Looking at the DB28T Kind of Blue watch can produce a similar reaction to looking up at the night sky and seeing an iridescent blue UFO whizzing overhead. Surprise, amazement, disbelief… A futuristic vessel decked out in eye-catching blued titanium with a 30-second tourbillon, the DB28T is not the kind of watch to wear if you want to fly under the radar. A regular member of De Bethune’s watch stable, the DB28T was revisited in 2018 in this radiant monochrome version.
Once again, independent brand De Bethune showcases its distinct ability to manipulate titanium to surprising effect achieving this out-of-the-world metallic blue colour. Although the DB28T might look extra-terrestrial, its case and finishes are very much in keeping with the finest traditions of good old Haute Horlogerie. As Denis Flageollet, De Bethune’s master watchmaker sums up: “De Bethune is rooted in a passion for time measurement and watchmaking tradition, driven by the simple desire to express something of its grandeur in a contemporary setting.”
Playing with fire
If Picasso went through a blue period as an artist, De Bethune has become intimately associated in the watchmaking world with the colour blue designed to evoke the majesty and mystery of our cosmos. Inspired by the deep blue enamel dials of yesteryear, Flageollet wanted to recreate the colour in a more contemporary code and, literally, started to play with fire. By applying the same thermal procedure used to blue steel to protect it from rust, Flageollet and his team discovered that titanium could also be blued. According to Flageollet, the Eureka moment happened when they were experimenting with stabilising the balance wheels: “we heated them, they turned blue….and this discovery led us to the sky!”
The mystical blue colour of this watch is achieved using a traditional technique dating back to the 16th century in which the surface of metal was altered through heating. Like blued screws, the grade 5 titanium and stainless steel parts of the DB28T are exposed to heat, which in turn oxidises the surface and modifies its physical properties. More resilient to corrosion, the flame deposits a long-lasting protective film on the surface and produces the amazing blue colour.
Entirely done by hand, the treatment was reserved for steel and iron until De Bethune started tinkering with titanium. The thermal treatment is not only used on the case but on most of the parts of the movement. Which means that each tiny part has to be analysed individually because the thermal process has to be adapted according to the form and mass of each component. The fact that there are different materials inside the movement means that the reaction is not always the same and a range of subtle colour differences add depth and interest. Not only is the watch feather-light thanks to its titanium case, the mirror polish on the metal makes the blue behave in myriad tonalities – depending on the light. Mirror polishing is the result of hours and hours of hand polishing using diamond paste on a boxwood peg.
Out of the blue
One of De Bethune’s most recognised models, the DB28 features De Bethune’s hallmark articulated or floating lugs that are spring-loaded for a truly ergonomic fit. The other dead giveaway that you are before a De Bethune watch is the delta bridge – in polished blued titanium dotted with spherical white gold stars- that looks very similar to the logo of the Starfleet Commando in Star Trek.
Blue is the dominant colour but the contrasting satin-finished minutes ring and the mirror-polished hours ring create different textures and reflections. The faceted rose gold (note: they appear more like white gold in our photos, but they are rose gold) hour markers, arrow-shaped like the central delta bridge, are complemented by skeletonised rose gold hour and minute hands that don’t obscure the celestial scenery.
Located at 6 o’clock is the high frequency (36,000 vph/5Hz) tourbillon. Using contemporary materials like silicon and titanium and weighing in at just 0.20 grams, De Bethune claims to have created the lightest tourbillon module on the market. Anchored by a blued openworked bridge, the ultra-light tourbillon completes its rotation every 30 seconds.
The reverse side of the DB28T with its screw-down rose gold caseback is breathtaking and as beautifully decorated and finished as the dial. The watch is fitted with the mechanical hand-winding calibre DB2019 and can propel itself through time and space for stretches of up to five days at a time thanks to the self-regulating twin barrels.
To check the fuel gauge, a rose gold power reserve indicator with a star-shaped hand is featured on the back of the case. Made up of 298 components in stainless steel and titanium, many of the painstakingly flame-blued by hand, the bridges feature concentric graining while the steel parts are bevelled. The high-performance escapement developed by De Bethune presents a silicon annular balance, encircled by a white gold ring and a balance spring with a flat terminal curve that is exclusive to De Bethune.
Presented on a supple blue alligator strap, the folding clasp is, as you have already guessed, crafted in blued titanium and rose gold. The DB28T Kind of Blue retails for CHF 200,000 (before taxes) and is a limited edition of just five pieces. More at www.debethune.ch.