De Bethune DB28 Digitale
Angus Davies reminisces about his youth whilst reviewing the De Bethune DB28 Digitale, a watch equipped with a jumping hour display.
This detailed review of the De Bethune DB28 Digitale includes live images, specification details and price.
I remember growing up in the 1970s, kicking a football in the school playground and chatting to my fellow pupils at break times. One boy in my class, Robert Garlick, sported a ‘cool’ watch featuring an LED display paired with a Milanese bracelet.
Few people had seen a digital watch at the time and this space age timepiece brimmed with modernity. Its bright red numerals looked very eye-catching and I confess I was incredibly envious of him the time.
Later, my parents bought me a gold plated Citizen watch featuring an LCD display. It seemed to be the epitome of contemporary design. Moreover, with a light press of a pushpiece, it also revealed the day and date on its neoteric display. I remember it cost the princely sum of £25 from Woolco and it made me feel ‘like a million dollars’.
I think it was during the mid 1980s that I fell out of love with digital watches. Instead, I preferred the aesthetics of analogue watches, albeit, at the time, I was not unduly concerned whether the movement was mechanical or quartz.
With the advent of the 1990s, my horological rectitude evolved and mechanical, analogue timepieces were the focal point of my desires and, in truth, little has changed since.
Recently, I had an intimate encounter with the De Bethune DB28 Digitale. I confess the word ‘Digitale’ did little to engender enthusiasm on my part. However, hearing this watch was a De Bethune, my interest was aroused as I knew its execution would be spectacular.
De Bethune is a maison at the vanguard of innovative styling, often harnessing aesthetic details seldom seen elsewhere. However, inventiveness is not at the expense of quality and virtue with much traditional watchmaking craft in evidence. Indeed, be under no misapprehension I consider De Bethune to be one of the finest exemplars of haute horlogerie.
As the nomenclature attests, the prevailing hour is presented in digital form. The jumping hour display is delivered in black text on a white background via a trapezoidal aperture, but rest assured this indication shares nothing with the said digital watches of my youth.
Minutes are conveyed in analogue form. A triangular index below noon points to the minutes shown on a revolving disc which rotates clockwise. Above the minutes display, a blue depiction of the sky is ‘driven by a sophisticated micro-ball bearing mechanism that also powers the digital hours display.’
At the centre of the dial, a three dimensional depiction of the moon magnificently plays with depth to spellbinding effect. One half of the moon is presented in palladium whilst the other half is made of thermally blued steel. The precision of the moon-phase display means that after 1,112 years, the difference between the true lunar cycle and the indication shown on the timepiece is just one day.
My favourite aspect of the dial is the achingly beautiful hand-guilloché. The barleycorn motif is pristine, free of the merest trace of human error. Each curving line is of uniform depth and its profound beauty is manifest with close inspection.
The 43mm mirror-polished titanium case incorporates the maison’s floating lugs. It is not the first time I have encountered the unusually styled lugs. Whilst they proffer an unusual and, in my opinion, handsome appearance, they also accord an elevated degree of wearer comfort. Indeed, the lugs envelop the wrist, according a highly agreeable union with the wearer’s arm.
Ergonomics is a fundamental strength of this design which is also seen elsewhere on the watch. The location of the crown above noon mitigates the risk of interfering with the wearer’s arm whilst still proving simple to operate. The alligator leather strap has a sublime suppleness which accords a cosseting wrist feel.
The rear of the watch is fitted with an exhibition caseback, providing sight of the hand-wound movement.
The DB2144 calibre is suffused with a plethora of De Bethune innovations from its self-regulating twin barrels and silicon escape wheel to the triple pare-chute shock-absorbing system. However, it is the majestic and very unique appearance of the movement which leads me to stare at its form for prolonged periods.
A shield-shaped central bridge, decorated with Côtes de Genève motif, beguiles with its curving form and wondrous symmetry. Moreover, the blued balance bridge looks spectacular with its original appearance.
The finishing of the movement is superb, reinforcing the sense of quality.
The digital watches of my youth may have engendered covetous thoughts at the time, but have failed to arouse any passion in me since the 1980s. I attribute this to their inert characters and absence of any mechanical merit. However, at last De Bethune has produced a digital timepiece I would dearly love to own.
The display of the DB28 Digitale is stylish, but not at the expense of functionality. The barleycorn hand-guilloché stands testament to the time-served skills of a highly accomplished artisan. The Grade 5 titanium case masterfully fuses with the arm to deliver a congenial fit. The DB2144 calibre expertly navigates a course between cutting-edge know how and respecting watchmaking tradition.
Indeed, it is when one considers the vast array of attributes this watch possesses, it becomes clear that it is destined to deliver a lasting appeal sadly missing from the digital watches of the 1970s.
- Model: De Bethune DB28 Digitale
- Case: Grade 5 titanium; bezel 45mm; case diameter 43mm; sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Jumping hours; analogue minutes; moon-phase indicator.
- Movement: DB2144 calibre; hand-wound movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 32 jewels; power reserve 5 days
- Strap: Black alligator leather strap presented on a pin buckle.
- Price: CHF 115,000 excluding taxes (RRP as at 1.1.2016)