SIHH 2016: Introducing The DeBethune World Traveler
At SIHH 2016 De Bethune announced their World Traveler Ref. DB25, a limited edition piece with city selector and second timezone indicator with their unique microsphere.
Never let it be said that De Bethune aren't afraid to make bold claims. The first line of their company history reads "It has taken just eleven short years for two watchmaking devotees to build what history will doubtless view as the foundation of 21st Century horology". That is a bold statement to make when you're exhibiting next to A.Lange & Sohne, Vacheron Constantin, MB&F etc. at SIHH.
Out of the new nine brands exhibiting at SIHH 2016 at the Carre de la horologie, De Bethune for me falls between unfamiliarity and partial recognition. Looking through their collections I can recognise some of their watches, mostly the DW28 series, but the brand itself was a complete mystery to me. Founded in 2002 by David Zanetta, and later joined by fourth generation watchmaker, Denis Flageollet, De Bethune is named after Chevalier de Bethune, a French horologist who invented an escapement for pocket watches and clocks in 1727.
The philosophy of De Bethune is equally as brazen as their self-description as they aim "to use contemporary or even futuristic style to recreate the aesthetic intensity and emotional vibration elicited by the most exceptional creations from previous centuries or even millennia". I cannot help but admire the bravado of Mr. Zanetta and his marketing team even if I do think some of their creations are perhaps a little too eccentric for their own good. In 2012 they released the Dream Watch IV, a limited edition iPhone 4S case in titanium with a small dial on the reverse that was technologically obsolete the instant it was made.
Visually the World Traveler is a very interesting watch. You have combination of four different rings on the dial that measure date, time, 24 hour time and numerous cities plus the sunken trench which holds the microsphere. Looking at the photographs what is not instantly apparent is the lack of branding on the dial which comes as a welcome change. Talking to the New York Times in 2013, Mr. Zanetta said that "Flashing a logo is in poor taste, and those who a buy watch to show its brand do not buy a De Bethune".
Whilst initially perhaps overwhelming, the dial is quite simple to read and is set with either the crown at 3 o'clock, the pusher at 8 o'clock or with a push piece at 10 o'clock. Starting from the exterior, the champagne colored ring is the date which has a small triangular indicator currently in photos to the 23rd. Next in step towards the center is the local time with arabic numerals and blue-steeled hands, the minute hand in sync with the twenty four hour display and the hour hand controlled through the crown. The sunken trench is the twenty four hour display which uses a small microsphere, half blue and half champagne, to rotate around the dial once every day. Initially I thought the sphere was held by a glass disc similar to the hands on a Cartier Mysterious Hours but after looking closely you can see small attachments connecting on either side. At 6am and 6pm, the sphere rotates on it's axis to indicate day and night. The center dial has a list of fifteen different cities, each representing their relevant timezone. It is interesting to see the cities appear in the center of the dial rather than around the edge. I imagine the odd number of cities was chosen as a full compliment of 24 would have been to cluttered yet the unsymmetrical layout erks me slightly.
Once the watch has been turned over there is no doubt in knowing which brand made it. The curved triangular shape with De Bethune call a delta bridge, to me reminiscent of the Star Fleet badge from Star Trek, is decorated in Cotes De Bethune (Modesty is not their strong suit) which is accomplished through microlight micrometric engraving techniques. Them manual wind Caliber DB2547 comprises of 430 moving parts yet mostly all remain hidden underneath the delta bridge. I find it odd to have a sapphire caseback yet to have so little on display yet I supposed it is no different than a German 3/4 plate seen on an A.Lange but done in De Bethune style. The bridge and rim of the balance wheel are visible and have been blued in the signature BeDethune color which adds some much needed visual variety to the caseback. The escapement is unique to De Bethune with the escapement wheel being made of silicon and the balance wheel of titanium with white gold inserts; the flat terminal curve on the balance wheel is meant to "diminish air resistance".
I doubt anyone at Debthune realistically thinks this watch is going to be used by any traveler for any practical purposes. It's 45mm wide and 13.7mm thick which in white gold will surely weigh down on your wrist whilst running for your connecting flight (Or raising your hand to order another whisky from the flight attendant in First Class). I would say that if you had to purchase a mechanical watch to go travelled I'd say the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Universal Time or the Breitling Transocean Unitime; both of which get knocked out by the under $500 Citizen World Timer when practicality, functionality and ease of use are concerned. I know that practicality wasn't at the forefront of thought when the World Traveler was created. It was made because someone wanted to make it, to prove that it could be done and to see how if it could be done in the De Bethune Way. For $150,000 it can be done. For more information about the De Bethune World Traveler please click here.