De Bethune DB28GS Yellow Submarine: Harnessing The Power Of Fire
Fire is the greatest tool that humanity has ever harnessed from nature. Not only is it integral to our ability to create new materials, tools, and objects, but harnessing fire allowed us to do something we had never been able to do: eat a huge variety of foods. How is that possible?
Many foods are either inedible without being cooked or are nutritionally poor until cooking unlocks various vitamins and macronutrients crucial to our health. It is very difficult to digest raw tubers such as potatoes, and many meats are potential disease vectors before being cooked. There are hundreds of plants and vegetables that require cooking to breakdown toxins, and many nutrients only become accessible for the body to absorb once they are activated through heat.
There is evidence showing that the development of cooking – and the expanded nutrient and caloric intake that followed – played a role in the doubling of the brain size of our ancestor homo erectus over the course of 600,000 years, allowing for higher-level thought and the development of more complex communication. This means that harnessing fire to cook food may well be the reason we eventually land on Mars.
Aside from cooking food, fire has played countless other roles in the development of humanity and our technological societies over time. One very specific role fire has had is helping De Bethune make some of the most stunning watches ever seen. It also played the defining role in that terrible segue, but unlike that transition fire is crucial to De Bethune’s new DB28GS Yellow Submarine and its incredible heat-treated, golden-hued titanium case.
But that isn’t the only highlight of the Yellow Submarine, so let’s dive into the details.
De Bethune DB28GS Yellow Submarine (pun free)
The DB28GS (“GS” is short for “Grand Sport”) model extension began life as the sporty, rugged version of the DB28 with expanded water resistance, a sturdier case, and bolder details to indicate that it is, indeed, a hardy watch. It introduced some aesthetic changes that made it feel even more sci-fi inspired, and by the time the GS Grand Bleu debuted, the GS had incorporated a new mechanical dynamo and artificial light source as well as diving-specific additions to the crystal and bezel.
The DB28GS Grand Bleu, and now the new Yellow Submarine, displays hours, minutes, and seconds with a power reserve indicator for the five-day reserve. It also features a rotating bezel with a metalized minute ring on the underside of the crystal that rotates with the bezel to indicate dive time.
But to expand its capabilities as a diving watch, the DB28GS incorporates something much more interesting: a mechanical dynamo system that generates power for a set of LED lights that illuminate the dial and the minute indication on the bezel.
On the original Grand Bleu this was aided by a proprietary luminescent material named Blue Moon developed with James Thompson of Black Badger and Super-LumiNova. But the Yellow Submarine uses a more traditional white lume. This is still a rarity for De Bethune as pretty much every one of the brand’s watches is very clearly absent of lume.
But the most significant addition for the latest Yellow Submarine model is, you may have already guessed, its fire-induced yellow color. This has only been seen on one other model previously, the DB28 Yellow Tones, though with a darker hue than we see on the DB28GS Yellow Submarine.
Usually a gold color is created by using an actual gold case, but De Bethune is so skilled with heat treatment of titanium that it can play around with colors other than the already stunning blue so characteristic of the brand. Though like all De Bethune models, the watches are more than the sum of their parts, and the heat-colored titanium is more awesome in the context of the piece itself.
Deeper into the flames
The process of heat treating titanium is more difficult than steel as the color transitions happen at a higher range of temperatures, meaning that flame heating is very likely to produce imperfect results. Not to mention that the transition temperatures are more finicky and easier to shoot past compared to steel. For this reason, a carefully controlled kiln or oven is required for precise color control, and the material must be perfectly prepared, much like steel, to achieve even results.
The blue color typical of De Bethune is on the higher end of the temperature range, so bringing the colors down to the yellow range (commonly referred to as straw) requires backing off the heat. But the color often isn’t as vibrant as the purples and blues from higher temperatures. With perfectly polished surfaces and very precise control of temperature, an expert can fine tune to the more vibrant gold- and bronze-looking colors present in the Yellow Submarine. But it isn’t easy.
The Yellow Submarine gets around this by using different temperature ranges to highlight different components. The earlier DB 28 Yellow Tones was completely polished and so achieved a slightly bronze-hued gold, while the DB28GS Yellow Submarine became a bit more of a pale straw color due to most of the case being brushed. To accent this, polished inserts were added into the lug cutouts, which pushed a bit further into the bronze-gold color to provide some contrast.
The same is found inside the movement: the larger triangular top plate has a polished edge in the same darker bronze-gold color right next to the paler straw color of the hour-and-minute track, center insert on the top plate, and the hands. Separating those is a microlight texture in a dark brown to stay in the same color family.
This takes the Yellow Submarine to a different place than the DB28 Yellow Tones, which is a more consistent dark gold, showcasing how De Bethune really can adjust and tweak the color needed for each component to create an entirely different vibe.
But the real magic of the Yellow Submarine is found in the mechanical dynamo system built into the movement to power four LED lights to illuminate the dial underwater (or just in the dark), activated by a pusher on the bottom edge of the case at 6 o’clock. It works on the same principle as any electrical generator using magnetic fields and the laws of induction to generate an electric current that lights up the LEDs for a few seconds. The system is powered by the twin mainspring barrels and, when activated, drives a small gear train that includes a spinning governor to keep the power delivery consistent.
With a five-day power reserve, this means you can use the light without worrying too much about it draining your mainsprings. But the system blocks when the power reserve hits one day remaining to maintain performance of the timekeeping. The system is as mechanical as possible, barring the LEDs and any wires or contacts necessary to get the energy from the dynamo to the LEDs, but this is a good solution for those hoping to avoid technical obsolescence from a mechanical watch.
And the lights do something else aside from simply lighting up the dial: they also help charge the lume on the hands and underneath the bezel ring to allow the illumination continue a little once the button is released. The combination of the colors with the lighting and lume makes the Yellow Submarine a standout among De Bethune models, and that is saying something.
The contrast is clearly there, something that brands can often overlook when trying to push some distinct aesthetic. But most importantly for me, it feels so entirely within De Bethune’s wheelhouse that I am left just wanting more and more.
The styling has evolved yet is perfectly on theme, and the sight of the mechanical dynamo running while you press the button at 6 o’clock is just one more fun thing about using the Yellow Submarine. When you add in the ability to have a functionally gold-looking watch that is as light as titanium (as a firm believer in functional metals over precious metals), this really makes the Yellow Submarine a strong contender for the boldest De Bethune available right now. And we all know you don’t buy a De Bethune if you want a watch that will fly under the radar.
De Bethune is a brand that loves to show off and highlight the craft and creativity of watchmakers and inventors. I really enjoy seeing De Bethune delve back into the yellow coloration of titanium and for being willing to push the traditional boundaries of a mechanical watch with the dynamo system.
You could say it’s on fire.
So let’s light it up while we break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.87 De Bethune on its own will wow most, so an extra wow on top of that is impressive!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 98.7» 967.916m/s2 Almost a solid 100 Gs of force with this piece will keep you glued to your seat as you watch the dynamo glow!
- M.G.R. * 68.7 The amount of quality and innovation from De Bethune over the years is all packed into this watch, and the addition of the dynamo system cannot be understated!
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate A power reserve is always super important on a hand-wound watch, especially one with a function that can drain that reserve if used too often. That second function is what makes this piece require some regular strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the very interesting horological swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 10.8 A bit of solvent in your eye! When you are cleaning some glue residue and using a spray bottle to apply the solvent, make sure the tip isn’t mostly close and going to squirt randomly into your face because, oh boy, does that smart. Still, if it really meant that I could truly own one of these, I would take an afternoon of blurriness to get the Yellow Submarine on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Mechanical Dyno! Really that mechanical dynamo is what seals the deal for this watch and has me calling venues to see if they have any openings for a fall ceremony!
- Awesome Total * 963.2 First take the diameter of the case in millimeters (44) and multiply by the thickness of the case (12.8), then add the number of parts in the movement (400) for a illuminating awesome total!
For more information, please visit DeBethune.ch/en/collections/db28-collections/db28gs-yellow-submarine.
Quick Facts De Bethune DB28GS Yellow Submarine
Case: 44 x 12.8 mm, titanium and black zirconium, floating lugs
Movement: manual winding Caliber DB2080 with silicon escape wheel and titanium-and-white-gold balance wheel, triple pare-chute shock absorption, self-regulating twin spring barrels, 5-day power reserve, 28,800 vph/4 Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; elapsed dive time, power reserve, dial illumination
Limitation: 25 pieces
Price: 90,000 Swiss francs
Remark: delivered with two straps, natural rubber and canvas