clasp: Hand-sewn and fully remborded alligator strap with safety folding clasp made of stainless steel
Rate results (Deviations in seconds per 24 hours, with chronograph switched off/on):
Dial up                        -3 / -3
Dial down                   -4 / -4
Crown up                    0 / +1
Crown down               -1 / -2
Crown left                   -3 / -3
Crown right                -5 / -5
Greatest deviation of rate       5 / 6
Average deviation       -2.7 / -2.7
Average amplitude:
Flat positions               286° / 285°
Hanging positions      253° / 253°
Dimensions: Diameter = 44 mm, height = 13.2 mm, weight = 123 grams
Variations: Rose gold with bezel made of titanium coated with black PVD ($40,100)
Price: $25,200
Strap and clasp (max. 10 points): The hand-sewn and fully remborded strap is extremely well crafted, but the upper leather isn’t very attractive; the safety folding clasp is well made and clicks shut firmly.                  8
Operation (5): The crown and the start-stop button are very convenient to  operate, but the zero-reset button demands somewhat more force; this watch has no stop-seconds function.             4
Case (10): The elegant and multifaceted case has a sapphire crystal and caseback, appealingly shaped push-pieces and immaculate craftsmanship.              10
Design (15): Well-balanced and unostentatious but eye-catching nonetheless.        15
Legibility (5): The lengths of the hands are perfect, but all hands (and the numerals on the subdials) provide insufficient contrast against the background of the dial; no luminous material.             2
Wearing comfort (10): The watch is very comfortable considering its size, its sharp angles and its folding clasp.     9
Movement (20): This manufacture chronograph, which bears the Geneva Seal, deserves praise for its column wheel, vertical coupling, microrotor and impeccable finishing of all components, but the index for fine adjustment is too rudimentary.           17
Rate results (10): The difference among the various positions was low and the chronograph caused nearly no decline in the amplitude, but we deducted points because the watch ran too slowly.           6
Overall value (15): This watch is very good, but also very expensive – and this brand is less well-known than many of its competitors.         10
TOTAL:          81 POINTS

This article appeared in the February 2013 issue of WatchTime Magazine.

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