When I usually think about haute horology, I notice that amaze isn’t that easy.
Few brands achieve a constant stream of innovation without becoming trivial and boring for the customer.
De Bethune is surely one.
The brand’s philosophy, to combine “classic” fine-watchmaking’s characteristic with contemporary or futuristic processes, brought countless successes and patents, 27 developed calibers (in less than 20 years of activity) and fully in-house production of all the components that will make the final watch.
Here’s a selection of the most important news we saw at De Bethune’s stand in the Hyperion hotel during BaselWorld 2019.
Fire and flames: DB28 Yellow Tones
I’ve always been fascinated by De Bethune’s creativity, especially Denis Flageollet’s, master watchmaker and co-founder of the brand, and by the technique they use to finish titanium, turning it blue, distinctive color for the maison, symbol of harmony and infinity.
This time, we’re immediately hit by a particular yellow hue. This color, always obtained by oxidizing titanium at a specific temperature, is the first stage of the process.
Wear the new DB28 Yellow Tones was electrifying!
A golden yellow color, with almost bronze shades, made me realize how deep is the research behind the oxidation of the grade 5 titanium, used to build the case and almost every inner component of this innovative timekeeper.
It looks like a starship, an avant-garde design watch that, when worn, hugs the wrist thanks to the particular lugs.
These, together with a reduced weight and the alligator strap, make it so comfortable to wear that you almost don’t feel it.
The beating heart is the manual wound DB2115V4
The first thing you notice is the distinctive Cotes De Bethune decorated bridge, paired with the patented shock-absorbing system “Triple pare-choc” that lets the titanium balance at six to rest in optimal operating position through every use.
Right after, we notice the spherical steel and palladium moon phase, brand’s patent, that ensures the loss of one day every 122 years.
Entirely hand built and finished, the indexes recalls the moon phase shapes and the hands are skeletonized.
Power reserve, achieved by two self-regulating barrels, is 6 days and it’s displayed on the case back.
List price of 95.000 CHF.
DB21 Max Chrono Réédition
When I switched from the Yellow Tones to this, I felt like going back to “normality”.
Shapes I was already used to, great wrist feeling speaking of weight and stability, the classic blue titanium.
Looking at the dial, something was wrong.
Is it possible to have a chronograph with all five hands fitted on a single center pinion, each accessible from a single central crown?
Absolutely yes, if you ask Denis Flageollet.
This chronograph, in a 10-pieces limited edition, recalls a 2006 project redesigning a few estethical and mechanical aspects.
The dial looks like a true professional analog chronograph, able to record times within a tenth of a second precision, up to 24 hours. The DB2030 movement allows for a 5 days power reserve and is equipped with the “De Bethune absolute clutch”.
This special patent allows for a combined use of two traditional frictions (vertical and horizontal), enabling different chronographic registers to work almost autonomously, with vertical and horizontal friction.
These three independent systems, each controlled by a column wheel, control the chronograph registers.
The crown allows the set, reset and restart of every single function.
It is located at 6 to let the owner operate with full control and speed.
List price of 155.000 CHF.
The Milky Way on the wrist: DB25 Starry Varius Chronomètre Tourbillon
If Abraham-Louis Breguet invented the tourbillon, with this watch De Bethune tried to push to the limit the improvements feasible to this complication to make it as efficient as possible, adding one of horology’s best starry night in history.
Awarded at GPHG as “2018 best chronometer”, features a tourbillon on the back side that is built to work at the highest speed possible thanks to its 63 components made from silicon and titanium, the lightest weighting less than 0.0001 grams.
The manual movement this watch is equipped with is the DB2109V4 with dead seconds, allowing for a precise reading and setting.
The titanium balance wheel is regulated by a flat-end patented spring, ensuring a perfect gravity center.
All these characteristics allows for a 0.00 seconds/day loss, tested in 6 positions.
Wearing it, though, is the dial that steals my heart and makes me forget about all the technical specifications.
The dial, customizable by the customer with a date and geographic indication, is in gradient blue titanium, symbolizing the sky. White gold pins are applied to represent stars.
The Milky Way is realized with a laser engraving that is then filled with 24 kt gold leaf. The hours and minutes ring, on the other hand, is silvered.
List price of 197.000 CHF.
(In the picture you see the non tourbillon version, very similar and without the central seconds, with retail price of 60.000 CHF.)
DB28GS Grand Bleu
A big news for De Bethune: this watch is 100% sporty.
It’s the DB28GS evolution, that was launched 10 years ago because of Denis Flageollet’s passion for outdoor sports.
I think that with this reedition, that I’ll better call “transformation”, De Bethune created the perfect sports watch for haute horology lovers: highly complicated yet comfortable and easy to use.
The most interesting complication, that I never saw before, is that it generates light in a totally mechanical way.
No batteries or electronics, that allows for a few seconds to read the watch in the most harsh and darkest environments.
This is possible thanks to the new caliber DB2080
Except for other amazing characteristic typical for De Bethune, like the titanium balance wheel or the “Triple Pare-Chute” shock-absorbing system, this movement features this new mechanism inspired by bikes dynamo.
A gear converts the two barrel torsion (that ensure a 5 day power reserve) into light that allows for a few seconds to tell the time in dark situations.
When only one day of power reserve is left, it’s not possible to activate the mechanism to preserve correct time keeping.
A new kind of “lume”
To ease the reading of indexes and hands, De Bethune developed together with Black Badger Advanced Company (Sweden) and SuperLuminova (Switzerland) a new photoluminescent blue called Blue Moon that recalls the classical “De Bethune Blue”.
The bezel is rotating to measure precisely diving times. The numbers that moves with it, appears on a sapphire crystal to ease the reading in harsh conditions.
This is the 27th caliber developed and produced entirely by De Bethune. It features, together with hours and minutes, a power reserve indicator at 9 o’clock.
The feeling on the wrist is astonishing and by wearing it, I immediately understand why it’s defined as the first 100% sports watch from the maison.
The classical floating lugs have been redesigns and slightly redimensioned to better fit the wrist, its lightness makes me forget to have it on.
What can I say? Considering the 10 atm water resistance and the two provided straps, one in rubber and the other in leather, I think it’s the perfect compromise for whoever is looking for a hyper-technically advanced watch but with a soul that adjusts as good to an outdoor lover as to someone that wants to wear its super watch without worrying of water, shocks or problem in time telling.
List price of 93.500 CHF.