De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon Watch Hands-On

De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon Watch Hands-On

De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

De Bethune is always a personal highlight for me at Baselworld because no matter what they've got to show, it won't be boring. This year they had a wide range of really cool pieces on display, from the DB28 Dark Shadows to the DB28 Maxichrono and the DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon. The Maxichrono Tourbillon is a fantastic oddity, with five centrally mounted hands offering time and a simple-to-use 24 hour chronograph that belies its incredible complexity (which David covered at great length here). Like the DB28 Digitale, there is a lot going on under its lovely surface and the DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon is perhaps the logical conclusion of De Bethune's unique approach to design and considerable skills in complicated watch making.

De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

With cone-shaped lugs and a width of 46 mm, the rose gold DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon sports a large and distinctive case. Featuring a monopusher chronograph control, the Maxichrono Tourbillon is entirely controlled via the crown at three. Below the crown there is a small button that opens the rear pocketwatch-style door which covers the case back of the DB29. The rear panel is smooth, with no labels or text, and covers not only the complex architecture of the movement but also the only view of the tourbillon within.

The dial is a silver-toned collection of concentric rings that, along with the five centrally-mounted hands, communicates not only time but also a 24-hour chronograph. At first glance, the stack of hands can be quite intimidating but with a little understanding the complexity gives way to a rather simple chronograph display. The two blued-steel breguet hands show conventional time while the short blue hand displays the hours of the chronograph on the inner 24 hour ring. At the outer edge of the dial lies a combined minutes and seconds scale that is used by the gold-tone minutes chronograph hand and a blue chronograph seconds hand.

De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

With all those hands and only one button, you know the movement is worth a closer look. The DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon uses De Bethune's DB2039 hand-wound movement. Running at 5 Hz, the 2039 uses 49 jewels and a total of 410 pieces to incorporate a tourbillon with 30 seconds indication, as well as a silicon and white gold balance wheel, a silicon escape wheel, and a trio of column wheels to manage the chronograph (seriously cool stuff).

Twin barrels with self regulating power delivery manage a maximum power reserve of five days, which is key because the DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon is likely too nice for daily carry. With the rear cover opened, it is clear that the movement is both massively complicated and beautifully hand-finished. With largely open architecture and a no rotor to obscure some of the view through the rear sapphire crystal, the trick rear cover makes the DB29 something of a party piece and adds yet another quirky element to this strange and wonderful watch.

De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

With a thickness of 11.7 mm, the DB29 wears well, but like most from De Bethune it is rather wide and its gold case makes for a noticeable weight (especially when compared to the large but light-as-a-feather DB28 dark Shadows). I am long on record as a fan of the eccentric spirt that is exemplified by De Bethune's watches and while the DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon may not boast articulated skeleton lugs or a celestial-inspired dial, it is strange, mechanically fantastic, hugely imaginative and just so much fun.

De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Tangible or otherwise, the many qualities of a watch like this are what make so-called luxury watches worth knowing about. Yes, it costs $270,000 USD and is limited to just 20 units, but that likely only matters to the lucky few who will ever own one, right? debethune.ch

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  • There is so much to love here. A chronograph with no subdials (which makes it easier to read by not having tiny scales on tiny subdials). Lots of tech. A tourbillon, but not one that is in your face. It’s sort of a secret pleasure for the owner and those who get a peak behind the hunter case cover. 
    I tend to think of de Bethune as the maker of those far out Star Trek inspired watches and then there is this completely different side to their collection. Outside of the hands, you don’t see the blued steel and titanian or cote de geneve which are trademarks from the other side of their house.
    It was a treat to see this and other de Bethune masterpieces at BaselWorld 2014 with James. Nice folks and fabulous watches so unlike anything else. Trying on these beauties is like being a kid in a candy store . Sadly after a lot of photos, you have to leave wearing on your wrist what you had when you went in.

  • ToniG

    Beautiful watch.  Absolutely ridiculous to have to take it off to admire the movement.

    Free suggestion:  the watch band should have been mounted to the solid case-back, with the watch/display back hinging open from the front for viewing.

    Can you imagine having to take off the watch just to be able to see the movement?

    Easy Peesie.

    First time commenting – love the site.  Always enjoy Mark Carson’s comments.

  • Lkcons

    One day when I am big..oh, forget it, wishful thinking 🙁

  • Can say I’m a fan of those lugs, but I do love this watch. that super satin dial looks like an accent pillow from Heaven, and the movement view is magical – even though this watch would lose absolutely nothing from NOT having a tourbillon. No Star Trek shaped bridges either, which is great. 

    Do we have to call these ‘Breguet” hands? Sounds so insulting, like DB is trying to pull off a scam – just refer to them as Pomme? They are used by countless brands – from Ralph Lauren to C. Ward to Cartier to Chronoswiss and well beyond. I don’t know the history of say… the Dauphine handset design, but countless watches use those as well, and I don’t consider it thievery of design property.

  • WimadS

    Fabulous.

    Period.

  • thornwood36

    Stunning from every angle

  • AccdiModa

    Loving the vintage clasas this watch embodies! We could easily see this timepiece on the likes of the show Mad Men!

  • Using concentric dials is a great idea.  I just don’t see the need for the outer scale, making the dial way too busy.  Additionally, I think that the hands should be color coded by function, perhaps blue for time and gold for the chronograph, to improve legibility.  

    I love single-pusher chronograph: the reason why I don’t have any chronograph yet, as the multiple pushers marr otherwise beautiful case lines with busy pushers.

    And such a beautiful movement, modestly sporting a tourbillon!  Too bad that they don’t use a gold-studded sapphire rotor to make it an automatic while avoiding to hide the aesthetics of the movement.

    One final note: drop the torpedo lugs, will ya?

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  • IanE

    Oh dear, I’m in love again!