Sticking to the Script
Debuting in 2002, De Bethune burst onto the watchmaking scene with hi-tech materials, innovative movements and stunning avant-garde design to quickly become one of the most distinctive watchmakers in the industry. Founded by specialty watchmaking house partners from THA (movement and complications manufacture Techniques Horlogères Appliquées), Denis Flageollet and David Zanetta, the idea for De Bethune was that it would become a true manufacture – something De Bethune has undoubtedly achieved.
When we look at modern watchmaking, the litmus test for any high-end watchmaker is if they use an in-house movement. With the higher costs involved, greater creative and engineering freedom and room for flexing some horological muscles, in-house movements are usually regarded as better. Still, they only really caught on in the mainstream in the early 2000s, which just so happens to be when De Bethune was founded. Since their relatively recent introduction to the horological industry, De Bethune have stuck to their script and released an utterly mind-boggling 29 in-house calibres – the latest of which can be found within the brand new DB25 GMT Starry Varius, which we will now explore.
The Merging of Two Collections
When conventional watchmakers release new watches, you will typically find that they tend to stay within their lane so as to not bump into other offerings from the brand and thus avoid the cannibalisation of sales. On the other hand, De Bethune is not a conventional watchmaker, and they release the watches they want with little to no worry about shifting tens of thousands of units. Free from the commercial constraints slapped onto higher-volume brands, De Bethune is given a far more refreshing sense of creative freedom, a liberty they have exercised with the DB25 GMT Starry Varius as it merges two seemingly unrelated collections into one timepiece that is unapologetically De Bethune in its execution.
The Starry Varius
Definitely the DB25 GMT Starry Varius' most obvious relation (aside from the fact that it is in the name!), is the Starry Varius released in 2018: a time-only model that blended simplistic functionality with a complex case design and its incredible eponymous gold-leaf and silver studded high polished blued titanium dial and immaculate watchmaking to create a timepiece that showcases exactly who De Bethune are. Aesthetically consistent and functionally brilliant even with just an hour and minute hand, the Starry Varius provides the perfect foundation for the DB25 GMT Starry Varius to build upon, which we'll get into later.
DB25 World Traveller
The DB25 GMT Starry Varius' "[big] sister," as De Bethune puts it themselves, is the DB25 World Traveller. Introduced in 2016, it provides the aesthetic and character on which the DB25 GMT Starry Varius has been created. Of course, the DB25 World Traveller is a Worldtimer, as its name somewhat suggests, so its function is similar to the DB25 GMT Starry Varius. Thus, with the understanding that the DB25 GMT Starry Varius is an amalgamation of two watches, let's explore it in its entirety and see what it's all about.
Design, Aesthetic and Functionality
In the same way that many watchmakers have their own style, De Bethune typifies what it means to carry aesthetic consistency across unrelated offerings. The DB25 GMT Starry Varius is no different with its 42mm polished titanium case. The DB25 GMT's case lends from the Starry Varius thanks to the lack of pusher at 7 o'clock, which the World Traveller has, and its openworked buttress-like lugs that have become a signature piece of De Bethune's design. To further showcase that the case design is taken from the Starry Varius and not the World Traveler, the DB25 GMT's lugs feature the enlarged ends, which was introduced to De Bethune with the Starry Varius and are a detail that the World Traveller lacks.
On the flip side, the DB25 GMT's dial borrows its layout from the World Traveller's due to its increased functionality and status as the first complicated variant of the Starry Varius. While the DB25 GMT's silver dial does include the Starry Varius' galaxy-inspired starry sky at its centre in the shape of a beautifully blued and polished titanium plate dotted with white gold 'star' pins and a sunburst-engraved insert sitting atop, its overarching functional inspiration is very World Traveller-esque thanks to its multi-layered construction. Featuring a recessed 24-hour GMT chapter ring, the DB25 GMT ingeniously displays its 2nd timezone via a circling orb made from blued titanium and 18ct pink gold. This orb rotates along the chapter ring's axis to cover the GMT hour that it is indicating and also rotates on its own axis to display the evening (blue side up) or daytime (pink side up).
With its jumping pointer date indictor and traditional hour and minutes hand made of blued titanium, as per De Bethune's tradition, the DB25 GMT is a stunningly well-designed piece of horological cohesion. It is rare to see a brand stitch two watch designs together into one and have them complement one another so seamlessly.
Movement and Engineering
Powered by De Bethune's 29th in-house calibre, the DB25 GMT features the manual-wind cal. DB2507 movement, which beats away at 4 Hz (28,800 BPH) and packs an impressive five-days of power reserve. Specs aside, I love how De Bethune construct and display their movements. While the DB25 GMT and many of its siblings feature sapphire crystal exhibition case backs, you see very little in terms of mechanics. What you do see, however, is about as unique as you can get in modern horology.
Flipping the DB25 GMT over, we see a perfectly symmetrical and beautifully polished steel barrel bridge cover with mirror-polishing adorned with "côtes de Bethune", enhanced with microlight decoration in its centre that houses a shock-absorption system which De Bethune has called the Triple Pare-chute System. Functional and beautiful – what's not to like? A signature of De Bethune's since 2016, it covers the mechanics, but you don't buy a De Bethune to see traditional watchmaking on display; you buy a De Bethune for futuristic cutting-edge technology and design, and the DB25 GMT packs it in abundance.
With its silicon balance wheel suspended on a balance bridge that spans the ends of this steel bridge cover, the cal. DB2507 movement's only sign of life is isolated, on display, and captivating. It might seem a bit airy-fairy, but considering the movement is so complicated and that De Bethune has given you nowhere else to look in terms of mechanics (not including the ends of the twin mainspring barrels), the cal. DB2507 is a mechanical tease, and I appreciate its refusal to satiate the calls to reveal more of its secrets.
I really do have a soft spot for De Bethune, and the DB25 GMT strikes just about every note that I look for in one of their timepieces. From its beautiful Milky Way galaxy-inspired dial to its seductively decorated movement and gorgeous case, it's a home run. Combining its looks and engineering with the fact that this watch represents the nearing end of the tumultuous 18-months that we have all just had to endure, it transcends traditional watchmaking by quite some margin as it attempts to tie into its prospective wearer's lives with the sincerity and decorum that only passionate independent watchmakers like De Bethune can achieve.
De Bethune DB25 GMT Starry Varius
Case size: 42 mm
Crystal: Double Anti-Reflective Sapphire Crystal
Movement: Cal. DB2507
Functions: Hours, Minutes, Second time zone (GMT) Day/Night Indicator, Jumping date
Frequency: 4 Hz (28,800 vibrations/hours)
Power reserve: 5 Days
Bracelet: Extra-Supple Alligator Leather, Alligator Lining
Availability: Limited production
Price: CHF 95,000 / $110,000 USD
For more information, visit De Bethune online.