Insanely technical independent De Bethune are perhaps best known for their use (or misuse) of the pun Starry Varius or insane spaceship designs. The manufacture is an involved one, one of the few independents that manufacture everything from the hairspring to the handset vertically. This simple chronograph is a magnificently uncommon thing: a watch which will spark curiosity in the heart of even the most grizzled collectors. De Bethune have long sparked that intrigue for those new to independents and long-seasoned enthusiasts for some time. Yet, it is desperately refreshing to see a watch bearing their name with such a distinctly different design sense from the spaceships synonymous with DB today. These were the early years of the manufacture, when futuristic design sense manifested in detail rather than proportion. 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. That is the soul I see in this beauty, though, like art, everyone will see something unique to their life experience.
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 dark-grey guilloche. Side note: what unique date apertures! This white gold example was one of just five, produced to be retailed by Chicago retailer Swiss Fine Timing.
This example has lived a life with care. There are small marks visible on the case exterior, particularly at 4, though nothing egregious. Its movement appears perfect, same may be said of the dial. It comes with a 2021 certificate of origin from the the name in independents, London-based ACM.
Find this DB12T here from A Collected Man for 123000 GBP.