Collectors with an interest in Western astrology take note: the De Bethune DB25T Zodiac may just be the watch for you. With its twelve figures representing the signs of the zodiac, this watch, which debuted earlier this year, is technically demanding – with a jumping seconds hand and private 30-second tourbillon only visible from the back – while it also appeals to the emotions via a brilliant engraved dial.
The dial immediately calls to mind the beauty of zodiac-inspired tower clocks in Venice or Rouen, France, which is exactly what David Zanetta, co-founder and president of De Bethune, had in mind when he and designed it, says Denis Flageollet, co-founder and technical director.
Skilled in creating watches blending a space-age appearance with equally avant-garde movements, De Bethune enlisted master artisan Michèle Rothen, who hand-engraved each of the dial’s solid gold inserts, which are set on a vibrant mirror-polished blued titanium ring inlaid with white gold dots symbolizing a star-studded azure sky.
A friend of Flageollet’s since they were students in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle, Rothen made her debut at Patek Philippe and has worked on several DeBethune watches previously. She has been working independently more than twenty years while teaching at the art school of La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Michèle Rothen is one of the best engravers nowadays, Flageollet adds. She masters the miniaturization process and has a great sense of detail and an extremely precise chisel stroke. She has the great ability of capturing the essence of a drawing with respect to perfect readability and to communicate the power of a tower clock dial, which measures a few meters, onto the dial of wristwatches where engraving scenes are less than three millimeters.
In contrast to this bold aesthetic, the rest of the dial is understated. Guilloché adorns the silver-toned dial center, which is encircled by elegant painted Roman hour numerals and accompanied by open-worked yellow gold hour and minute hands and a slim blued-steel central jumping seconds hand. Just beneath the 12 o’clock numeral, a curved window reveals a power reserve indicator.
The hand-wound Caliber DB2109 offers an impressive four-day power reserve and stunning architecture with hand-finished plates and bridges and the mechanism that controls the jumping seconds hand at the center. A DeBethune-only deltoid-shaped bridge supports the central seconds hand, while a double lever with four pallets drives the double gold wheel of this jumping seconds movement.
Powering the 30-second tourbillon is a high-frequency (36,000 vph) movement that contains patents and innovations made technically possible by new technologies: a self-regulating twin barrel, a silicon escape wheel, a silicon-white gold balance and a balance spring with flat terminal curve.
This movement, first developed by DeBethune in 2012, continues to be a technical wonder. It took eighteen people two years to develop just the silicon-titanium tourbillon, plus another year to develop the jumping seconds mechanism with its two rose gold wheels and double anchor – a world-premiere on a wristwatch.
To many collectors De Bethune’s engraved models each year seem to exceed the already high expectations the brand has built up over the years. Its exceptional work appears in very limited numbers (about 400 watches left the manufacture in 2014) and its pieces are priced accordingly.
This DB25T Zodiac comes in a limited edition of 20 pieces, each priced at $290,000.