The last thing you want to learn after spending $30,000 for a timepiece is that corners were cut in its creation. De Bethune, a newly established company, believes its no-compromise approach to watchmaking will be refreshing to connoisseurs disappointed by the offerings of large brands beholden to the exigencies of production.
De Bethune founders Denis Flageollet and David Zanetta were partners in specialty watchmaking house THA (Techniques Horlogères Appliqueés), whose members include such visionary watchmakers as François-Paul Journe and Vianney Halter. A behind-the-scenes creative engine for many major brands, THA distinguished itself by developing the single push-button chronograph and Mystery clocks for Cartier and the modern Sympathique clocks for Breguet.
At De Bethune, the commitment to quality is most evident in the watches’ details. Dials are made of gold and decorated with genuine guilloche engraving, and all movements are completely hand finished. Similarly, the use of the most expensive, glare-resistant crystals and high-performance metal alloys for plates and bridges sets these timepieces apart from those of most high-volume manufacturers. “The quality of more industrialized processes is nearly the same, but it is not exactly the same,” says Zanetta, De Bethune’s president. “Palladium screws have the longest life, but they are too expensive for most of the industry. Real connoisseurs will appreciate the difference.”
They also appreciate De Bethune’s progressive interpretation of classical Swiss watch design. The DB1—De Bethune’s version of the single push-button chronograph developed at THA—balances traditional design elements such as Roman numerals, guilloche, and pomme hands (with circular tips) with clean case curves and torpedo-shaped lugs that lend a modern flavor. The company purchased the rights to the THA single push-button chronograph design for its DB1 and DB8 models, thereby making it exclusive to the collection.
This year, for the DB15, the company completed its first true in-house movement: a perpetual calendar with a moon phase. This truly integrated manual-wind movement with no add-on modules is a most impressive step for a young company. Immediately noticeable is the spherical moon phase indicator and a space-age balance wheel that is visible through the caseback. The balance wheel’s titanium construction, with three platinum bullets at the extremities, is designed to provide more efficient weight distribution for enhanced accuracy.
Other manual-wind De Bethunes—the DB2, DB3, and DB9—will be bolstered with a similar in-house movement by the end of the year and will incorporate the same eye-catching blend of classicism with a touch of modernism. “The proportionality and details are so crisp that these watches are really making an impression with some very experienced watch customers,” says Gene Stern of Swiss Fine Timing/Atelier Jewelers in Highland Park, Ill. “The watches are novel, but well thought-out, not just crazy. For a real watch connoisseur, they seem to have all the right stuff.