There is no secret, De Bethune creations are a part of the most beautiful independent pieces out there. For Baselworld 2019, the brand released a new version of their spectacular 2006 chronograph – De Bethune DB21 Maxichrono Réédition. Based on the idea of having all the five hands central placed and all controlled by a single pusher integrated into the crown (and the crown, of course), the watch is one of the most spectacular chrono on the market. An absolute fan of having as many central hands as possible, there is no surprise that I was fascinated by its looks and by its technical details. Hands-on review of the De Bethune DB21 Maxichrono Réédition.
Hands-on De Bethune DB21 Maxichrono Réédition
Years ago I encountered a Cinq Aiguilles (five hands) Calendar watch. The idea of having all the functions central placed seemed like one of the most fantastic implementations of the horological complications. I was always fascinated by the watches with a central indication of other functions than just the time display. No wonder that the De Bethune Maxichrono raised my curiosity. The new re-edition of their mechanical masterpiece offers the same magical complication in a titanium case.
De Bethune articulated lugs
Maxichrono Réédition comes in a 44.4 mm grade 5 titanium case. The watch features the brand’s marvellous articulated lugs. The system offers an increased comfort on the wrist and permits unusual but welcomed motion liberty for the watch’s body.
The case body stands out. Surrounded by the De Bethune signature blue, the case finishes with polished and brushed surfaces denote an industrial, instrumentation/tool concept.
I salute the new placement of the crown and pusher to six o’clock position. While the 12 o’clock is specific to the hands held chronos, the new position is easier to use on the wrist. The right thumb has a more natural position by activating the chronograph function.
The time setting is awkward with the watch on the wrist. Of the wrist, the set and wind are effortless. The crown is lovely and it offers quite a good grip.
As previously mentioned, the articulated lugs offer new degrees of liberty to the watch’s body – unavailable on the traditional lugs.
The watch is fitted with a sporty, skeletonised titanium pin buckle in De Bethune’s signature blue shade.
The see-through caseback is fixed with eight screws. The calibre DB2030 is revealed through a sapphire crystal. The case offers a 3 atm water resistance.
The movement is complicated, the dial not…
The time and the 24hours, 60 minutes, 60 seconds chronograph are displayed centrally. Having all the hands in one place makes the dial cleaner. The “complicated” side comes from how the functions are separated.
Having five hands and two complications on a single axis is a remarkable technical achievement. To reach the complete independence of the hands, the calibre uses several interdependent column wheels. The technical spectacularity consists of the possibility to have for each hand the zero-reset on demand.
The time display uses two hands designed in De Bethune’s futuristic signature. The hours use a skeletonised tip rocket-shaped hand with blued accents. As hour markers, the DB21 Maxichrono uses 12 blued screws on a matt titanium circle. Twelve corresponding screws can be found on the bezel.
The time’s minutes indication uses a smaller, similar design rocket-shaped hand with skeletonised tip. As the minute track, the time display and the chrono minutes share the same red railtrack with red Arabic numerals.
The chronograph function is one of the best in the industry: 60 seconds, 60 minutes, 24 hours. A rare combination. Backed up by exceptional legibility, the chrono is truly usable for precise time measurements, even for large intervals.
The base hand serves a chronograph’s hours counter. Hoovering over a circular guilloche centre, the blued hand uses a printed 24 hours register. The chrono minutes counter uses a red hand and a red printed register. The top hand serves as the chronograph’s seconds counter. The seconds’ track uses the outer register, permitting a very precise readout for the tenth-of-a-second accuracy.
Some voices expressed the idea that the chrono minutes’ track and hand are wrongly used in red. I will totally disagree. This choice for the colour scheme permits an excellent readout for the minutes. Regardless of time or chrono function. At the same time, it offers increased legibility due to the separation created by the choice of colours. Maybe it is not traditional, but hey, it is a straightforward solution to maximise the usability and legibility. Plus a touch of originality.
Calibre DB2030 – it is complicated
De Bethune DB21 Maxichrono Réédition is powered by the in-house calibre DB2030. The hand-wound movement with monopusher chronograph is, per se, a nice and desirable combination. If we consider the central display and the innovations behind, the intrinsic value is worth of the mention in the horological books of the future. To create the movement’s absolute clutch it took seven years of research and development.
In 2014, De Bethune’s research and development department announced the filing of a patent application n° CH00076/14 for the chronograph mechanism. De Bethune’s absolute clutch aims to improve the performance of chronographs by correcting the faults identified in current mechanisms.
This mechanism makes the most of the advantages of the horizontal and vertical clutch systems while eliminating their faults. It thus benefits from a marked reduction in the friction that affects the movement both when the chronograph is running and when it is functioning without the chronograph engaged.
The absolute clutch operates in a system engaging the two traditional clutch methods to allow the different chronograph counters to function semi-autonomously:
- The chronograph seconds are governed by the new absolute clutch system;
- The minutes counter is controlled by a shifting pinion;
- The hours counter is engaged by a horizontal clutch.
Three different types of clutch behind three semi-independent systems controlled by three column-wheels thus govern the different chronograph elapsed-time counters.
*Excerpt from the official press release.
De Bethune DB2030 has a beautiful architecture. The central placement theme can be found on the back of the watch as well. The complex mechanism is built using skeletonised bridges. These offer a glimpse of the calibre’s true complexity.
The movement construction highlights the titanium balance wheel with white gold inserts. It is optimised for temperature differences and air penetration. (Please apologise for my well defined fingerprints present on the caseback crystal – I was not aware of them during the shooting. )
De Bethune – shaping the world of horology for the future
I am a big fan of De Bethune for two simple reasons. One is the signature visual elements. Just like a classic rock band: you might not know the song, but you will recognise instantly the band. This because of a series of elements that bring the second reason into discussion – the technical one. This independent brand has realised some exceptional innovations: from the use of the materials to the technical complexity achieved.
De Bethune DB21 Maxichrono Réédition is exceptional: look, feel, technics. I love the technical implementation, the colours scheme used, the ease of use and readability. The watch is just another piece that cements the brand’s position between the most important horological players. Respect!
De Bethune DB21 Maxichrono Réédition Technical Specifications and Price
DB21 Maxichrono Réédition Reference DB21RE – Limited annual production of 10
- Hours, Minutes,
- Mono-pusher chronograph with 24-hour, 60- minute and 60-second counters
- By the crown at 6 o’clock (2 positions) for winding and setting the time
- Via a push-piece integrated into the crown for the chronograph function
Technical features of Calibre DB2030
- Mechanical hand-wound movement
- Number of parts: 426
- Jewelling: 51 jewels
- Diameter: 30 mm
- Power reserve: 5 days, ensured by a self-regulating twin barrel De Bethune Innovation (2004)
- 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
- “De Bethune Absolute Clutch ” De Bethune Patent (2014)
- Frequency: 36,000 vibrations per hour
- Bridges mirror-polished, sandblasted and snailed by hand
- Steel parts polished and chamfered by hand
- Display: 5 curved central hands
- Hand-polished steel for hours and minutes hands and flame-blued steel chronograph hours and seconds indicators
- Chronograph minutes indicator in red
- Three-dimensional dial constructed on different levels to maximise readability.
- From the centre to the periphery:
- silver-toned central hours counter – hours ring in titanium with blued markers
- the silver-toned minutes’ ring and minutes counter transfer-printed red numerals
- a silver-toned 1/10th of second graduated outer ring for seconds counter
Case and strap
- Material: Grade 5 titanium
- Diameter: 44.4 mm
- Thickness: 12 mm
- Lugs: Short or long floating lugs in blued grade 5 titanium – De Bethune Patent (2006)
- Crystal: In sapphire crystal (1800 Vickers hardness) with a doubleanti-reflective coating
- Case back: Revealing the mechanism with hand-polished steel bridges
- Sapphire crystal (1800 Vickers hardness) with double anti-reflective coating
- Water resistance: 3 ATM
- Strap: Extra-supple alligator leather, alligator lining
- Buckle: Buckle in blued grade 5 titanium and pin in grade 5 titanium
- CHF 155,000 (excl. taxes)