Dubey & Schaldenbrand

Dubey & Schaldenbrand (Est. 1946 – ) Dubey & Schaldenbrand is among the diminishing group of small independent watchmakers who offer highly niched, limited edition, specialty timepieces to a market of connoisseurs and collectors – usually attracted to more well-known names. Without the resources in production, marketing or distribution from which more famous brands benefit, small producers like Dubey and Schaldenbrand maintain a core identity that enables them prosper in a highly competitive market. It is an identity worth investigating.
Dubey & Schaldenbrand was founded in 1946 by Georges Dubey and René Schaldenbrand. Dubey was a well-known master watchmaker and professor at the Technicum, a watchmaking school in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
He was born in the cradle of Swiss watchmaking, loved mechanics from an early age and dedicated his life to his sole passion: watchmaking. He strived to achieve perfection while still making his inventions affordable, reliable and useful. Among his many creations, Dubey invented the Index Mobile.
Dubey partnered with his friend, René Schaldenbrand who was also experienced and well known in the watch industry of La Chaux-de-Fonds. Shortly after they joined forces, the first few hundred pieces went into production with the brand name, Dubey & Schaldenbrand.
The company earned its reputation by modifying a Landeron chronograph movement to provide split-second ability that was far more affordable than anything on the market at the time. The watches were also easy to recognize since they had a supporting spring for the split seconds hand on the dial side.
Part of the complication was hidden under the dial but the split second hand didn’t have enough power to support it. This was resolved by adding a useful spiral between the two chronograph hands that provided the power needed. Though they did not invent the split seconds chronograph (that was done by Patek Philippe), their innovation made a high-end complication more affordable.
Together Dubey and Schaldenbrand were pioneers in the industry and registered several international patents in the 1940’s that helped shape the Swiss watch-making industry. The inexpensive split-second chronograph called the Index Mobile that Dubey & Schaldenbrand produced during the 1950s and 1960s is a one of a kind chronograph system that functions with extraordinary accuracy. A spring connects the chronographs and allows them to synchronize the measurement of seconds. This technology is also called Rattrapant.
A split-second chronograph has two chronograph second hands which run together, the upper hand on top of the lower. To check interval time, a button is depressed resulting in one of the second hands stopping (to mark the interval time) as the other hand continues to run. After a reading or interval measurement has been made, the user presses the button again and the hand that stopped starts so it can catch up with the hand that has been running and, once again, the hands are again running simultaneously on top of one another. The ‘catch up’ is where the term ‘rattrapante’, often used for split second chronographs, comes from. It’s French for ‘catch up’ or ‘recover.’
Split-second chronographs are complex and were uncommon in the 1940s and 1950s. Dubey & Schaldenbrand promoted their usefulness and developed less expensive production methods that ultimately resulted in less expensive versions.
Later on, the firm turned to an art nouveau aesthetic that became increasingly identified with the brand. In addition, Dubey began to offer a number of watches using “new-old stock” vintage movements to interest collectors specializing in this niche.
The most successful of the designs are the tonneau-shaped Aerodyns with dials that use layouts and fonts from the 20’s and 30’s. These have a feel that’s both vintage and crisp, a combination that is difficult to find anywhere but in much more expensive brands.
The Aerodyn Duo, for example, uses an in-house automatic movement with chronometer quality escapement and stop-seconds for precise setting. It has a 42-hour power reserve, a second time zone display, and is water-resistant to 30 meters. It is also appealing because of its look: oversized Arabic numerals that follow the curvature of the case.
During the watch crises in the 80’s when many watch suppliers started producing quartz movements to eliminate traditional but expensive production methods. Despite this, Dubey & Schaldenbrand continued to produce timepieces made with traditional craftsmanship and remained successful.
In 1995, the brand experienced a revival when Cinette Robert opened her vault with its magnificent old movement collection. During the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Cinette Robert was one of the few visionaries who visited manufacturers to purchase watch movements and components. It wasn’t until she became president of Dubey & Schaldenbrand, after fifteen years managing Tissot, that the Dubey & Schaldenbrand firm began emphasizing productivity and marketing. This led to offering their timepieces to a worldwide market that included Japan, Italy and Germany. Today over five thousand watches are available in over thirty countries.
After nearly two years working alongside Cinette, Johnatan Gil purchased the company and insured its continuity. His fascination for beautiful watches was nurtured within his family as well as in the eight Baselworld Fairs he attended. His determination to become a player and not merely an admirer in the watchmaking world, seemed a logical next step and a natural objective for him. Jonatan is, like his illustrious predecessors, an entrepreneur and a real enthusiast of chronograph crafts.
Re-casing each movement according to the era when it was created, Dubey & Schaldenbrand designs quickly became a favorite of collectors. The brand has been one of the crown jewels in the watchmaking industry. In 2004, it distinguished itself by becoming the first Swiss watch brand to receive the “Merit for Development of Watchmaking Tradition,” a prize awarded by the prestigious International Institute of Promotion and Prestige.
Current timepiece lines include the Grand Dome DT, Grand Shar DB, Artisans Xtreme, Structure, and Coeur Blanc. While some brands stress that they produce their own movements, it’s mostly the reverse with Dubey & Schaldenbrand.
They do make their own cases, dials and hands. However, while they produce some modules and decorate and finish movements, they mostly use base ETA movements. The production of their cases and dials is a plus for them and collectors since it gives the firm more control and flexibility in their designs and parts; methods that benefit everyone.
The Grand Dome models come in steel or gold (or two-tone) cases in mid-range sizes. On the wrist, the tonneau-shaped display a unique look with a case that is all polished steel and feels good to the touch, a classic and quality design.
The Element watches – offered in rose gold case or black PVD case – feature blue screws on the lugs and case back and add a burst of electric color.
The Grand Shar Element houses a self-winding chronograph. The rotor is black rhodium treated with rose gold and is visible through a transparent case back. In addition, it offers central hours and minutes, a seconds counter at 9:00, a calendar window at 3:30, plus a split-time function and chronograph minute counter at 12:00 with an hour counter at 6:00. This 44mm watch is water resistant to 50 meters.
Presented at Baselworld 2014, the Coeur Blanc (white heart) features a glorious diamond set case and dial and tourbillon. Constructed from a grey gold case to accommodate a pavé of glowing diamond baguettes set one by one by one in complicated and unparalleled techniques, the Coeur Blanc holds 709 inimitable diamond baguettes all invisibly set.
The perfectly smooth surface of the diamonds can be felt on the bezel, lugs and sides of the luminous tourbillon and gives this masterpiece a silky smooth touch and its reflections display a rainbow of light.
Injecting timekeeping life into this creation is an in-house developed tourbillon with a caged heart that showcases a balance wheel operating at 21,600 VBH. The diamond set dial holds skeleton blue steel hands and the tourbillon is further treated with a satiné finish. Due to its intricate and expensive design, the Coeur Blanc was limited to three pieces worldwide.
Dubey & Schaldenbrand produces only limited quantities and small limited numbered editions with outstanding craftsmanship. Special attention is paid to details and designs, both traditional and modern, without any compromise in quality.
According to the firm’s official website, “Dubey & Schaldenbrand aims to produce exclusive products that cannot be found everywhere. Owning a Dubey & Schaldenbrand is … more than just a watch; [it is] a timepiece with character and history from the founders.”
After nearly seven decades, Dubey & Schaldenbrand remains known for creativity, quality, and superior craftsmanship. Though the firm remains based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, Dubey & Schaldenbrand collections are available worldwide, but limited to an annual production of just 1000 pieces with only 300 pieces available for North America.