The disdain in David Zanetta’s voice is palpable as he describes the “half-franc piece of brass” that serves as the regulating organ in many wristwatches. Of course, the silver-haired CEO of boutique watchmaker De Bethune knows of a much better design. Consider, he says, the balance wheel in his firm’s $123,600 DW1. That wheel is made of silicon and ringed with platinum, two materials that provide superior performance and design quality. This silvery platter sits in a voluptuously curved movement that is visible through the dial, its oscillations barely perceptible.
Over the years, Zanetta and technical director Denis Flageollet have driven De Bethune’s designs toward a more futuristic style and, in doing so, have redefined what a wristwatch should be. With the DW1, they have achieved a new design that leaps beyond futuristic and into the realm of science fiction.
Zanetta is quick to point out that this timepiece offers performance as well as style. He and Flageollet have been careful in their collaborations to base their more extreme stylistic departures on real-world performance improvements. In the case of the DW1 and its advanced balance wheel, Zanetta says, their primary objective was to create a piece that would deliver precision and accuracy while being worn. “The principle of our research from the beginning has always been to find a balance with the highest inertia and the lightest weight,” he explains. “A high-inertia system will absorb changes in position and shocks far more easily than a standard system will.”
De Bethune’s team of designers used silicon, an ultralightweight metalloid, to create the inner structure of the wheel, and they placed a weighty platinum ring on the outside to provide balance. They mounted the hairspring on the back of the disk and attached a micrometric regulator that allows the wearer of the timepiece to control the regulation of the watch precisely from the case back.
Zanetta attributes the DW1’s exceptional precision to this unorthodox, strikingly clean design. “As usual,” he says, “the best outcome arises from simplicity.”
De Bethune, 212.729.7152, www.debethune.ch