De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia

De Bethune presents the DW5 Armilia, a unique piece from its Maestri’art collection

Reading Time: 9 minutes

De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia – De Bethune plunges into the fantasy universe of designer and scenographer François Schuiten, nicknamed the “Watchmaker of Dreams”, while engaging in a dialogue with the enigmatic world of The Obscure Cities through signature motif highlighted on the very structure of its DW5.

De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia
Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia

A reality shift, a parallel universe in which humans are often left to their own devices – even though the reality is never very far away – this imaginary world is composed of enigmas and mysteries. Through shadows and unusual reflections of our world subject to the principle of worrying strangeness, the authors of The Obscure Cities usher their readers into spectacularly extravagant settings while maintaining a distinctly human approach.

Within this retro-futuristic aesthetic free of any nostalgia, the stunning architecture, imaginary cartography, and oft heavy and imposing machines together constitute the driving elements of plots where science and engineering mingle with fantasy.

It is precisely in the context of this rich and extraordinary universe that De Bethune has taken an interest in Armilia: a submerged, almost entirely underground city. It is in this remote place in the far North of the imaginary Continent that the control of Time is handled, a concept oddly mingling chronology and climate disruptions.De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia

Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia – Dialogue between two civilisations

De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia observes the exchanges permitted between the real world and the world of The Obscure Cities, recognizing that time does not have the same value in this parallel world. Raising the question of perfect and imperfect time, exploring this “white zone” of the work’s nonetheless incredibly rich universe, De Bethune has imagined a time measurement object, a watch directly inspired by the depiction of Armilia and its universe.

De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia
Making of Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia

As a watch movement, it refers to observing time from a different angle. The model was indeed almost called Reflet (reflection). A reflection of this non-human world, but into which humans make regular incursions.

The boundary between art and artisanship

A watchmaker’s work is mainly based on the search for precision, for all that is perfect, the ideal touch… This quest for perfection, this reference to the perfect and the imperfect, the acceptance of imperfection, the relative borderline between perfection and imperfection: it is this almost schizophrenic path that gives rise to emotions when facing matter. Matter that resists, that can be worked on, that can be tamed.

Watchmaker, and passionate about The Obscure Cities, has imagined a wrist-sized sculpture, engraved as a direct reference to a drawing of the City of Armilia.

De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia
Making of Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia

Reflecting similar gestures, a dialogue was established between Schuiten’s pen & ink drawings and renowned Swiss engraver Michelle Roten, whose talents were enlisted for this particular project. The structure of the watch thus comes to life or rather creates a reflection of Armilia’s imaginary world, as if the watch were a ship setting out to explore this world. Bearing in mind the idea of achieving a depiction similar to the original drawings, it is no coincidence that De Bethune chose 18K pink gold. The warm colour of the precious metal recalls the equally warm colours characterising the drawings of the city at sunset.

Outside, a totally imaginary world.
Inside this watch, the real world of precision and watch engineering.

With Armilia, De Bethune has created a fascinating work that it is placing like a landmark on the frontier between art and watchmaking. The watch testifies to a vision of unbridled creativity while remaining based on profound understanding and respect for the great master watchmakers of the past, whose work it transcends and magnifies.

Exploring the past so as to reinterpret it even more effectively, knowing its heritage, pushing its limits and finally inventing the future. Mastering its codes to the point of breaking free of them in order to transform expertise into emotion and technique into pure beauty. For De Bethune, the approach applies to both art and watchmaking. Armilia belongs to both worlds. It speaks of space, movement and speed as much as precision and complications.

De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia
Making of Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia

Armilia is the result of extreme miniaturisation of its mechanism, entirely dedicated to design, of which time is only one element. A De Bethune interpretation appearing as a nod or a signature, a small two-coloured sphere indicates the moon phases. Composed of two assembled and polished blued steel and palladium half-spheres, it guides the eye towards the digital and minimalist display of the hours and minutes. All this is visible through a hand-cut cabochon-shaped tempered glass such as only a rare few are capable of producing, providing a chance to get a better view of this mechanism that counts off time, within a fantasy world that approaches it from an entirely different standpoint.

Denis Flageollet – Master watchmaker & Creative Talent

Denis is the son, grandson and great-grandson of watchmakers.

Known today as one of the finest watchmakers of his times, he promotes a contemporary vision of watchmaking: that of the founding fathers, meaning the mastery of a perpetually changing art. It is a case of age-old expertise dedicated to constant innovation. For him, tradition is not just about building conventional watches, but rather about remaining innovative on a daily basis while following tradition. He aims to continually rejuvenate the spirit of mechanical watchmaking.

A lover of science, culture and art, he is passionate about mechanics and quality workmanship, constantly building on the past while looking firmly to the future.

De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia
Making of Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia

It is in this spirit that he founded De Bethune in 2002 with David Zanetta. Their creative inspiration continues to be nurtured by several centuries of watchmaking history, interpreted through the prism of contemporary culture. Since its foundation, De Bethune has been distinguished by its capacity to create mechanical timepieces featuring vanguard technology. It has also demonstrated its ability to imagine a contemporary aesthetic. In bringing these watches to life, each mechanism is assembled with that same vision of marrying new technologies with the beautiful watchmaking expertise of bygone years.

Having majored in science at secondary school in France, he went to Switzerland to study watchmaking and micro-engineering. He then completed his training by joining the “Musée du Locle” as a technician in antique watchmaking.

He finally decided to launch his own method, and in 1989 he co-founded the THA society with François-Paul Journe. Together, they created the first “sympathique” clock inspired by the work of Abraham-Louis Breguet. During these twelve years spent developing THA, he set up the mechanical and watchmaking production workshops, handled technical management, as well as heading the R&D workshop where more than 120 watchmaking developments were successfully undertaken in the fields of watch exterior components, jewellery and horological mechanisms, including the development of numerous calibres.

De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia
Making of Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia

Alongside his passion for manual and traditional technical work throughout his career, he has taken further watch construction training with a focus on learning 3D computer-assisted design (CAD) technology and he was one of the first to use it for watchmaking purposes. He has been lucky enough to live in a pivotal period enabling him to learn from the master engineers, watchmakers and jewellers, who in turn have helped him master the production of one-of-a-kind models or prototypes using traditional methods and machines. At the same time, he has shown a consistent interest in state-of-the-art technical progress, which has enabled him to leverage modern CAD and CNC technologies.

He has indeed developed his own method through which he combines necessary know-how and contemporary techniques in order to develop his design and prototypes. This applies both to the movement and to watch exterior components.

His work with De Bethune has been rewarded by two national prizes, 15 international prizes, and is research has resulted in eight patents and two registered designs.
Today, in working to build a training course on “Mécanique d’Art” (artistic mechanics) with his fellow artisans, alongside his engagement with De Bethune, his main aim is to pass on his experience and knowledge to watch enthusiasts and the up-and-coming generation of watchmakers.

De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia
Making of Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia

Keynote by Denis Flageollet – at the press conference “(Im)Perfect World” at Maison d’Ailleurs – Yverdon, 13 November 2019

I will spare you reading from the press kit you have in your hands. Instead, I will try to share with you, through our respective professions, callings, my personal vision of the ‘Perfect’ and the ‘Imperfect.’

Watches – “Time Pieces” – present a perfect platform for dreams and the idea one can conjure of a utopia. The origin of some of our watches aims to connect various worlds of technical and artistic know-how. When I designed the DW5, my desire was to leave plenty of room for the various possibilities of dealing with its external structure. I am pleased to be able to present to you, as a review, the Armillia, one of the unique timepieces resulting from this desire.

On one hand, I admire the extraordinary drawing talent which François Schuiten translates into a universe that allows us to escape from this world. On the other, I have a friend, Michèle Rothen, whom I consider to be the greatest metal engraver in the world. For 35 years now I have been asking her for the impossible; she has never failed.

That’s all it took to make me want to build a bridge between these two art forms. As craftsmen, it’s not about “more.” It’s better.” We always seek to push our limits. I will speak to you as a craftsman because, beyond the exceptional creativity of the works on display (works that challenge us to question ourselves in a clinical way about our human condition), there is the work of the craftsman – craftsperson –, the work done by his or her hands.

De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia
Making of Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia

We are on a daily quest for the perfect gesture, the perfect way of crafting something, which obviously does not exist. Very fortunately for us, however, these small imperfections that arise from an imperfect or not quite perfect gesture are what, in the end, make up the uniqueness of a handcrafted piece of work.

That boundary between perfection and relative imperfection is what we need to reach in order to bring out our emotion through the material we work with. A material that fascinates us and often resists us.

Although works that amaze us are not perfect in every detail, they conjure a sensation far beyond comprehension.

This is how I feel when I see the work of François Schuiten or Michèle Rothen. Or any object created with extraordinary know-how, regardless of the field or discipline. I feel this when I stand before such works because they are human, the result of having done one’s best, of having made it with heart, with passion, but also with slight imperfections. All this makes them human, and reassuringly so because they do not come out of machines and industries that format everything they produce.

De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia
Making of Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia

They are perfect in their imperfection. And it is because of these imperfections that their creator loses something fundamental: he or she can no longer be moved by their own work. Somehow, the creator leaves a part of him or herself behind in the work.

Ask Michèle or François and they will tell you that at the end of their work they only see the defects.

In my case, they haunt me, and I must wait for them to fade from memory before I can look at my work with more objectivity. This continuously forces us to question ourselves, pushing us to keep doing better next time. What drives us is all these phases and stages of concentration, failure, determination, doubt and success.

The strength great artists have is what enables them to build on this experience and to keep crafting a better result. That’s what I admire in their works. And when, like the works of François, they also question us, challenge us, and send us a message of hope but also of warning on the razor-fine border between utopia and dystopia, there is only one thing for me to do, and that is to try to capture it in a watch.

De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia
Making of Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia

I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank François, who allowed me to work on Dream Watch 5 Armillia, and Michèle, who allowed me to take on this new challenge. Try to imagine, while you look at the piece and at the drawing, all the hours and hours (there are hundreds) that went into the slightest strokes of the pen, the slightest strokes of the chisel. By François, to transport us to other worlds with his strokes of genius. By Michèle, to miniaturize this universe and suspend it forever in solid gold.

At De Bethune, we spent weeks to manufacture each component with the greatest care, to finish it in the greatest watchmaking tradition and to assemble it into an object that indicates the hours and minutes through a window, and accurately displays the phases of our unique satellite, the moon, in the form of a sphere. This watch, which points towards our future, encapsulates an invisible know-how that goes back several centuries and involves 10 craft disciplines.

I would like to conclude with a wish: May we long have the chance to keep our crafts alive, and continue to awaken a sense of wonder. Far from industrialization and growth for its own sake. Far from the “always more” that every day seems to drag us closer to the brink of disaster.

De Bethune Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia Technical specifications


  • Maestri’Art DW5 Armilia


  • DW5RMA


  • Hours,
  • Minutes,
  • Spherical moon-phase indication


  • DB2144V2


  • Mechanical hand-wound movement


  • Spherical moon-phase adjustment and setting the time by means of the crown, adorned by 1-carat sapphire (3 positions)

Technical features of calibre DB2144V2

Number of parts:

  • 320


  • 32 jewels


  • 30 mm

Power reserve:

  • 5 days, ensured by a self-regulating twin barrel De Bethune Innovation (2004)


  • Silicon annular balance encircled by a white gold ring De Bethune Patent (2010)
  • “De Bethune” balance-spring with flat terminal curve De Bethune Patent (2006)
  • Silicon escape wheel
  • Spherical moon-phase indication with an accuracy of one lunar day every 1112 years – De Bethune Patent (2004)


  • 28’800 vibrations per hour


  • Hand-crafted finishing and decoration



  • Jumping-hour aperture at 3 o’clock
  • Analogue minutes indicator on a dragging rotating disc
  • Spherical moon-phase indication in palladium and flamedblued steel with an accuracy of one lunar day every 1112 years at 6 o’clock – De Bethune Patent (2004)

Dial :

  • Frame of the jumping-hour aperture in blued grade 5 titanium

Case and strap

Case material :

  • Delta shaped in polished rose gold 18K

Case diameter:

  • lenght 58 mm
  • width 47 mm

Case thickness:

  • 16 mm


  • curved Hard-mineral crystal cut by hand

Case back:

  • Closed and screwed down case back in black titanium with aperture on balance wheel
  • Hard-mineral crystal (1800 Vickers hardness) with double anti-reflective coating

Water resistance :

  • 3 ATM


  • Extra-supple alligator leather, alligator lining


  • Pin in rose gold and buckle in black titanium

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