The cosmos holds a special place in the heart of Denis Flageollet, founder and master watchmaker of De Bethune. Watches inspired by starry night skies with De Bethune’s signature blued titanium touches seem to have been forged in a far-away galaxy. The DB25 is the more classical face of the brand with more compact dimensions and a reverence for traditional watchmaking, the most notable version being the Starry Varius. The latest DB25 to emerge from the brand’s manufacture in L’Auberson is the Starry Varius Aérolite, a stunning variation of the award-winning Chronomètre Tourbillon, now with a meteorite dial. Fitted with a no less spectacular movement with a high-frequency tourbillon and deadbeat seconds, the mechanical fireworks are hidden on the reverse side of the case.
Forged in space
Flageollet is fascinated by meteorites and claims that “no other metal is as charged with pure energy and emotion as the iron meteorites that have taken shape in the furnace of the stars”. This DB25 is not the first model to flaunt a meteorite dial, and several models, including the dial of the DB28XP, have been given the space rock treatment. The meteorite used for this model is known as Muonionalusta, one of the oldest meteorites to strike our planet more than one million years ago, somewhere between Finland and Sweden on the banks of the Muonio river. Composed mainly of iron and nickel, the meteorite is distinguished by the geometrical lines of its cross-hatched Widmanstätten pattern.
Since Flageollet is also a master alchemist, transforming base metals into electric blue hues, the meteorite has undergone thermal oxidation. The mysterious blue colour is the result of a chemical reaction produced when heating the meteorite. Not only has it been blued, but the meteorite is polished and decorated with a starry sky composed of tiny white gold pins driven by hand into the dial and 24k gold leaf to represent the Milky Way. But there’s more, and owners can customise the night sky to their heart’s desire to reflect a particular date, time and place.
The blued meteorite disc sits low on the dial and is surrounded by a curved silver-coloured chapter ring with classical Roman numerals and a minutes track separated in 5-minute intervals. Breguet-style hands for the hours and minutes are accompanied by a slim third hand for the seconds. It’s worth mentioning that De Bethune makes its own hands in-house; the hands on this watch are made from steel and polished by hand, and the minutes and seconds hands are slightly bent at their tips to alight on the rounded chapter ring.
One of De Bethune’s most veteran models, the DB25 comes in a beautifully polished grade 5 titanium case with a restrained 42mm diameter and a thickness of 10.3mm. Unlike other models like the DB28XP with floating articulated lugs that encircle the case, the lugs are integrated, hollowed and tapered. Despite the deceptively straightforward functions on the dial, there is a lot more going on than meets the eye.
Packed with innovations and patents, the DB25 Starry Varius Aérolite is fitted with the same manual-winding movement – calibre DB2109V4 – that won the chronometry prize at the GPHG in 2018. Designed, developed and produced at De Bethune’s workshops in L’Auberson, the view from the caseback is as fascinating as the dial with a mirror-polished, delta-shaped bridge dominating the scenery. The bridge is positioned above the two self-regulating, hand-snailed barrels delivering a 4-day power reserve. To enhance the chronometric performance, Flageollet has incorporated a high-frequency tourbillon movement, performing its 30-second rotations under the blued titanium delta bridge. Ticking at 36,000vph (5Hz), the titanium and silicon tourbillon is suspended in an ultra-light carriage weighing just 0.18g (a 2008 De Bethune innovation and the lightest carriage in the industry).
The balance wheel is also made of blued titanium with white gold inserts and optimised for temperature differences and air penetration (a 2016 De Bethune patent). The balance spring is confected in-house and has a flat terminal curve (2006 patent) to maintain a perfect centre of gravity, and the escape wheel is crafted in silicon. Last but not least, the central seconds hand jumps every second, thanks to De Bethune’s patented Dead Beat Seconds (2011).
Availability & Price
The DB25 Starry Varius Aérolite has an extra-supple blue alligator leather strap and a pin buckle in grade 5 titanium. Production is limited to five pieces per year. Price upon request.
For more information, please consult www.debethune.ch.