A few years ago when I first had an opportunity to lay my hands on De Bethune watches I quickly realized that this was one of the few brands destined to earn my money when and if the time came that their products were within my financial means. From afar, De Bethune watches are everything from strange to positively unfathomable. They don’t fit in the standard model of a high-end classical watch brand. They are their own entity, with their own values, and a core of strengths that is really satisfying once you get to know them.
Confident in their watches, they don’t seek much feedback. They sort of know they are cool, but are friendly enough when it comes to sharing their passion with everyone else. The last few years has seen a lot of growth and success for the boutique Swiss brand run with Italian blood. From both a mechanical and design perspective there is quite a lot to see and enjoy here. One of their finest new watches, and probably one of the best for 2013 overall is the new De Bethune DB16 Tourbillon Regulator.
While De Bethune watches have an opening price of around $40,000, this is not one of those pieces. While not the absolute most complex and expensive piece they’ve made, this is very much toward the top of their range. Unlike the DB28 with its wild spaceship style case design. The DB16 has the brand’s original, more classic yet unique case which here is 43mm wide in 18k rose gold. You see a bit of that spacey design in the lugs, which on the wrist look cool. Much of this timepiece (and brand) seems to be fantasy spaceship inspired.
Turn the watch over and the movement greets you like nothing you’ve seen before. Well, you’ve seen it before if you own De Bethune watches, but otherwise it is totally unique. Very Star Trekkian, the in-house made De Bethune caliber 2509 has a long list of features to make horology enthusiasts weak in the knees. To sum it all up, the DB16 watch has a dead-beat seconds tourbillon, perpetual calendar, moon phase indicator and power reserve indicator. It also boasts some convenience features which are rare to find.
The indicators on the movement side are worth noting. First there is a scale for setting the precise phase of the moon. While rather logical, finding these 0-29.5 day scales for precision setting are rare. Most of the time you have to end up counting the clicks and using your eye to decide when the full moon is. The moon phase display itself uses a small rotating metal orb. Also on the rear of the watch is a small power reserve indicator. Nothing too fancy, but a functional and minimalist scale that De Bethune knows is necessary to have in a watch with a four day power reserve. Last, there is a seconds scale around the tourbillon – which is a 30 second versus a one minute tourbillon. It helps to visualize its motion in a more accurate manner.
De Bethune is charmingly consistent in the production of its mostly symmetrical movements. They are beautiful to look at, and as an experiment, I shot the DB16 without a flash to offer a more realistic view of what it looks like from both sides. In addition to being a tourbillon, the escapement has some unique features. First of all, it is made from silicon in a titanium cage. Try finding other brands that do that. The escapement also features a silicon escape wheel. Together these features allow for the DB16’s movement to run at a quick 5 Hz speed, or rather 36,000 bph. That is on par with Zenith El Primero speeds and is all in the name of accuracy and timing consistency. The final avant garde touch is the dead beat seconds hands. The “regulator” part of the watch’s name refers to this feature which historically was linked to the most accurate clocks. The DB16’s seconds hand on the dial ticks like that on a quartz watch. Though I have to say that a mechanical dead seconds hand is more precise and less jittery than a quartz watch’s seconds hand.
The DB16 Tourbillon Regulator’s dial is all beauty. From the depth to the decoration, this is classic, yet unique. Blued Breguet style hands are graceful looking while the indicators are well laid out. Windows are placed for the month and day of the week, while a subsidiary date window sits below the moon phase dial (which also has a small window that acts as the leap year indicator). Extremely legible, this watch well-highlights its functions as well as decorative features. This is among the few $100,000 plus watches that simply ‘want’ to be worn on a daily basis.
While the DB16 is inherently a classic watch, the many unique features it possess including small movement details or design elements make it something special and separate from the crowd. I continue to be very fond of what De Bethune does and feel that works like this are masterful. Though it is more than priced accordingly at 360,000 Swiss Francs. debethune.ch
DB16 Tourbillon Regulator Technical description
Functions: hours – minutes – central jumping seconds – date at 6 o’clock – perpetual calendar indicating the day at 9 o’clock and the month at 3 o’clock – spherical moon-phase and leap-year indication at 12 o’clock – tourbillon with 30-second indication – power indication – age of the moon indication
Movement: mechanical hand-wound
Power reserve: 4 days
Case: distinctive shape, pink gold – diameter 43 mm (thickness 13.13 mm)
Attachments: cone-shaped lugs
Back: transparent – De Bethune Tourbillon 30” silicon/titanium 36,00 vph – central jumping seconds mechanism – retrograde age of the moon indicator – power-reserve indicator
Dial: silver-toned, sunburst guilloché motif, with apertures indicating the day of the week at 9 o’clock and the month at 3 o’clock – 6 o’clock dial indicating the day of the month
De Bethune star-studded sky in flame-blued steel encrusted with gold stars, featuring spherical moon-phase indicator in platinum and flame-blued steel at 12 o’clock
Hands: curved, in hand-polished and flame-blued steel
Strap: extra-supple alligator leather strap with pin buckle
Movement: mechanical hand-wound
Functions: hours – minutes – central jumping seconds – date at 6 o’clock – perpetual calendar indicating the day at 9 o’clock and the month at 3 o’clock – spherical moon-phase and leap-year indication at 12 o’clock
Power indication at 6 o’clock – tourbillon with 30-second indication – age of the moon indication
Diameter 30 mm – 330 parts – hand-crafted finishing and decoration – Côtes De Bethune
Self-regulating twin barrel*
Silicon/white gold balance wheel – balance-spring with flat end curve*
De Bethune 30” silicon/titanium tourbillon, 36,000 vph*
Central jumping seconds*
Silicon escape wheel*
Spherical moon-phase indication*
Retrograde age of the moon indication*
Jewelling: 46 jewels
Frequency: 36,000 vibrations per hour
Power reserve: 4 days