The De Bethune DB28 Digitale

The De Bethune Digitale DB28 is not a new watch; it was first launched in 2014 and it’s probably one of the better known watches in the DB28 collection, all of which have in common the use of a case with very distinctive open articulated lugs. Several of the DB28 watches also feature a spherical moonphase complication, which is something of a signature rendition of this complication for De Bethune. We just recently had a Digitale in the office and we thought that, despite having covered the watch when it first came out, that it would be great to take another look – both for the aesthetic decision-making that went into it, and for its combination of technical features that support, and are critical to, the aesthetics.

The DB28 Digitale has just three moving elements: the rotating minutes disk, the digital hour, and the spherical moonphase.  There are three static design elements: the stylized night sky surrounding the minute track and the moonphase, the dial guilloché, and the De Bethune logo.

The whole effect is very modern and the choice of materials (engraved and blued titanium) supports that impression but at the same time, there’s a very archaic quality to the watch as well which is what I think really characterizes the best designs from De Bethune. All three elements – the jumping hours, spherical moonphase, and wandering minutes – have been around for centuries and seeing them express themselves with such clarity, but in a modernist context, gives the Digitale an historical depth very much lacking in many modern watches that strive to be contemporary or outright modernist in style.

Caliber DB2144 is a five day movement, and it benefits from the same clarity of design as the dial side. Two features are worth noting. The first is that there is not only shock protection on the balance staff, but also on the mounts for the blued balance bridge. The design is similar conceptually to Breguet’s invention known as the para-chute shock absorption system, in which flexible blade springs retain the balance jewels in place. In the caliber DB2144 the springs take the form of two elongated S-shapes, fixed to the central blued element; the whole thing has an oddly organic feel – there’s more than a hint of biomechanics.

The balance wheel is also very unusual – it’s a disk of pure silicon, with a white gold outer rim; the idea is to make a balance that’s unaffected by temperature, and with as much of its mass on its periphery as possible, for better rate stability. There are stated chronometric goals behind its design but its visual lightness is just as central to the experience of the watch as its physical lightness.


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