I wouldn’t be lying if I said I thought De Bethune was one of the most consistently interesting brands in independent watchmaking these days. Ever since Pierre Jacques returned to his role as CEO in October of 2017, the brand has never come close to a misfire. While the pinnacle achievement for De Bethune during this 19-month period was its victory in the Chronometry category at the 2018 GPHG for the DB25 Starry Varius Chronomètre Tourbillon, the brand has released a number of other highlight pieces including the DB28 Steel Wheels and the DB28 Kind of Blue since then. So far in 2019, the brand has continued this pattern with five new timepieces released (so far) that showcase a commitment to the American market, the continued exploration of the brand’s experiments with heated titanium, and an exciting first that exemplifies the horological experimentation that has attracted people to De Bethune since it was founded in 2003. De Bethune will be showcasing its latest novelties alongside a number of other timepieces at the WatchTime Los Angeles show at Hudson Loft in Downtown LA on May 3-4. Click here to get your tickets now!
The DB28 Kind of Gold is De Bethune’s first limited-edition exclusive to the US market. Heat-blued titanium has served as a defining feature of De Bethune for years with its greatest application being found in the Kind of Blue series that has existed since 2016. For the Kind of Gold, De Bethune has used mirror-polished, heat-blued titanium as its base design for the movement, base plate, and floating lugs but applies 5N rose gold to the case itself, the crown, and the hour and minute hands. This unconventional two-tone look creates a halo effect around the 42.6-mm dimensions. The movement inside is hand-wound manufacture movement DB2115 that has been used in previous DB28 timepieces and offers approximately six days of running autonomy with a power reserve indicator visible through the exhibition caseback. The DB28 Kind of Gold was released in February of this year at the Watches & Wonders fair in Miami. It’s limited to 10 total pieces and is priced at $125,000.
The next watch is an exemplary take on the outer space motif that De Bethune has been known to play with. I mean, take one look at the DB28 Yellow Tones and tell me you can’t imagine it descending from the heavens in some science-fiction world? While the new watch might immediately strike you as made of solid yellow gold, it is, in fact, another example of De Bethune’s heat-treated titanium procedure. Diverging from the cooler tone of the heat-blued titanium design that we’ve come to associate with the brand, De Bethune gently oxidized the grade 5 titanium surface (case, floating lugs, base plate, part of the movement, etc.) to tint it naturally creating the bold color that the brand describes as a mixture of “amber” and “flame blond.” While De Bethune doesn’t divulge too many details about this procedure, the result is positively mesmerizing and truly unique in person. The DB28 Yellow Tones is priced at $105,000.
The next watch is another first for De Bethune. This year the brand decided to unveil its first ever take on a dive watch and, in typical De Bethune fashion, it’s highly memorable. Given the name DB28GS Grand Bleu, the watch features the brand’s 27th in-house produced movement with a five-day power reserve and a manufacture produced balance wheel made of titanium and white gold. The 44-mm case is fully made of titanium and offers a water resistance rating of 105 meters. The lugs feature a new design in a medium size with black zirconium inserts referencing the middle side of the case. One unique feature of the DB28GS Grand Bleu is the appearance of the unidirectional bezel (the first time one has appeared on a De Bethune timepiece). While the bezel rotates like normal, the numbers are actually applied on the sapphire crystal. De Bethune says that this was chosen to keep the watch thin. The most intriguing aspect of the new diver is the application of a mechanical dynamo system that emits a blue-white light around four spots in the bezel. Using zero electronics or batteries, a pusher that is flush at 6 o’clock activates a small gear train driven by the twin barrel. This gear train, by means of a miniature dynamo, provides the necessary energy for lighting up the watch. Once the five-day power reserve has dropped to a single day (indicated by a subtle display between 9 and 10 o’clock), this function will be blocked in an effort to conserve energy. De Bethune worked with lume-expert James Thompson of Black Badger Advanced Composites to create a unique and proprietary blue photoluminescent material to improve the readability of the hands, indexes, and timer while remaining true to the brand’s trademark blue color. The DB28GS Grand Bleu is priced at $93,500 and will be limited to a run of 30 pieces each year.
The De Bethune Maxichrono was the brand’s first chronograph originally released in 2006 (and once again in 2016) and its execution helped inspire the cult following that continues for the brand to this day. In 2019, De Bethune has decided to reissue the watch once more in a limited edition run of 10 pieces. The original Maxichrono was remarkable for its design with five centrally-located hands (two for hour and minutes; three for chronographic functions) and the lack of subdials. This minimalist construction requires an extremely complex movement with several interdependent column wheels embedded into one another yet that need to operate independently. In the Maxichrono, each can be zero-reset on demand and can autonomously restart through the use of a single pusher located at 6 o’clock. The benefit of this pared-down design not only increases legibility at a glance but also offers the ability to measure longer times up to 24 hours in a row rather than the most common limits of 9 or 12 hours with 1/10th of a second accuracy. Inside the new Maxichrono is the DB2030 manufacture caliber that is fitted with the De Bethune Absolute Clutch and a five-day power reserve. The big differentiator for this iteration of the Maxichrono compared to its previous designs is the case construction (44 mm) in grade 5 titanium with heat-blued titanium floating lugs. A brushed bezel with 12 screws that function as hour markers is also new. The 2019 Maxichrono (Ref. DB21RE) is priced at $170,000.
The final new watch that was presented to us this year is the DB27 Fort Aero, a five-piece limited edition built in collaboration with Fort Aero, an Estonia-based private jet company. The watch comes in a titanium case with the familiar DB Delta-style design on the dial. Fittingly, and perhaps most interestingly, is the rotor construction which is meant to recall the shape of a jet engine turbine. The DB27 Fort Aero is priced at CHF 45,000 (USD pricing not available).