DeBethune DB16: An Accidental World First

If you think some major R&D goes on at the big brands, check out what DeBethune has been up to. In the past 5 years, this little independent has developed an impressive 11 different calibers and filed for 9 patents in the process. It’s all about innovation in the service of accurate time.

During SIHH, DeBethune set up shop at the Four Seasons hotel and showed some goodies they’ve been working on. They presented the DB28 Skybridge along with the DB16 Tourbillon Regulator, a perpetual calendar tourbillon with dead-beat seconds. While the Skybridge is lovely, it’s the Tourbillon Regulator that caught my interest.

In a 43mm rose gold case with trademark bullet lugs, the Tourbillon Regulator is a model of elegant proportions. The day and month peek out of apertures at 9:00 and 3 o’clock respectively, while the day resides in a round indicator at 6 o’clock. Just below 12 o’clock is the patented 3D moonphase accurate to one day every 122 years composed of platinum and flamed-blue steel floating in a flamed-blue starry sky studded with real gold stars. 

The silver-toned, sunburst guilloché motif dial continues the celestial theme. Flame-blued hands circle classic Roman numerals and a railway minute track. The different layers on the dial, including the guilloche center, apertures, moonphase and numeral ring create a rich visual depth against which the dead-beat seconds tick. Usually the seconds move in a jerky fashion forward, but with a dead-beat, they jump in one movement after the passing of a second.  

Though there’s no evidence of it topside, the lightest and fastest tourbillon on the market whirls inside, beating at a swift 36,000bph, which translates to a revolution every 30 seconds. Comprised of silicon and titanium, the tourbillon weighs just .18 grams. The lightest component weighs a scant .0001 grams—that’s less than a grain of sand.

There’s no doubt the back of the watch is just as lovely as the front. In addition to the 30-second tourbillon, there’s the characteristic arrowhead bridge decorated with DeBethune Stripes and a retrograde moonphase indicator with 29 days in the service of accurately capturing the proper phase to the day. The hand-wind movement offers a solid 4 days of power reserve, kept track of on the red/white indication.

It seems this is the first time that there has been the combination of a perpetual calendar tourbillon with deadbeat seconds in a watch. When asked if this was the case, Denis Flageollet, DeBethune’s technical wizard, considered. You could see him mentally searching through the history of watchmaking—and the guy is encyclopedic—until he came to the conclusion that yes, in fact, it was a world first. And that’s what’s so cool. DeBethune doesn’t chase after world records and firsts, they create according to their own whims and desires. This world first was just a happy accident.

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