At Baselworld this year luxury watchmaker De Bethune unveiled an absolutely breathtaking new timepiece in the form of the DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon. Exquisite in every way, the De Bethune DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon was lauded by the media and enthusiasts alike for its complex construction and elegant design.
There was only one, slight drawback. The DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon comes attached with a price tag of CHF270,000 + taxes (that’s approx. US$307,000 + taxes) and De Bethune will only be making a maximum of 20 pieces this year.
Now, for most of us mere mortals the idea of ever obtaining this exceptional timepiece – and believe me when I say it really is exceptional – seems completely outside the realm of possibility. Even supposing you do have the money I would wager there is already a rather long waiting list based on the excitement this particular piece generated.
On the plus side however, there is a slightly less complicated (and consequently less expensive) alternative that becomes ever more attractive as you contemplate the above. I am of course referring to the DB28 Maxichrono.
De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono
At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that one of the De Bethune watchmakers wasn’t properly paying attention and absent-mindedly assembled a DB29 Maxichrono Tourbillon in a DB28 case. Fortunately however that is not what happened, and besides anyone who knows anything about De Bethune will tell you that the company’s master craftsmen are always 100% focused on the task at hand, making watches after all is their life’s passion.
No, the De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono may share the same dial design that makes its elder sibling, the DB29, so desirable but that’s about where the similarities end. This is a completely different watch with a different movement, which as the name suggests is not equipped with a tourbillon.
What it does feature however is De Bethune’s patent pending absolute clutch system. The result of seven years of research and development, the company recently filed patent application n° CH00076/14 for the chronograph mechanism.
According to the brand this specially developed absolute clutch aims to improve the performance of chronographs by correcting the faults identified in current mechanisms. To do this this mechanism makes the most of the advantages of the horizontal and vertical clutch systems whilst eliminating their faults.
According to De Bethune therefore it 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 absolute clutch operates in a system engaging the two traditional clutch methods to allow the different chronograph counters to function semi-autonomously:
- The chronograph seconds are governed by the new absolute clutch system;
- The minutes counter is controlled by a shifting pinion;
- The hours counter is engaged by a horizontal clutch.
Three different types of clutch behind three semi-independent systems controlled by three column-wheels thus govern the different chronograph elapsed-time counters.
De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono – Easy to read
Back on the dial side that all translates into a very easy to read, highly accurate chronograph display. As you can see there are five different central hands traversing the dial at any one time. Two are for indicating the hours and minutes, whilst the remaining three serve as elapsed time counters.
Starting from the outside and working your way in you can see separate chapter rings for measuring elapsed intervals of 60 seconds, 60 minutes and finally the central one capable of accurately tracking up to 24 hours of elapsed time.
According to De Bethune the central chronograph hands of the De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono are mounted on co-axial stacked wheels, a complex system that requires real technical expertise to achieve. It might look a little confusing at first but De Bethune has come up with a clever way to help you distinguish between what hands serve what function.
For a start the two hands responsible for indicating the hours and minutes have been skeletonized and finished in polished black oxidised steel. The chronograph indicators meanwhile are crafted from flamed-blue steel, with the exception of the minutes counter which is in rose gold.
Complementing this clever design is the use of clear, easy to read numerals that give the watch a decidedly modern feel. This is further accentuated by the futuristic style of the patented DB28 case, which features lugs on springs that adapts them precisely to the shape of the wrist and its movements.
As you can see in the pictures the De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono sits snugly on the wrist, the rose gold case contrasting nicely against the blackness of the floating lugs in hand-polished, oxidised zirconium. Best of all, the entire watch is controlled by the monopusher crown placed at 12 o’clock.
On the back side a sapphire exhibition case back reveals the inner workings of the hand-wound DB2030 calibre hard at work. As I mentioned before it does not feature a tourbillon like its elder sibling, however it does offer a self-regulating twin barrel capable of providing an impressive five day power reserve. As you would expect the movement has been simply but expertly finished.
The De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono comes on a supple leather strap and will retail for CHF160,000 plus taxes (approx. US$189,000.) It’s still not pocket change by any stretch of the imagination but it is a touch more attainable than the DB29 Tourbillon edition. At least that’s what I’m telling myself anyway!