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BaselWorld2014: Belles of the fair: The two brothers – DeBethune MaxiChronos DB29 Tourbillon and DB28

by Peter Chong on April 19, 2014

We have always been a big fan of the work of Denis Flageollet, co-founder with David Zaneta of DeBethune. He is a veritable genius of a watchmaker, and always astounds with amazing complications and interesting solutions to everyday watchmaking problems.

DeBethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon and DB28 Maxichrono.

The DeBethune Maxichrono, on the left the DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon and on the right the DB28 Maxichrono.

 

And this BaselWorld, he was again the talk of the show, with DeBethune showing not one, but two chronographs. Both based on the same, very unique chronograph movement, but one with a tourbillon and one without.

 

The chronograph movement – coaxial mono poussior with 3 column wheels.

 

Movement of the DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon

Movement of the DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon, the caliber DB2039, with a 5 day power reserve. Visible are two of the three column wheels. One at 12 o’clock in the photograph, and one at 6 o’clock. The column wheel at 12 o’clock carries another column wheel stacked below it. Also visible near the center of the movement is the flat spring which is used in the vertical clutch of the DB Absolute Clutch.

 

The chronograph, of course is the center of the interest. This is, to our knowledge, the only chronograph with all 5 hands: the hours, minutes, and the chronograph seconds, minutes and hours are coaxially mounted from the center of the dial.  And to top that, the control for the chronograph is via a mono-poussier, i.e. single button coaxial to the crown.

 

 

Movement of the DB28 Maxichrono.

Movement of the DB28 Maxichrono. Note that two column wheels are visible, one at 12 o’clock of the photograph, and another at 6 o’clock.

 

And just to make things even more unique and complicated, the watch boasts not only of 3 separate column wheels, each controlling the start, stop and reset of the seconds, minutes and hour totalizers, but also each being operated under a different principle than the other. Amazing technical virtuoso, as only Denis can manage.

 

Diagram showing the location of the column wheels and the clutch system of the De Bethune MaxiChrono movement.

Diagram showing the location of the column wheels and the clutch system of the De Bethune MaxiChrono movement.

 

The chronograph seconds hand is controlled by a totally novel clutch system which Denis call the Absolute Clutch. The minute totalizer is controlled by a vertical clutch system, which DeBethune calls a shifting pinion, and the hour totalizer by a more conventional horizontal clutch system.

 

Detail of one of the column wheels.

Detail of one of the column wheels. Note the magnificently finished, hand polished steel parts gleaming in the light.

 

The intent for such a complex system, utilizing 3 column wheels is to make the  most of the advantages of the horizontal and vertical clutch systems while eliminating their faults. It thus benefits from a marked reduction in the friction that affects the movement both when the chronograph is running and when it is functioning without the chronograph engaged. The coordination between the 3 column wheels, and how this complicated system works is beyond the scope of this article, but perhaps can be explored in a later technical article.

 

The tourbillon and escapement.

 

De Bethune DB2039 MaxiChrono Tourbillon movement showing detail of the silicon and polished titanium tourbillon cage and escapement.

De Bethune DB2039 MaxiChrono Tourbillon movement showing detail of the silicon and polished titanium tourbillon cage and escapement.

 

In the DB29, a 30 second tourbillon is used as the regulating organ. The titanium tourbillon carriage spins at double the speed of a regular one minute tourbillon (of note, Parmigiani tourbillons also spin at 2 revolutions every minute), and the white gold and silicon balance beats at 36,000 bph. The DB28 on the other hand, carries a more conventional escapement sans tourbillon, also with a white gold and silicon balance beating at 36,000 bph.

 

De Bethune DB2030 movement, showing the conventional escapement, made of a white gold and silicon balance wheel and silicon escape wheel.

De Bethune DB2030 movement, showing the conventional escapement, made of a white gold and silicon balance wheel and silicon escape wheel.

 

 

The case and dial design.

 

The design of the DB29 Tourbillon is rather classical, with a double caseback – a sapphire display back with a gold hunter styled.

 

De Bethune DB29 MaxiChrono Tourbillon. Classical case in red gold, with a sapphire caseback protected by a hinged hunter style caseback.

De Bethune DB29 MaxiChrono Tourbillon. Classical case in red gold, with a sapphire caseback protected by a hinged hunter style caseback.

 

And the DB28 is a bit more bold, with skeletonized articulating lugs in blued titanium.

 

The more aggressively styled  De Bethune DB28 MaxiChrono with articulating lugs.  Note the beauty of the 5 hands, all coaxially mounted from the center of the dial. Note also that the dial is a complicated, multi level,, multi curved surface to maximise legibility. The chronograph measures up to a maximum of 23 hours, 59 mins, 59.9 seconds.

The more aggressively styled De Bethune DB28 MaxiChrono with articulating lugs.
Note the beauty of the 5 hands, all coaxially mounted from the center of the dial. Note also that the dial is a complicated, multi level,, multi curved surface to maximise legibility. The chronograph measures up to a maximum of 23 hours, 59 mins, 59.9 seconds.

 

Both cases are in red gold, and measure 47mm fin diameter or the DB29 and only 1mm smaller for the DB28 The case thickness is similar at 11.7 mm for DB29 and 11 mm for DB28.

 

Hand finishing.

 

The finishing of the case, dial and movement is first rate. All the essential, and classical finissage is executed to perfection, with the anglages of the bridges particularly beautifully done, and of note the black polish of the very elegantly designed stainless steel chronograph parts being done perfectly.

 

DB28 movement. Finishing is top rate, with all the traditional finissage points very well addressed.

DB28 movement. Finishing is top rate, with all the traditional finissage points very well addressed.

 

These two movements represent the pinnacle of watchmaking’s best chronographs in history…a crown we feel they share with the now iconic Lange Datograph. These movements sit at the peak because of the beauty and elegance of their design, and the amazing attention to detail in their execution and final finishing.

 

De Bethune DB29 MaxiChrono Tourbillon on the wrist.

De Bethune DB29 MaxiChrono Tourbillon on the wrist.

 

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