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De Bethune - DW5 Armilia, unique piece from the Maestri’art collection

De Bethune DW5 Armilia, unique piece from the Maestri’art collection

De Bethune plunges into the fantasy universe of designer and scenographer François Schuiten and of its Obscure Cities.

The authors of The Obscure Cities usher their readers into a parallel universe in which humans are often left to their own devices, an imaginary world composed of enigmas and mysteries. Within this retro-futuristic aesthetic free of any nostalgia, the stunning architecture, imaginary cartography, and oft heavy and imposing machines together constitute the driving elements of plots where science and engineering mingle with fantasy. 

It is in this rich and extraordinary universe that De Bethune has taken an interest in Armilia: a submerged, almost entirely underground city where the control of Time is handled, a concept oddly mingling chronology and climate disruptions.

DW5 Armilia, pièce unique de la collection Maestri’art

Original drawing

Dialogue between two civilisations

De Bethune observes the exchanges permitted between the real world and the world of The Obscure Cities, recognizing that time does not have the same value in this parallel world. Raising the question of perfect and imperfect time, exploring this “white zone” of the work’s nonetheless incredibly rich universe, De Bethune has imagined a time measurement object, a watch directly inspired by the depiction of Armilia and its universe.

DW5 Armilia, pièce unique de la collection Maestri’art

DW5 Armilia © De Bethune


The boundary between art and artisanship

Breaking free of scales and proportions, Denis Flageollet, De Bethune co-founder and Master Watchmaker, and passionate about The Obscure Cities, has imagined a wrist-sized sculpture, engraved as a direct reference to a drawing of the City of Armilia.

A dialogue was established between Schuiten's pen & ink drawings and renowned Swiss engraver Michelle Roten. The structure of the watch thus creates a reflection of Armilia's imaginary world, as if the watch were a ship setting out to explore this world. Bearing in mind the idea of achieving a depiction similar to the original drawings, De Bethune chose 18K pink gold. The warm colour of the precious metal recalls the equally warm colours characterising the drawings of the city at sunset. Outside, a totally imaginary world.

DW5 Armilia, pièce unique de la collection Maestri’art

© De Bethune

With Armilia, De Bethune has created a fascinating work that it is placing like a landmark on the frontier between art and watchmaking. The watch testifies to a vision of unbridled creativity while remaining based on profound understanding and respect for the great masterwatchmakers of the past, whose work it transcends and magnifies.

Armilia is the result of extreme miniaturisation of its mechanism, entirely dedicated to design, of which time is only one element. A small two-coloured sphere indicates the moon phases. Composed of two assembled and polished blued steel and palladium half-spheres, it guides the eye towards the digital and minimalist display of the hours and minutes. All this is visible through a hand-cut cabochon-shaped tempered glass such as only a rare few are capable of producing, providing a chance to get a better view of this mechanism that counts off time, within a fantasy world that approaches it from an entirely different standpoint.

DW5 Armilia, pièce unique de la collection Maestri’art

© De Bethune


Exhibition at  the Maison d'Ailleurs

The Maison d’Ailleurs, in Yverdon (Switzerland) holds a large exhibition – “(Im)perfect worlds and Les Cités obscures of Schuiten and Peeters” – in which visitors can discover the beauty of the works of François Schuiten and Benoît Peeters, exhibited for the first time in a Swiss museum. The rooms of the museum, transformed into utopian and dystopian “islands”, will establish moreover a dialogue between the works of Schuiten and Peeters, the museum’s exceptional collection, the works of three Swiss artists – Sébastien Mettraux, Louis Loup Collet and Thomas Crausaz –, and multimedia devices prepared by the HEIG-VD.

Exhibition open from November 17, 2019 to October 25, 2020
Tuesday-Sunday 11 am-6 pm


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De Bethune embraces the wealth of the watchmaking knowhow of the past in order to design the watches of the future. This combination results in timepieces with all the attributes and technical expertise of Fine Watchmaking, whilst at the same time remaining free from traditional constraints.

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