This 2020, the atelier genovois created in 2002 by David Zanetta and Denis Flageollet, is celebrating ten years of one of its most representative collections, one that undoubtedly defined its levels of creative and technical prowess through the numerous references that have emerged from it. We’re talking, of course, about the DB28.

For its 10th anniversary, our good buddy Pierre Jacques, DB’s CEO, arranged for the creation of three pieces that wrap up the concept that empowers De Bethune and tell its story, one where originality has never been subject to monetary restrictions. It was about the divine and original concept of making art for art’s sake, possibly as the Chevalier De Bethune conceived, in 1727, the dual-train, single-wheel, half-second pocket watch escapement system. Today, Denis Flageollet, the master watchmaker who has brought all DB’s to life, has taken this quest to new heights.

There are several features that generally define the concept of DB28 and the new DB28XP Trilogy, the three new pieces that mark the ten-year jubilee: its 43mm case, with its fine finishings and particular detailing according to the reference, as well as its transparent caseback that continues to reveal the magic of each and every piece; the crown arranged at 12 o’clock, as a wink to the old pocket watches of yesteryear; the floating lugs, skeletonized and articulated at their roots — and perfectly aligned with the horizontal axis of the watch — which not only add comfort and ergonomics to the technical piece but are themselves a “very De Bethune” technical feature; depending on the reference in question, there is also the great rubric that is the Delta-shaped bridge that enhances the presence of the watch; and, of course, the inner mechanics, all of them loaded with creativity and beauty like few series in the world can achieve.

The skeletonized floating lugs that De Bethune is known for.
The skeletonized floating lugs that De Bethune is known for.
De Bethune’s signature Delta-shaped bridge on the new DB28XP.
De Bethune’s signature Delta-shaped bridge on the new DB28XP.

In addition to putting the company’s classic signatures front and centre, the firm is taking on a new challenge — for them, at least — that brings together their art: thinness. Thus, the XP in the name of these three watches means “extra plat” (extra slim). The challenge self-imposed by Jacques and Flageollet could not be greater: the De Bethune — and the DB28 in particular — are imposing timepieces (and yet, not as thick as you might think… keep on reading); they are integral concepts that fuse aesthetics and technique in a finished product as it was conceived. Now, imagine taking those goals into areas of physical lightness that involve severe re-engineering and rethinking of concepts. In the quest to design an even thinner watch, De Bethune, and especially Denis Flageollet, found a fierce rival in the complex definition of “finesse.” Thus, after six years of forward-thinking that pointed to this very date, DB28XP is an alternative reality that proudly elevates the scope of the house.

DB28XP Bridge Dial

The guiding concept of the new DB28XP is homogeneity. The watches had to be seen as mutual complements, as a continuous series, starting and ending in three episodes, as a cult mini-series. Titanium is the vital element of the DB28XP and monochrome is its essential attire, on-ly detailed by the numerous shapes and details of the finished case, bezels, lugs, dials and mechanics. Trying to achieve (successfully, by the way) such a meticulous appearance is a curiosity that goes against the nature of ultra-thin, mostly demure, discreet and essential timepieces. Here, the polishing of the bridges and the satin finishings of the sides of the case band add layers by means of the play of light that bathes the watch.

DB28XP

The dial of the DB28XP — which is part of the structure of the piece as a central element sandwiched between the two front and rear titanium sections — is made of something called Microlight and boasts a very fine guilloché micro engraving, a sort of canvas to play with and emphasize the rest of the elements in each reference. The delta-shaped mainplate is finished in an impressive polish. The surface was patiently worked upon for three hours until it became a mirror. To tell the time, there are no contrasted indexes, but small polished spheres like small satellites orbiting a larger body, that big central Delta. A tone-on-tone pattern surrounds the central part of the elliptical dial, subtly revealing some of the movement wheels. Finally, like a discreet signature by De Bethune, bluish titanium was inserted into the hands.

The reformulated case boasts new geometries and proportions for the floating lugs and the crown. Having a slimmer case now, the shapes, anchors and joints had to be modified to fit it. The overall shape of the DB28XP has been completely redesigned, with a more pronounced curvature, flowing with into the lugs and into the crocodile leather straps. The Microlight finishing of the mainplate is repeated along the edges of the case and becomes more meticulous and kind of organic in the absence of simple geometric shapes.

The magic goes on with the movement of the DB28XP, reformulated to occupy a smaller vol-ume within its encasing. The DB2115v6 manual winding movement features the classic De Bethune balance wheel, visible through an opening at 6 o’clock.

DB28XP

Made of titanium, it is equipped with small white gold counterweights placed on the outside to give remarkable qualities of inertia, reliability and adjustment capacity. In spite of its visual naturalness — as in any De Bethune — it was necessary a meticulous mathematical rethinking to achieve the precise levels that combine aesthetics with performance and it is precisely the spiral of the balance wheel that confirms this intention. In fact, the soul of the mechanical watch, this component maintains its true centre of gravity with a flat terminal curve fixed on the outside of the balance wheel spring. The infinitesimal differences in the thickness of the filament add up to the almost perfect precision of its concentric shape. Among the many advantages: lower height, better concentricity adjustment, finer adjustment of the racquet, and no need for additional anchors. Furthermore, the shape of the curve even acts as a shock absorber. The improved isochronism also increased the energy efficiency of the watch, which raised the power reserve by 20 per cent, up to six days. Protecting the heart of the watch, we find a triple shock absorber system (triple pare-chute), another signature of De Bethune. The balance wheel bridge is anchored on both sides, symmetrically. A double set of shock absorbers in each base complement the protective effect on the oscillator.

As for the concept behind the idea of extreme thinness, this DB28 Dual Bridge has a total thickness of just 7.2 millimetres. Compare this to the regular thickness of a DB28, which is 9.3 mm — which itself was already slim — and you’ll appreciate even more the execution of this trio.

DB28XP Starry Sky

A whole universe of inspiration, the DB28XP Starry Sky is Flageollet’s major art attack on the trilogy, offering a figurative firmament on its deep blue dial.

DB28XP V2 Starry Sky

The slightly convex dial of the Starry Sky is reminiscent of the DB28 Skybridge, which first introduced it. In this iteration, the sky is finished in Microlight, too. The surface of peaks and valleys on the dial refracts light in several dimensions, offering a unique spectacle. The blue titanium’s wonderful appearance translates into a multitude of tiny slots that create an interesting optical effect. In this blue sky, a multitude of small, hand-applied white gold pins recreates the night-time image in a way that Van Gogh would have found both inexplicable and overwhelming. This experience is amplified by the fact that the sky represented is not random. The lucky client can choose the date, time and place for De Bethune to map the sky on the sphere. The DB28XP Starry Sky features a silver hour register, with Arabic numerals, De Bethune’s discreet signature at 12 o’clock, and the pink gold hands designed especially for this edition.

DB28XP V2 Starry Sky

For this stellar piece (pun intended), De Bethune uses the caliber DB2115v7, a slight evolution of the Sky Bridge’s v6. It also beats at 28,800 A/h, has two barrels and a six-day power reserve. Just like the DB28XP Dual Bridge, the thickness of the Starry Night is 7.2 mm.

DB28XP Tourbillon

The DB28XP Tourbillon is directly inspired by the look of the DB28 Digitale. With this third interpretation of the DB28’s theme, De Bethune rethinks the watchmaking architecture at its core and explores new codes, in addition to a predictably refined technique.

The DB28XP Tourbillon is a time-only instrument where the seconds hand reveals a detail as magical as it is technical: its 30-second rotation, which subtly reveals that the heart of this piece beats at a high frequency.

DB28XP Tourbillon

The caged balance wheel of the DB2009v4 calibre (double-barreled and with five days of power reserve) is made of titanium, of course, beats at a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour. It is equipped with an extraordinarily lightweight cage (0.18 gr., the lightest yet) that rotates every thirty seconds and consists of 63 components (the lightest of which weighs less than 0.0001 g. Like in an insect, a diminutive exoskeleton holds everything together in a sort of mechanical micro-universe.

Such an execution can’t be thought of as anything but delicate and even fragile, can it? Then how do you protect it so that it remains functional? It’s pure science, dear reader. Precisely because of its lightened mass, inertia is reduced and the acceleration forces affecting the regulating device are minimized. Added to this is the high frequency of the balance wheel, which gives the DB28XP Tourbillon’s heart a sort of natural isolation. And what about the thickness? For this DB28XP Tourbillon, we are talking about just 8.1 mm. Again, compare it against, let’s say, the 9.2mm for a regular DB28 Tourbillon. Achievement unlocked!

DB28XP Tourbillon

Technical prowess. Relentless inspiration. And maybe some kind of fairy dust (see: the Starry Night). This is De Bethune. And for the past decade, it has been the DB28 series that has best represented the genius of its independent thinking.

DB28XP

Technical Specifications

Movement

Hand-wound caliber DB2115v6, hours and minutes, 6 days power reserve with pro-prietary self-regulating twin barrel, titanium balance with white gold inserts, silicon escape wheel and triple pare-chute shock-absorbing system, 28,800 vibrations/ hour

Case

43mm, polished Grade 5 titanium with “microlight” case middle, 7.2mm thickness, water resistant to 3 ATM

Strap

Alligator leather with matching Grade 5 titanium buckle and pin

DB28XP
DB28XP V2 Starry Sky

Technical Specifications

Movement

Hand-wound Caliber DB2115v7, hours, minutes, 6 days power reserve with propri-etary self-regulating twin barrel, titanium balance with white gold inserts, De Bethune balance-spring with flat terminal curve, silicon escape wheel, 28,800 vibrations/ hour

Dial

Silver-toned hours ring with transferred Arabic numerals, transferred circular satin-brushed titanium minutes ring, starry sky with white gold stars, dial with opening to reveal bal-ance surrounded by a chamfered polished steel rim

Case

43mm polished Grade 5 titanium with “microlight” case middle, 7.2mm thickness, water resistant to 3 ATM

Strap

Alligator leather with matching Grade 5 titanium buckle and pin

DB28XP V2 Starry Sky
DB28XP Tourbillon

Technical Specifications

Movement

Hand-wound Caliber DB2009v4, hours, minutes, 30” indicator via ultra0light De Bethune tourbillon cage at 6 o’clock, power reserve of 5 days with self-regulating twin barrel

Case

43mm Grade 5 titanium with “microlight” case middle, 8.1mm thickness, water resistant to 3 ATM

Strap

Alligator leather with matching Grade 5 titanium buckle and pin

DB28XP Tourbillon