● exceptional good looking
● superb choice and execution of finishes
● excellent wrist behaviour
De Bethune released this year at SIHH a new version of the renown DB28. The new De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels is an impressive piece of machinery built for maximum impact. We announced it on the first day of SIHH 2018 here, we have it in our SIHH’s top impressive timepieces and is it time for a well-deserved hands-on review.
Review: De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels
Denis Flageollet and David Zanetta formed De Bethune in 2002 and the brand quickly became one of the most spectacular independents. The brand journey meant an engaging approach of watchmaking, new materials and innovative manufacturing techniques. De Bethune is a truly independent brand, developing and producing all their pieces in-house. Talking in numbers, the brand has around 150 models, 25 calibres and an entire list of patents. Since autumn, last year, De Bethune has new owners. More about it in our interview with Pierre Jacques, the new brand’s CEO.
The De Bethune DB28 is a spectacular series that has become a classic, not only between the brand timepieces but also between collectors and connoisseurs. During the last years, the DB28 has known successful variations. Our first presentation was in 2011, in blued titanium and rose gold, shown here. Another example, from 2015, shows the DB28 GS as the first De Bethune watch with a rubber strap. A year later, in 2016, the DB28 Kind of Blue was presented in a ravishing blue crafted in titanium. The DB28 also won De Bethune “Aiguille d’Or” prize, the most prestigious distinction awarded by the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2011.
The case, dial and hands
Looking at the case, this year’s version brings no major change. That does not mean the case all of a sudden becomes dull or boring. That unforgettable sense of lightness is there. The 42.6mm diameter case is crafted in grade-5 titanium. The highly polished and skeletonised lugs, along with the overall polished surfaces, have an elegant sense. The way of metal processing developed by De Bethune makes it looks fabulous. As if titanium has become a soft and a permissive metal. In fact, the brand developed their own way to tame the beast and they are very good at it.
The patented floating-lugs system makes the watch wear smaller than expected. The articulation made from the middle of the case permit easy adjustment on the wrist and leads to an increased comfort. At this size, the DB28 has perhaps one of the most comfortable postures. The alligator strap and a beautifully polished buckle, also manufactured in titanium, contribute to the wrist feel.
The crown is present at 12 o’clock. This unusual position for a classic timepiece is part of the iconic look of the DB28. The choice of position has to do with the articulated lugs system – as it does not allow a traditionally placed crown at 3 o’clock. The position does not interfere with the ease of crown use for set or winding, its unusual position only needs a moment of acclimatisation for one to get used to it.
The most impressive novelty offered in the De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels comes on the dial side. The beautiful calibre DB2115V4 features a skeletonisation of its elements. The revealing design permits a more delightful view of the movement’s elements. The barrels, the ratchet wheel and the delta top bridge have been open-worked. The first two present a subtle brushing, while the triangular bridge was adorned with Côtes De Bethune decoration. In comparison with Côtes de Genève where the finish is obtained by brushing with a rotating disc, the Côtes De Bethune is obtained by Microlight micrometric engraving technique. The engraving process was developed by De Bethune and it has a pronounced depth.
The concave dial plate, surrounding the elements of the calibre DB2115V4 is superbly finished with a black polished surface. The way light plays into and between the depths and finishes of the dial is clearly visible in the short video clip presented at the end of the review.
An interesting show is revealed by the balance bridge. It is held in place by elegant shock absorbers, with the most alluring polish found in the round arms. The 4Hz balance wheel is manufactured in titanium with white gold weight inserts, patented in 2016 and optimised for temperature differences. The “De Bethune” balance-spring is a flat terminal curve type, patented by the brand in 2006.
For minutes indication, the DB28 Steel Wheels use a ratcheted chapter ring with inspiration drawn from the tooth profile of the gear wheels. The minute hand is hand-polished and flame-blued in steel, and the hour hand is made of sapphire crystal with a central arrow insert and rimmed by a nice chamfered and blued frame. The sapphire permits a good view of the action below,
Seemingly not to be outdone, the hour indexes are even more spectacular. Twelve polished spheres, mounted into the chapter ring, serve as hour indexes. These elements come as a design balance for the moon phase, which is represented by a rotating sphere in two-tone, found at 6 o’clock, below the balance. The only unchanged element is the moon phase indication. Surrounded by a blued frame, the “moon” is alluring. It is manufactured using palladium and blued steel. As a quick fact, the moon indication needs one-day correction at 122 years.
The entire dial look is alluring. The legibility is excellent, due to the good choice of shapes and finishes of different surfaces. And the way the various surface treatments play with light is a mesmerising occupation for the owner, who will be constantly distracted from his surroundings as he lovingly gazes on his wrist.
The movement DB2115V4
Most of the calibre DB2115V4 visual elements are visible on the dial side. The 30mm diameter movement is nicely decorated. On one side, it is part of the dial. The openwork reveals the beauty of the finishes and catches lovely the light between its depths. On the reverse side, the movement is still stunning.
The case side, displays the movement which is mounted with eight asymmetrically placed screws. An engraved blue ring is used for brand and watch’s name. The rhodium power reserve indication is simple and efficient. The six days power reserve is achieved by the self-regulating twin barrel system patented in 2004.
The back of the main plate is decorated with a hand-made perlage. Some occasional openings reveal satin-brushed surfaces.
One could but simply fall head over heels in love the De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels. We did.
You can like it or worship it, but you cannot be indifferent to it (who could hate this beauty?). It is coming from an entire line of blue-blooded DB28s. It is living classic. It has an excellent wrist feel. The choice of titanium as case material makes it less prone to scratches. This result in a longer good looking finish and the possibility to be less careful with it. Don’t get us wrong, one still needs to protect one’s wrist treasure, but perhaps less sensitive as a softer gold case watch. The dial is gorgeous and it has a lot to offer: exceptional finishes applied to a modern and spectacular design.
De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Specification and Price
The De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels, DB28SWTIS1PN/S, will be available in a 25 pieces limited series at a price of CHF83,000.
Type: Mechanical calibre with manual winding
Dimensions: Ø 30mm
Number of components: 275
Power reserve: 6days, ensured by a self-regulating twin barrel
Frequency: 4Hz / 28’800 vph
Functions: Hours, Minutes, Spherical moon-phase indication at 6 o’clock, Power reserve situated on the back
Material: Polished grade 5 titanium
Dimensions of the case: Diameter Ø 42.6mm; Height 9.30mm
Crystal: In sapphire crystal (hardness of 1800 Vickers) with double anti-reflective coating
Crown: grade 5 titanium
Caseback: Screwed case back in grade 5 polished titanium that opens on a linear power reserve indicator in blued steel Sapphire crystal (1800 Vickers hardness) with double anti-reflective coating Sapphire crystal (hardness of 1800 Vickers) with a double anti-reflective coating.
Water resistance: 3atm
Material: Extra-supple alligator skin, lining in alligator
Buckle: Pin buckle in mirror-polished grade 5 titanium