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Review of De Bethune DBS Digital

by Robin Lim on February 24, 2015

Today, we are looking at an intriguing timepiece by an independent watchmaker that was discontinued sometime back. The decision to review the exotic De Bethune DBS Digital was spontaneous; it just so happened that we happened to see this spectacular timepiece and decided that it should be featured on Deployant. Well, it is not everyday that one gets to see such a novel timepiece anyways.

The De Bethune DBS Digital. It looks rather unusual, which sets it really apart from its competitors (if any).

The De Bethune DBS Digital. It looks rather unusual, which sets it really apart from its competitors (if any).

When we first set our sights on the DBS Digital, we were amazed. Like literally. Even though we have this pre-conceived notion that De Bethune makes mind-boggling timepieces, but nothing could prepare us for something that is so provocative and overwhelming. There is this sort of oxymoron when it comes to the DBS Digital: it seems minimalist, but it is juxtaposed by a deviant case design. It is simply, for the lack of a better word, unconventional.

Admittedly, this is not a watch for everyone. As we mentioned earlier, the DBS Digital is very unique and deviant. It does not conform to the usual. One good example would be the lugs. It is very rare to have two different lug designs on the same case, but De Bethune did it. Of course, it does have its critics, but we thought that it is these sort of bold moves that makes a watch stand out. Naysayers have their own reservations, but we felt that De Bethune had executed this part beautifully. We do not expect people to share the same sentiments as us, but it is such moves that allows a watch to be special and conversational.

The watch is well-finished, but it is a pity that the displays are rather minuscule.

The watch is well-finished, but it is a pity that the displays are rather minuscule.

The De Bethune DBS Digital is powered by an in-house manual winding movement which features a staggering power reserve of approximately eight days. It features a digital jump hour display, perpetual calendar, and a moonphase. Going back to what we mentioned earlier, this timepiece has got a minimalist approach. Even though the watch sounds seemingly complicated, but the displays are kept as simple as possible.

The Digitale caseback, showing the stars in the firmament and the now iconic 3d moonphase display.

The caseback of the DBS Digital, showing the stars in the firmament and the now iconic 3D moonphase display.

Even the moonphase is placed at the caseback to keep the design as clean as possible (although we would also believe that the reason may be due to the fact that is a little difficult to place the moonphase at the front, since there might not be space to position so many discs beneath the dial). And since we are on the subject of moonphase, we thought that it was really beautiful. The ball, which represents the moon, is finished in palladium and flame blued steel. The result, together with firmament, is simply amazing.

While we are on the subject of the dial, we thought that it would be appropriate for us to highlight the reason behind the small display windows which makes the watch rather illegible. Yes, it is quite a pain in the a*** to read the time and the calendar display, because it is rather minute. No offense intended, but a majority of those who are able to afford the DBS Digital are older individuals who have amassed a large amount of wealth over the years. If the display windows are rather difficult for us to read, then it would have been even much more difficult for the more venerable clientele. However, like we mentioned, there is a reason behind it. Due to the complexity of the movement, it is rather an uphill task to accommodate all the discs without making it smaller. Hence, in order to display the full calendar, De Bethune had no choice but to compromise and reduce the size of the discs.

A mandatory wristshot of the DBS Digital.

A mandatory wristshot of the DBS Digital.

The 45mm DBS Digital may be a seemingly big watch, but it is rather comfortable on the wrist. This may be due to the lug design. The short lugs at the 6 o’clock position and the movable lugs at the 12 o’clock position allows the watch to snug nicely on our wrists nicely. As per all De Bethune pieces, the finishing on the DBS Digital is impeccable.

The DBS Digital is a rather controversial timepiece, and we feel that it is a piece that collectors will either “love it or loathe it”. For some, the design may be too peculiar and unorthodox. On the other hand, some would love how unique and stunning this timepiece is. But at the retail price of SGD$158,700 (in white gold), the conundrum is not something that many will get a chance to experience anyway.

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