DB12 De Bethune Chronograph
De Bethune make wildly technical alien spaceships, right? Well, not always. At least it didn’t start that way. The early years of De Bethune were different, pre tenuous Starry Varius puns. This simple restrained chronograph, yes still made by De Bethune, is a magnificently uncommon thing. These were the early years of the manufacture, when futuristic design sense manifested in detail rather than proportion. And somehow, there’s still a hint of the madness that was yet to come buried in details like the arrow indices, lugs, and irregular date aperture. Watches such as this DB12 were made in handfuls, produced for retailers and collectors on a per order basis. And my god, were they lovely.
Poets often espouse the merits of constraint. Not total constraint, but the beauty that exists in working within structure. In the early years of many independent manufactures, we see heavier reliance on movement ébauches from varied sources and constraints on components from external production ability. I am not saying that this watch is a mish-mash of components, far from it. I am saying that this watch comes from an era where De Bethune did not yet know they would be able to create the crazy articulating case of the DB28, yet channeled that same insane energy through more recognizable design and engineering. A poet’s eye, working enthusiastically through well-understood constraints. It created something more understandable and more classic, which some still prefer.
De Bethune’s ‘founding collection’ were a series of low-volume unique runs between 2002 (inception) and 2007. As the brand’s identity was evolving quickly in that era, each model was highly varied with its own aesthetic. I particularly love the DB10 which was somewhat recently given new life as a 2011 reissue. This DB12 utilized a Venus 175, with house finishing standards that we know and love today. A particular element which stands apart from all other then-contemporary independents are this model’s lugs, a hallmark of the era: ovigal (or bullet-like in common parlance). You will not find another case as lovely in its Gothic-futuristic subtleties. That theme is echoed in the chronograph pushers and set against a fantastic white-wave dial guilloche. Side note: what unique date apertures! This white gold example was one of just five. We all come to know De Bethune for their sheer madness. But the early years are something different, something more restrained, and worth a closer look.
This example shows minimal wear, tiny light hairlines and that’s about it. Hallmarks deep, case likely never touched. It comes with the works, from a well-regarded Genevan retailer.