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A Symphony of Sympathies: The Roger Dubuis Sympathie

The Roger Dubuis Sympathie collection was one of the first released by the brand setting the tone early and showcasing that Dubuis timepieces would be unique and original. The Sympathie collection combines a bold avant-garde design with respect to classical watchmaking. It’s also important to note that each of these four examples is one of only 28. Each of these timepieces emphasizes the Sympathies’ design trademarks as well as the range of the collection. There are obviously many similarities between these timepieces, but as you’ll see, even small differences can change the whole personality of the watch. 

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Each of these watches has the carre cambre—square cambered—solid three-body case in common. It’s a case shape that, without seeing it, is hard to describe. I’ve seen it listed as a cushion, tonneau, or square-shaped case, but really it’s none of those. Its original silhouette is the defining feature of this collection, and it instantly sets Sympathie watches apart from all others. The square-ish case has sharp flowing character lines that look both precise and warped at the same time. It seems to move and gives me subtle Salvador Dali vibes, ala The Persistence of Memory. While there is a slight difference between the first and second generation in their dial and sapphire shapes, the case remained the same. 

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These four watches are also all powered by the same caliber RD 57 movement. It’s a Longines L990 base movement that has been finished to an exceptionally high standard by Roger Dubuis. Measuring at under 3mm, it’s an ultra-thin time-only automatic winding movement. A testament to the calibers’ accuracy and finishing, the RD 57 has both the Geneva seal and is Bulletin D’Observatoire French chronometer certified. Literal stamps of approval from the French and Swiss are something I’ve never seen on another watch. 

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Each watch has unique traits that set them apart from the other three watches here, but the second generation S37 575 in rose gold is the outlier of the bunch. Besides the fact that it’s the only one with a dark dial, it is also the only second-generation Sympathie. You’ll notice both the dial and sapphire on this watch are round, whereas on the others, the saphire and dial follows the case shape.

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Aesthetically this round dial isn’t my favorite, but functionally it helps the watch maintain a more secure seal helping protect it from water. You’ll also notice the dial on this watch has a Guilloche pattern and calls this out on the dial with “Guilloche main” written just above six o clock. The dark patterned dial looks great from multiple angles and allows the rose gold Breguet applied numerals to stand out. The dial’s text is gilt rose gold, which I’ve yet to disklike on any watch and wont start now. This is the most reserved watch of the group, the dark round dial tones down the abnormal case shape, and the overall styling is more classic than it is bold. It still has plenty of personality and stands out amongst dress watches, but It doesn’t call attention to itself the same way these other Sympathie models do. 

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The Roger Dubuis Sympathie S34 575 is a first-generation model with an 18k rose gold case and cream-colored dial. The 12,3,6 and 9 are applied rose gold Breguet numerals while the rest of the hour markers are diamond-shaped multifaceted rose gold indices. The indices and detailed railroad track—which has delineations and numerals every five minutes and markers for 5ths of a second—makes for a busy permitter leaving the center of the watch clean and open.

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This design choice gives off the impression of a simple dial while actually having a lot of ornamentation and detail. It’s a conflicting design for me, both the diamond indices and red railroad numerals stand out and create an original look for this timepiece, but I’m not sure if I love them or hate them. Would I like this design more if the railroad numerals were black? Would simple round gold indices calm things down and make for a more refined design? Maybe, but changing those elements might also make the watch boring, and that’s just not Dubuis’s style. Ultimately it’s a design that makes me think about it and stare at it longer, and because of that, I think it’s doing its job. 

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This first-generation S37 575 is probably my favorite of the group. The full set of rose gold Breguet styled Arabic numerals against the cream dial just does it for me.  The first detail that stood out to me was the outer railroad track. I love the simple black numerals and the fact that it counts to 300 tracking fifths of a second for one minute. While I’m not sure why you would need to see this kind of detail on a time-only watch, I love that it’s there. Other quirky details are the curvy “Bulletin D’Observatoire” just above six o’clock, the small gold indices for minutes that follow the flow of the case and dial, and the blued steel leaf hands. Altogether they give this watch the perfect ratio of eccentric details and classic styling, which is what Roger Dubuis is all about. 

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The only white gold model in this batch is also, interestingly enough, the loudest piece. Typically and under the radar material, the S37 570 is another first-generation, giving you the curvy squared dial that perfectly follows the case. Right off the bat, this watch reminds me of a roulette wheel, something about the way the printed grey-blue numerals and the red railroad track minute markers look against the white dial. Then you add the “dart wheel” pattern in the center of the dial, and the whole thing just screams Vegas.

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Now that might sound like a dig, but I’m not talking cheesy drive-through wedding Vegas. It’s very much a classy vintage Sinatra Vegas. However, my favorite detail is that they went with printed rather than applied numerals because it allows them to have this topsy turvy style that better follows the timepiece’s flow. If the first generation S37 575 weren’t here, this one would be my favorite. It has so much character, and I think best embodies the Roger Dubuis style out of the group. 

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Each of these watches has its own distinct personality, and while together, they would make a cool collection, I suspect people will be very drawn towards just one or two in particular. All of them are exceptional timepieces that harness Roger Dubuis, the man and the brands’ unique take on watchmaking. They represent the brand in its infancy, and some would say they represent the brand at its best. Now all you need to decide is which one represents you.

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