The annual Grand Prix d’Horologerie de Genève took place over the weekend and one of my absolute favourite watches took the top honors, the De Bethune DB28. The Aiguille d’Or or Grand Prix is the supreme award given to the best timepiece of the year by a jury of watchmaking professionals. De Bethune was fonuded in 2002 and is independent manufacture with a thing for original movements that pushes the envelope technologically and design-wise, they also have a contemporary aestethic unlike anything else out there.
The DB28 is a manual wound watch with 6 days of power reserve (through twin self-regulating barrels and indicated on the back) consisting of 276 parts displaying the time and moonphase, what’s special about the movement is the architecture and design of it that’s based in classic horology but really brings the game forward with some useful innovations. It’s decorated using a number of techniques to the highest of standards and features a unique moonphase which consists of a platinum and blued-steel sphere that revolves around its own axis. The moonphase is accurate to within one day every 122 years.
The watch has no dial in the traditional sense; it’s just a big opening showing the movement and the beating heart in the form of the balance. The balance wheel is a silicon disc with an outer ring of platinum; the silicon is extremely light which centers the weight around the perimeter for a better inertia to mass ratio. The lightness and hardness of the silicon also means that mechanical friction is reduced which improves the performance and eliminates the need for lubrication.
The contrast between the different finishes and the triangular, symmetric details in the dial opening is spectacular and I certainly appreciate how it looks high-tech and timeless at the same time due to the finishing and classic proportions. I’m not entirely convinced by the free-floating lugs, I think that they are a little disconnected to the overall design and makes it look a little awkward on small wrists (although they make it wearable for more people).
The most important part of the timepiece is that it’s still a classic watch but takes the architecture, materials, technology and finishing into the 21st century without resorting to gimmicks or “just because it’s possible”. Everything has a purpose and is there to improve the traditional way of doing it while still keeping to the roots, and that’s an important concept regarding mechanical watches in my opinion.
The DB28 is 42.6mm in diameter and costs around €80,000.