Whenever I fly solo I invariably wind up being sat next to the generously proportioned lone male traveller. I board early and watch hopefully as several nubile young females pass me by. Sometimes I am almost fooled into thinking the seat next to me may remain empty, but no, arriving breathless and late, my well-fed travelling companion manages to make his way towards me. He opens the overhead compartment and squashes my backpack with his oversized briefcase, then, with much effort he squeezes his ample buttocks into the seat right next to mine causing ripples of claustrophobia at the thought of being so up close and personal for several hours to come.
There are rarely any consoling thoughts as yet another stunning babe who could have been sat next to me scampers further down the aisle to seat herself next to some other lucky guy. But on this occasion there was one soupcon of interest and intrigue as my large friend settled himself into his seat.
There was a upon his hefty wrist a watch which would have been a rarity in just about any circles, but on the 3am red eye to Davao City Philippines it was indeed a sight for swollen, sleep deprived eyes. Upon his wrist was a Dubey & Schaldenbrand Grand Shar DB, almost looking undersized despite its imposing 44mm case.
Despite its wonderful name, Dubey & Schaldenbrand is a relatively young Swiss brand, having been founded in 1946 by Georges Dubey and René Schaldenbrand. Together they were pioneers in the industry, and inventors of the “índex mobile” for the modern day Split-Seconds Flyback Chronograph. They went on to register several international patents in the 1940’s, which helped shape the Swiss watch-making industry. Although not stated, I believe the brand fell victim to the quartz crisis of the 1970s.
The brand was revived in the mid 90’s, and was able to take advantage of their decision during the 70s and early 80s to tour all manufacturers in order to purchase watch movements and components. Their strategy was to recase each movement according to the era when it was created. Accodingly, the Dubey & Schaldenbrand designs rapidly found a niche with collectors.
To this day, Dubey & Schaldenbrand are known for fitting many of their watches with antique movements but in this instance the movement is the trusty workhorse of chronographs, the Valjoux 7750. But this movement has been hand assembled and hand decorated in Dubey & Schaldenbrand’s workshops in La Chaux de Fonds, and here the watch is, gleaming in all its rhodium coated blued screws, Cotes de Geneve 18k gold glory as we set forth for the heat and humidity of Davao.
The dial features two superimposed dials which reveal central hours and minutes indicated by the white SuperLuminova hands, a seconds counter at 9 o’clock, the date window at 3:30, the split-time chronograph seconds function by large central seconds hand, the chronograph minute counter at 12 o’clock and hour counter at 6 o’clock. Surrounding this are oversized Roman numerals with the unashamed Dubey & Schaldenbrand logo running across the dial from X to XI.
The case, which Dubey & Schaldenbrand make entirely themselves, has pushers and a monogrammed DS crown. For most Asians there is usually only one metal of choice, and that is gold. So here in the mono class domestic flight to the capital of Mindanao, I am gazing at a watch worth comfortably over $30,000 (Update: Price: $10,250 with a steel case; $13,700 for the titanium/carbon fiber edition and $30,950 with a gold case) in a part of the world where the average watch purchase is under $100. I hadn’t just landed a big fish, I had landed a whale.
It would have been interesting to say the least to discover who my fellow passenger was, but even before take-off he had dozed off, and throughout the 90 minute flight he was dead to the world. As we were waiting to ‘deplane’ I did manage to say ‘nice watch’. Glancing at it my travelling companion said ‘Thanks, it was a 30th birthday present.’ My son turns 30 next week, believe me, he won’t be getting one of these beauties.
You can read an “On the Wrist” review of the Dubey & Schaldenbrand Grand Shar DB on iW Magazine.