De Bethune is a multifaceted brand associated with its fleet of spaceships and futuristic models equipped with floating lugs, blued titanium and steel alchemy and marked by a fascination with all things cosmic. However, the brand’s penchant for avant-garde design is not at odds with the master watchmaker Denis Flageollet’s reverence for classical watchmaking. Unveiled just ahead of Watches & Wonders 2023, De Bethune pressed the rewind button and presented the DB Eight, a classical monopusher chronograph inspired by its first DB1, presented in 2002, followed by the single-register DB8 in 2003. The elegant and understated DB Eight might look back over its shoulder to the past for inspiration, but it is fitted with the brand’s new in-house calibre equipped with an instantaneous 60-minutes counter.
The DB Eight
The architecture of the DB Eight, with its round case and signature bullet-shaped (“ogival” in the brand’s jargon) lugs, is inherited from the DB1, a style that has filtered down to other models like the DB8, DB2 and DB3. Master watchmaker Denis Flageollet is fond of his twenty-year-old platinum DB8 monopusher chronograph and decided to revisit it with the new DB Eight. Crafted in titanium, the 42.4mm case has a thickness of 9.2mm and a refined, polished finish. Wide yet slim, to get a feel of how the watch wears on the wrist, our photographs were shot on Xavier’s 18cm wrist. Like all De Bethune’s monopusher chronographs, the crown is used to activate the chronograph and wind and set the time.
Looking at the classical dial of the DB Eight, with its elegant intersecting counter at 6 o’clock, it could be confused with a simple hour, minutes and small seconds model. Framed by a very slim bezel, the dial is expansive, balanced and far simpler than the DB8. While it shares similar traits to the DB8, like the blue Breguet-style numerals and elegant blued leaf-shaped hands, the railway seconds track has been simplified and pushed out to the periphery of the dial, and the chronograph counter at 6 o’clock has been enlarged and now delivers 60-minute chronograph readings (compared to the DB8’s 45-min totaliser). The result is an airier, more serene dial.
Designed with Claire Wolf, who has been Flageollet’s right hand for the past 14 years, the silver dial features an inverted figure-eight with a central area decorated with a 12-sector radiating hand-guilloché pattern. A smaller counter intersects this area, also decorated with a barleycorn guilloché pattern housing the 60-minute chronograph counter. All four hands are made in-house using De Bethune’s signature blued and polished titanium.
The larger dimensions of the chronograph 60-minute counter – which gobble up the numerals at 5, 6 and 7 o’clock – mean that consulting elapsed times is easier and clearer. When the chronograph hand is reset to zero, the tail of the central chronograph seconds hand invades the lower minutes counter and aligns itself with the chronograph minutes hand creating the illusion of a single, long hand. Very elegant indeed.
It’s worth remembering that Denis Flageollet’s first watch was nothing less than a monopusher chronograph, a mighty tall order for a fledgling brand. Developed in conjunction with Techniques Horlogères Appliquées (founded by Vianney Halter, F.P.Journe and Flageollet), the DB1 was a two-register chronograph calibre that evolved into the single register DB8 of 2003, followed by the extraordinarily complex Maxichrono monopusher with its patented “absolute clutch” of 2014. The new DB3000 calibre has the distinction of being the brand’s fourth monopusher chronograph and its 31st movement.
In contrast to the highly classical face of the watch, the movement is a high-frequency 28,000vph chronograph with a 60-hour power reserve. Developed by Flageollet and Wolf, the traditional column-wheel mechanism is equipped with an instantaneous minutes counter, a feat for a single-pusher calibre with a 60-minute counter. Calibre DB3000 benefits from De Bethune’s patented flat balance spring with terminal curve and its patented titanium balance wheel with white gold inserts and has an anti-magnetic silicon escape wheel. Far less complex than the Maxichrono and not as visually compelling, the 30mm DB3000 is hand-finished throughout with bevelled and polished steel parts, chromium-plated steel bridges with drawn lines and hand-snailed barrels.
While the DB Eight looks back over its shoulder and pays homage to the original DB8, it is a more elegant and refined-looking watch with a cleaner, airier dial and a far more visible and legible 60-minute counter. Classical to the core with its guilloché decoration and Breguet numerals, the column-wheel chronograph is also traditional but benefits from De Bethune’s patented technology.
The De Bethune DB Eight Chronograph Monopusher comes on a supple dark blue alligator leather strap with blue stitching that matches the blued titanium hands and a pin buckle in grade 5 titanium. The price is CHF 85,000 (excl. tax). For more information, please consult De Bethune’s website.