Wednesday, October 22, 2014

De Bethune Masters Artistry and Horology

With its refined approach to watchmaking, De Bethune shows an inventor’s imagination and a poet’s heart.

The DB28 Digitale comes in a 45mm titanium case.
“A lot of companies make watches, but only a few of those are truly creating art. De Bethune is one,” proclaims David Zanetta, who founded the company with master watchmaker Denis Flageollet in 2002. Audacious? Perhaps, but it’s difficult to argue the point after seeing the DB28 Digitale in person and observing its rare mix of digital and analog displays in action.

Remarkably, the watch has no moving hands. Instead, it indicates the time with a rotating minute ring and a jumping hour display. Introduced in the 18th century, the jump hour complication shows the hour numerically by means of a rotating disc that snaps forward every 60 minutes.

The Digitale's hand-wound movement is resistant to
shocks thanks to De Bethune's triple pare-chute system. 
A great deal of research and development was needed to ensure that both of these moving displays operate smoothly and precisely, Zanetta says. This led the Swiss watchmaker to create the sophisticated mechanism at the heart of the DB28 Digitale, which uses micro-ball bearings to advance both the hours and minutes. De Bethune incorporates several of its patented mechanical innovations into this ingenious system, including a balance wheel made of silicon and white gold, a triple pare-chute shock absorption system and self-regulating twin winding barrels. “It’s really a snapshot of all our innovations in one watch,” says De Bethune CEO Pierre Jacques.

Collectors may recall the MaxiChrono that De Bethune introduced eight years ago. The watch was an exceedingly rare example of a monopusher chronograph with five hands mounted on the same axis. That trait remains for its return this year, however, the chronograph movement inside has been completely re-imagined.

The DB28 MaxiChrono features a new clutch system created by the brand. The design actually includes a separate clutch for each of the three chronograph counters, which allows them to operate semi-autonomously. This patented system incorporates three column wheels and uses a combination of vertical and horizontal clutches. The arrangement not only improves the chronograph’s performance, but it also reduces friction and wear to the movement. Due to the complex nature of the DB28 MaxiChrono’s movement, De Bethune will limit production to 20 pieces a year.

The chronograph pusher is positioned at the top of
the DB28 MaxiChrono's 45mm rose gold case.
While the enhancements inside the 45mm rose gold case improve the experience of using the chronograph, the aesthetic outside is equally impressive. The multi-dimensional silver-toned dial includes contemporary-style numerals for the main time display and traditional numerals for the chronograph registers. That juxtaposition of the present and past is a constant refrain that echoes throughout the entire De Bethune collection. “Our ideal is a balance between modern innovation and traditional watchmaking of the 18th century. Mastering both opens the way for us to take our watches in any direction,” Jacques says.

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