Hands-on De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

Wishes for Christmas - spreading love for the gods of blue metals

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon
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This summer, De Bethune celebrated ten years from the launch of their exceptional DB28 Collection. During the Geneva Watch Days, the independent brand launched DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon. This continuation of an entire line up of successful pieces caught my attention (like any other De Bethune watch actually) and strengthened, again, my good feelings and love for De Bethune. I have chosen this watch for the “Wishes for Christmas” series for a number of reasons explained below.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

Originality is sometimes where De Bethune never failed. It is amazing how distinctive the pieces can be, having at the same time a very strong brand language and clear lines defining the collection. This independent brand is one of those brands where the amount of “Woah per minute” factor is very high. This is one of the reasons I have selected it for this series of articles dedicated to my Christmas wishes.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

My first encounter with the DB28 Steel Wheels took place during the SIHH 2018. It impressed me in the press release but it irremediable conquered my hearth when I had it for the first time on my wrist. The new Steel Wheel takes the design eccentricity to a new level of transparency by using blue sapphire elements and the De Bethune tourbillon.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

The DB28 case

De Bethune is one of a handful watch brands that not just experiment but establish as “normality” some exceptional Haute Couture cases. And it is not just about visual beauty, the DB28 case being very comfortable. Again, the brand goes with a metal that it is difficult to work with – titanium. But the complex shapes and perfect finishes show the brand’s expertise and maturity.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

At 43mm diameter and 9.8mm thickness (slightly bigger than the “classic” Steel Wheels: diameter 42.6mm / height 9.30mm), the watch is perfectly balanced in the contemporaneous sense of dimensions. The collection’s specific articulated lugs not only look good but increase the wear comfort. That unforgettable sense of lightness is there. On the visual side, De Bethune kept the skeletonised concept that not only reduce mass but also increase the appealing.

Diameter Ø 42.6mm; Height 9.30mm

There is no surprise to find the crown on the top of the watch. The weird position and closeness to the strap is just a matter of personal adaptation. The crown offers one of the best grips out here due to its clever and practical design (due to the lug system, it was not technically possible to fit the crown in the traditional position). It is a pleasure to set and wind the watch. I could not resist the temptation to attempt a time set and wind on the wrist – not an issue since the movement behaves admirably. Only my hands’ positions were a bit weird, but who cares?

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

To complete the exterior good looking, De Bethune fitted the DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon with a dark blue alligator strap and the signature skeletonised pin buckle. The combination is very organic and very De Bethune like… Again, the brand displays its expertise in working with titanium – perfectly polished titanium in a futuristic design.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

Titanium blue, sapphire blue, De Bethune Blue

We find on the dial side of the DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon a familiar set of features and colours, ingeniously combined. Again, the movement’s action is mostly visible on the dial side due to selective skeletonisation. The barrels and the delta-shaped bridge feature now laser cut blue sapphires. Due to high manufacturing precision, the appearance is breathtakingly perfect. The background of the mechanical show is a concave dial plate finished with a black polished surface.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

Being a brand in avid search of innovation, technically and visually, De Bethune never settles to reuse where can innovate. This leads to new designs even on the time display. For this watch, the brand combines shapes and techniques to makes fabulously good looking hands.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

The sapphire hour hand was replaced with another rocket stylised shape featuring steel, titanium and multiple finishes. The hand’s barrel was made of steel for technical reasons, a titanium insert, an inner component of matt titanium, and a polished titanium outer component. Of course, each component implies different processes and methods. Eleven polished spheres, mounted into the chapter ring, serve as hour indexes – design seen in the previous De Bethune Steel Wheels and other DB28 pieces.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

The minutes’ hands suffers from a similar choice of materials and finishes. Just the shaped was changed with a more slender form. We can see again the rocket/delta shape toward the end of the hand terminated with a bent tip. As indexes, the watch uses a ring with 60 teeth, where the in-between spaces serve as indexes (and as hours index holders). The blued metal ring increases contrast and legibility.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

Calibre DB2019V5

Another hot point favouring the ingenuity of the brand is the calibre DB2019V5. De Bethune creates its own movements. The creative liberty combined with deep knowledge of the subject lead to spectacular results. For instance, the 63 components tourbillon features the lightest ever created cage. With components of less than 0.0001 grams, the complex system weighs only 0.18 grams in total.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon is a fast machine, its tourbillon completes one rotation in 30 seconds also. The titanium and silicon creation that beats at a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour is supplied up to five days from the double-barrel system. De Bethune opted for a change of the upper bridge. The double sustaining points remained, but the shape was changed in the favour of a double arms version.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

The back of the movement suffered only some minor cosmetic changes. As expected the large power reserve complication takes a generous part of the display. The visible rest is exceptionally decorated. A blued and engraved ring holds the information, including the power reserve indication. The main plate was decorated with a superb perlage plus some minor matt finish.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

On the top side, the main decoration is the mirror polishing. The rest of the decorations include skeletonisation, bevelling, hand sailing and blueing.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

Due to its lightness, you forget that is there. Due to its character, you never forget that is there.

The entire look is alluring. Excellent legibility due to the good choice of colours, shapes and finishes of different surfaces. The way the various surface treatments play with light is a mesmerising.  The watch is a worthy continuation and a good celebration of the 10-year existence of the DB 28 collection.

The way that De Bethune uses its signature characteristics to create new and original pieces are amazing.

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon

De Bethune DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon Technical Specifications

Name: DB28 Steel Wheels Sapphire Tourbillon
Reference: DB28SWTTIS1Functions: Hours, Minutes, 30’’ indicator via the ultra-light De Bethune tourbillon cage at 6 o’clock, Power reserve situated on the back
Movement: DB2019V5
Type: Mechanical hand-wound movement
Adjustment: Winding and setting the time by means of the crown (2 positions)

Technical features of calibre DB2019V5

  • Number of parts: 272
  • Jewelling: 39 jewels
  • Diameter: 30 mm
  • Power reserve: 5 days, ensured by a self-regulating twin barrel De Bethune Innovation (2004)
  • Specificities: Titanium balance wheel with white gold inserts, optimised for temperature differences and air penetration De Bethune Patent (2016)
  • “De Bethune” balance-spring with flat terminal curve De Bethune Patent (2006)
  • Silicon escape wheel
  • Ultra-light De Bethune 30’’ tourbillon in titanium
  • De Bethune Innovation (2008)
  • Frequency: 36,000 vibrations per hour


  • Motion works bridge and concave cover plate in grade 5 titanium, mirror-polished
  • Curved, open worked and beveled barrel bridge with glass blued sapphire
  • Open worked and hand sailed barrels with glass blued sapphire and blued titanium beveled rings
  • Rhodium power reserve indicator background decorated with “De Bethune” circular graining
  • Blued and engraved ring
  • Steel parts beveled and polished by hand



  • Minutes and hours hand in hand-polished sand-blasted blued titanium
  • Ultra-light De Bethune 30’’ tourbillon in titanium De Bethune Innovation (2008)
  • Dial: Circular-grained titanium hours ring
  • Spherical polished titanium hour-markers set and 30” dial on a blued polished titanium circle

Case and strap

  • Case material: Polished grade 5 titanium
  • Case diameter: 43 mm
  • Case thickness: 9.80 mm
  • Lugs: Polished grade 5 titanium floating lugs –De Bethune Patent (2006)
  • Crystal: In sapphire crystal (1800 Vickers hardness) with double anti-reflective coating
  • Case back: Screwed case back in grade 5 polished titanium that opens on a linear power reserve indicator in blued steel Sapphire crystal (1800 Vickers hardness) with double anti-reflective coating
  • Water resistance: 3 ATM
  • Strap: Extra-supple alligator leather, alligator lining
  • Buckle: Pin buckle in polished grade 5 titanium

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