The Nine Muses And The De Bethune DB28 Digitale
Oh, Muse of the heavens
And keeper of the skies;
She who guards the Milky Way,
And through its majesty, flies.
The one which sets our midnight ablaze
With comets and moon light,
Oh, Urania, sweet child of Zeus,
How your stars conquer the night!
Some of you are probably staring at your screen and thinking, “That nerd has gone crazy.” But I just wanted to get you into the mood of an inspired artist and philosopher, or perhaps an astronomer.
You see, that poem is dedicated to Urania, one of the nine Muses, who is associated with astronomy and the heavens. Over the centuries she has inspired those who look to the skies with wonder and excitement, and her sisters have inspired many others in their ambitious endeavors.
The nine Muses are the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. Each is associated with different aspects of literature, science, and the arts. Calliope, Erato, and Euterpe are the Muses of the three types of poetry: epic, lyric, and song. Melpomene and Thalia are the Muses of tragedy and comedy as relates to theater. Polyhymnia is the muse of – wait for it – hymns. Her sister, Terpsichore, is the Muse of dance. Lastly, Clio (Cleo) is the Muse of history, and one of the better known Muses, if only by name.
But our focus today is not on all of the nine sisters, but on the eldest daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne, Urania, the Muse of Astronomy. She is the keeper of the stars and the physical embodiment of the heavens. She wears a cloak embroidered with stars and holds a celestial globe while keeping her eyes trained on the skies.
She has been the namesake for numerous observatories all over the world including Berlin, Budapest, Bucharest, Vienna, Zurich, and Antwerp. Basically, when it comes to the night sky and all that is in it, she is the bee’s knees.
She, and her sisters, are pure illumination and vision; inspiration incarnate, if you will. So when I look at something that inspires me, I immediately wonder as to its inspiration, or muse.
There usually is one, and in the case of today’s timepiece, I feel I know the true spark that led to its creation. Looking at the De Bethune DB28 Digitale, it’s clear to me that Urania was at work here, and how marvelous her work has been.
The DB28 Digitale is a masterpiece that debuted earlier this year. While straightforward in its appearance, it is truly a work of horological expertise and pure beauty. But more so, it is clearly the result of a healthy dose of inspiration from Urania. At least it is unknowingly. De Bethune itself has always been inspired by what has come before, particularly by 18th century watchmaking and, more specifically as regards to the Digitale, the subdued neoclassically inclined French Directoire style.
This is why Urania is really behind everything; she is a classic Muse that helps all those who search for the true ideals of classic Greece. The Directoire style takes the best styles of ancient Greece and Rome and refines them to the standards of 18th century France.
De Bethune found its spark in the elegant mantel clocks of the period with great appreciation of the technical and stylistic elements that could be reinterpreted in a most modern and De Bethune-esque way.
The Digitale is, of course, the result of such thinking with a very refined and balanced dial that harks back to classic watchmaking techniques while simultaneously bringing them into the 21st century. The focus on this piece is actually the large expanse that is cleanly decorated but remains without superfluous ornamentation.
Probably two-thirds of the dial is a beautiful hand-guilloché barleycorn pattern radiating out from a polished and heat-blued titanium central disc (what I call the “heaven’s disc”), which is studded with white gold “stars.”
This disc surrounds a very tiny spherical moon phase that consists of two polished hemispheres, one of palladium and one of flame-blued steel. This little moon phase also happens to be more than just beautiful, it’s also very accurate.
The tiny sphere represents the lunar cycle accurately to within one day every 1,112 years. Oh yeah, it’s that good.
That main display and pattern covers about two-thirds of the dial, keeping it neat, tidy and, above all, elegantly refined. It feels timeless and boundless, like it belongs with you forever.
But the Digitale is also a modern interpretation of classical elements and proves this with the implementation of the hours and minutes.
A favorite non-complication
The hours are displayed via a jump hour mechanism (one of my favorite non-complications), a patented De Bethune design showing that old ideas can benefit from new tricks.
Secondly, the minutes are on a ball bearing-mounted disc that moves in retrograde motion, another technical leap for such a classically inspired design.
A third homage to the night sky and the second instance of the beautiful white gold stars on a blued titanium background is featured outside of the minute disc. All of these elements create a strong picture of the heavens on your wrist, and to me a clear bit of guidance from that eternal Muse Urania.
This would already be a top-notch timepiece if that was where the amazement ended, but it goes so much further.
Science fiction technology
Underneath the perfectly proportioned and restrained dial lies the DB2144 caliber, which looks like something straight out of science fiction. It features a solid silicon and white gold balance wheel for perfectly poised construction and almost no air resistance. While the latter might seem small, it still negatively affects almost every other balance out there.
It also contains a silicon escape wheel for extremely reduced escapement friction. The balance is supported by the De Bethune triple pare-chute shock absorbing system, which utilizes a balance bridge held in place on two jewels by a pair of bridge spring arms.
This allows for three points of shock absorption, including the central shock absorbing jewel on the balance, for even more resistance to sudden bumps or bangs.
The balance also features a balance spring with a flat terminal curve, which is said to compensate for off-centering during rotation and facilitates more accurate fastening.
Moving on to the power reserve, the DB2144 also incorporates self-regulating twin spring barrels, which dole out five days of power reserve. Pretty darn good for a manual wind movement!
Holding all of this together, though, is the incredible case, a slight variant of previous DB28 cases. Made from grade 5 titanium and polished to perfection, it is light as a feather and very resistant to marring.
My favorite feature, however, is the floating lugs, which spring from the center on each side, skeletonized and polished to gleaming awesomeness.
An unknown Muse
This is where I take the time to tell you that while Urania might be the unknown Muse of De Bethune, De Bethune and the DB28 series is probably one of my main horological muses. As I have mentioned in some of my previous articles, I am a fairly atypical watch writer in that I am using most of my spare time outside of my day job to design, learn about, and work on watches.
I just recently finished fabricating my very first watch, which I brought to Baselworld 2014 to show around and get opinions. The number one comment I got while showing it to others was, “It reminds me of a De Bethune.”
No better compliment could I have gotten as, of course, they hit the nail right on the head. I actually had the pleasure of it catching the eye of De Bethune CEO Pierre Jacques during our meeting with De Bethune, where he said it “looked familiar.” I guess mission accomplished.
Look for an upcoming article on that whole journey as I discuss my first adventure into watchmaking. But that is for another day.
De Bethune pushes the boundaries of horological design and engineering and holds strongly to its inspiration in spirit while exploring new avenues. For this reason I believe the Digitale has been very well received, especially by this watch nerd. Certainly, De Bethune’s overall mission is a success in the eyes of watch enthusiasts.
I know there are some very strongly opinioned enthusiasts out there who disagree, and who have told me so in the past, but I find that the truly passionate embrace the direction of De Bethune and hold them in a class among legends. I know I do.
And if there is someone out there who would also be pleased by the efforts of De Bethune and its works of splendor, her name just might be Urania, the Muse of the stars.
Now it’s time for my a-MUSE-ing breakdown!
• Wowza Factor * 9.85 You simply can’t get much better than this, and when I first saw it I said more than one wowza.
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 99.98 gn » 980.468m/s2 Almost the force of gravity times ten to the second power, this De Bethune does not fall short of creating mountains of lust.
• M.G.R. * 70.52 An exceptionally geeky movement, with patents and science fiction all rolled into one amazing package.
• Added-Functionitis * Moderate Since jump hours and retrograde minutes aren’t technically complications, the moon phase has to bear the torch for the added functions. Still, accurate to 1,112 years means you definitely need extra-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the beautifully miniature swelling.
• Ouch Outline * 12.54 – Falling Face First Into A Fire Ant Nest While not nearly as bad as that scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, this would still be a terribly horrible day. But, dang-nabbit, I just might do it if the prize was a DB28 Digitale. Scars fade, but that watch lasts forever.
• Mermaid Moment * Those lugs, that dial, that everything! Falling in love at first sight is a rare thing, and only a few timepieces have made that happen. Meet the one that made me want to call Tiffany’s and set up an appointment to look at rings.
• Awesome Total * 1000 I don’t have to explain this one, it gets an even thousand. It just does. So there.
For more information, please visit www.debethune.ch/collections-db28dig.htm.
Case: 43 mm with 45 mm bezel ring in polished titanium
Movement: manually wound Caliber DB2144
Functions: hours, minutes; moon phase
Price: CHF 95,000