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De Bethune - Small Is Beautiful

De Bethune Small Is Beautiful

The New Perpetual Calendar From De Bethune Comes In a Surprising size...

You think you know what a De Bethune watch is. The phrase “avant-garde watchmaking” comes to mind. Intense shades of blue, thanks to the brand’s mastery of heat-oxidation treatments. Mirror-polished titanium, bright and shiny enough that you think you’re looking at a steel watch before you put it on and realise how light it feels on the wrist. Unusual interpretations of complications, such as spherical bi-metallic moon-phase displays, 3D world-timers, or chronographs with five co-axial indications. The phrase “small watches” rarely comes to mind. 

The new De Bethune DB25 Perpetual Calendar is here to change your mind about at least one of those assumptions. Compared to the 44mm version launched at last year’s Dubai Watch Week, this year’s DB25QP is a compact 40mm — which may not exactly sound like a small watch, in the wider scheme of things, but is most certainly a dramatic reduction in size when placed side-by-side with its predecessor. The movement of this year’s DB25QP is smaller as well, measuring 30mm in diameter whereas the one we saw last year was 35mm in diameter. 

It sounds silly to say that the size of this watch is the most interesting thing about it, but I will stand behind this statement until the end of my days. In terms of functions, we have the same complement of perpetual calendar and spherical moon-phase display that we saw from before. The same goes for the more technical bits like the balance wheel in titanium and white gold (which increases its variable inertia) and the De Bethune hairspring terminal curve (which improves the concentricity of its breathing). Although still impressive, by now they are firmly established aspects of De Bethune watchmaking expertise and will be familiar to those who already know the brand. So, you may be asking, what’s the big deal about a movement that’s doing more or less exactly the same thing as the movement before it? How hard can it be to make that 5mm reduction in diameter? Read on, my dear WorldTempus family.

Small Is Beautiful

DB25 Perpetual Calendar © De Bethune

 Making a small complicated movement is not easy, you’ll hear most people who are well-versed in horological knowledge say. Then again, making a complicated movement isn’t supposed to be easy in the first place. What is this arbitrary line we draw, that puts complicated movements in the category of “difficult but worth the effort” and small complicated movements in the category of “difficult and not worth the effort”? It’s not even a question of adding extra steps to the development process — no sane watchmaker starts out by building a complicated movement before proceeding to shrink it down. (Although one might argue that the most talented watchmakers are all a little crazy.) If a watchmaker wants to build a small complicated movement, the size consideration is always a factor, right from the beginning. 

Small Is Beautiful

DB25 Perpetual Calendar © De Bethune

 Is building a small complicated movement any more difficult than building a thin complicated movement, for example? Probably not. And yet almost every year we see a new record-breaking ultra-thin watch. Where are all the record-breaking small-diameter watches? (Sound of crickets.) Let’s face it; for whatever reason (I have my theories, but I’m not going to go into them now) watch brands have seen little interest in diverting resources towards developing smaller movements. 

But I also happen to think that De Bethune’s Denis Flageollet is an immensely talented and forward-thinking watchmaker, which leads me to believe that we’re going to start seeing more and more brands invest in this area of product development. In my view, that would be an unambiguously Good Thing. You know when was the last time that watch companies collectively started making smaller movements? When watches transitioned from the pocket to the wrist. You know what we gained along the way? A better understanding of precision chronometry. You know who eventually benefited from this? Consumers, watchmakers, people in the business of selling watches — in a word: Everyone. In which case (pun intended), guess what? The 40mm DB25QP is my new favourite watch of 2022. 

 

 

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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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