January 20, 2014
by James Stacey
It’s hard to deny the raw wow factor of a De Bethune watch, especially those of the expanding DB28 range. De Bethune’s wild celestial designs always find a striking balance between the delusional and the jaw dropping. Not ones to waste the limelight of an event like SIHH, De Bethune has selected the Geneva show for the launch of their latest DB28 variant – the Digitale, and it’s an absolute stunner. Featuring a digital jumping hours display with radial minutes and a centrally mounted moon phase, the Digitale takes the DB28 in a completely different and entirely charming direction.
Jumping hour watches present a difficult design challenge as so much of the dial is now negative space. Dial balance and additional complications are more difficult to implement and one must be very careful not to fill the free dial space with anything that might distract from the jumping hour display, thus diminishing the impact of the main feature of the watch. De Bethune has handled this challenge to great effect as the DB28 Digitale offers a simple but detailed dial design that is free of extraneous dial text and unnecessary embellishment and offers a nicely balanced use of their distinctive skill set and signature features.
The jumping hour digital display is set mid-dial at 12, below a radial 9 to 3 minutes ring that is bolstered by a lovely blued titanium sky along the outer edge of the dial opening. When you think De Bethune you likely think of moon phases, and they have integrated their signature spherical moon phase at the center of the dial, again surrounded by a blue titanium sky featuring white gold stars.
The moon itself is comprised of two halves, one in palladium and the other in blued steel (just as we saw on the lovely DB25LT Tourbillon). The mechanism powering the moon phase is accurate to a degree of one lunar day in every 1112 years (can hand-winding duties be outlined in a will?).
Now we come to the empty space, the area normally occupied by hands, dial text, date displays, chronograph registers and hour markers. On the Digitale, De Bethune has opted for an eye-catching barleycorn pattern along with a small and unobtrusive nameplate. The nameplate, while probably unnecessary (who else would make a watch like this?), balances the top-heavy design of the jump hour and minutes alignment. The mix of simple shapes, strong symmetry and eye catching detail makes the Digitale one of the most balanced and interesting non-conventional watches De Bethune has ever released.