For about three weeks, I had the privilege of wearing the Grand Dome DT Vintage 1946 stainless steel watch from Dubey & Schaldenbrand. For those not as familiar with this approximately 67-year-old company, let us fill you in. The brand was founded in 1946 by master watchmaker Georges Dubey and Rene Schaldenbrand – who patented a few key ideas in watchmaking and forged ahead with the concept to create perfect mechanical masterpieces.
The brand was revived in1995 by Cinette Robert, who opened her vault of historical mechanical movements that she had procured during the 1970’s and ‘80s from a variety of Swiss manufactures. Her goal was to re-case the movements into new designs for collectors – remaining true to historical watchmaking creeds. When Robert sold the brand in 2009 to its current owner, many wondered if it could remain on its purist path. While Jonatan Gil opted to realign the brand’s distribution internationally, and develop some more contemporary cases, he says he is still committed to making high-quality exclusive watches.
This brings us to today and to the watch I had three weeks to experience. The Grand Dome Vintage 1946 timepiece is created in a limited edition of just 65 for worldwide distribution (to honor the 65th anniversary of the brand). It houses the Valjoux 7751 movement base that is entirely hand finished, decorated and assembled at Dubey & Schaldenbrand’s manufacture. The exquisitely engraved self-winding mechanical movement is decorated by hand.
The watch is a large, tonneau-shaped stepped case in steel with an ivory dial that offers full calendar (with date, day and month indications), moonphase and chronograph with two counters. While at first glance the case seems a bit large (it measures 37x52mm), it was perfect for my wrist – making a bold statement in vintage elegance. The dial, with its vertical arrangement of the functions, was easy to read and enjoyable to look at. Even better was the back of the watch, with an oscillating weight hand engraved with the Les Ponts-de-Martel coat of arms. The watch offers 48 hours of power reserve and the spherical convex crystal is anti-reflective on both sides.
At first glance of the watch, I was dubious if I would enjoy wearing it. Let’s face it, I’m more informed than most when it comes to timepieces and am well aware of the history of the brand, and knew Cinette Robert. However, being a journalist means putting pre-conceived notions aside and looking objectively at the piece – which I did.
I enjoyed wearing it. It is bold, comfortable and functional, as well as being stylishly retro. The calendar indications are large enough to read easily and the watch keeps incredibly accurate time- even across the ocean with multiple time-zone changes being enacted. Additionally, this watch caught the attention of many people, including two top-level watch brand executives (at different brands) who insisted I take it off so they could have a closer look. Both were impressed, as were a few other executives I interacted with in the academic world upon my return from a lengthy business trip. Wearing a watch that people notice helps reinforce the concept of a watch as a statement piece. Perhaps the only drawback to the watch that I experienced was that despite the hands having SuperLuminova, I found it difficult to tell time in bright sun and in darker atmospheres. Perhaps a few more coatings would work, or a change in hand color. However, overall, this watch packs a punch – especially for the retail price: $13,250.