Prototype Number ‘000’ De Bethune DB8W S1
We need to talk about early De Bethune. Pre WatchBox majority stake purchase, pre spaceship case designs, pre tenuous Starry Varius puns. The very early DB series, call it roughly DB1 through DBS or 2002-2005, are quite unlike anything else in watchmaking. There are hints of what was to come, highly considered fonts and futurist detail (as opposed to proportion), but with restraint and an eye toward the classic. All shared this lovely ogival (or bullet in common parlance) lug shape, mostly with guilloché dials, and were produced in handfuls, mainly to fill retailer orders and collectors’ wishes on a per order basis. Remember how souscription Journe tourbillons used to be maybe 100k. We all blinked and now they cost a private island. It feels like something similar, albeit on a smaller scale, is beginning to happen in early DB for those paying close attention.
This is a DB8, a monopusher chronograph that is so reserved that it almost looks like a time-only at a quick glance. It has just one register at 6, a 45 minute counter which is rumored to have been selected because founder Denis Flageollet was a football fan. The dial sports pink gold feuille hands and applied numerals against grey guilloché. Inside is the THA chronograph calibre designed by Flageollet, Journe, and Halter (of CPCP fame) which Flageollet then later purchased in order to make exclusive to De Bethune. In-house-ish, in other words. The case is white gold, 41mm, and, though large, nothing like as imposing as their current articulating lug offerings. This, probably because it’s only 9mm thin. It’s also worth mentioning that this is case number 000, confirmed by DB to be a prototype.
Niels Bohr is often given credit for popularizing the phrase ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future’. Today, De Bethune are one of the few independents that manufacture everything from the hairspring to the handset, vertically. The name is synonymous with space age cases and movements for exhibitionists. Fucking Alicia Keys is a fan. When a brand reaches a certain escape velocity, or just critical mass in general, people begin to dig through the back catalogs. What you find in De Bethune is magical. Sorry Niels, but it’s really only a matter of time.
This example is a prototype, with certificates, wooden presentation box, and outer box. It’s coming through Phillips in New York, and I have to say this is going to be a very interesting lot to watch. I have no estimates, other than above what Phillips guide, as per usual.