De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds reviewed by Tim Mosso

by Tim Mosso

I saw my first De Bethune watch in 2016. It was a DB28 Kind of Blue, and I was sold.

Well, not “sold”  in the financial sense, because I was a broke watch salesman in a South Florida strip mall. But, to paraphrase Forrest Gump, I’m not a rich man, but I know what love is. My watch collecting ambitions had a new Everest.  Fast forward past a merger, a move north, a new name, and a few thousand YouTube videos to September 2021, and my now-much-larger-company buys a majority stake in De Bethune.

It felt like working for the New York Yankees but without suffering the Steinbrenners or George Costanza. Of course, you’ll ask whether I have an ulterior motive in writing about the brand, to which I respond, “duh, I’m a broke watch salesman.” Almost every watch I write about, regardless of brand, is something I’ve sold or will sell… and can’t afford.

Since I must face the burden of proof in a court of public opinion, I’m thrilled to provide photographic evidence herein. Is my passion sincere? Is this watch a genuine object of desire? I’ll let you, the reader, be the judge.

De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds on the wrist

The De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds arrived in 2012 as a union of the company’s prior DB28 Tourbillon and DB25 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds. In effect, the DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds, hereafter DB28TDS, amounts to the heart of the DB25 Tourbillon crossed with the floating lugs and dial-side mechanism of the DB28.

Floting lugs of the De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds

At the time, this watch represented the upper echelon of the catalog and could be considered something approaching a brand flagship.

It certainly has the presence of a flagship.



The highly polished case, in grade five titanium, measures 45mm in diameter. Its spring-loaded “floating” lugs range from a lateral minimum of 53.2mm in compression to 58mm at full extension. Normally, that’s no-go territory even for fairly large wrists, but the titanium/sapphire tandem is light, and the thickness of the case is 12.6mm; that’s Rolex Submariner territory.

The floating lugs of the De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds wrap around the the wrist

And, unlike most brands, De Bethune is willing to tailor watches post-sale and even after the first owner moves on. There are “midsize” and “small” lug sets that can be retrofitted during service, so the die is never totally cast.

Denis Flageollet, co-founder and lead watchmaker since day one, was between eras when he released this watch. The DB28 case and running gear are avant-garde, but the dial’s chapter ring retains the conservative classicism of the original 2002 DB1 chronograph series. Roman numerals, black on silver, and Breguet-inspired hands may not amount to leaving an entire foot in the past, but at least a toe retains some purchase on antiquity.

Seconds’ track of the De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds

There’s also a feature rare on DB28s: a well-defined seconds track.

For that matter, the DB28TDS has a center second hand that’s uncommon in this model family. This is necessary because the twin barrels, the tourbillon drivetrain, and the showpiece, a deadbeat escapement, are designed with chronometry – not Instagram – in mind.

De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds

When this watch debuted in 2012, the De Bethune deadbeat system was only a year old, and the DB28TDS marked its debut in the GPHG Aiguille d’Or-winning DB28 model line.



Central to the deadbeat mechanism is a secondary escapement mounted under a standalone bridge at dial center. A locking lever with pallet stones staggers gently at a one hertz rate. The twin escape wheels underpinning the mechanism are made of mechanical-grade 14-karat gold for frictional purposes. Frankly they’re also gold because it looks cool.

De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds

 A hacking seconds setting system declares chronometric ambitions – something that seems self-evident at this level but is rarely claimed of tourbillon regulators built by haute brands. Less than a second gained or lost per 24 hours is De Bethune’s mark, and this movement won the GPHG “Chronometry Watch” prize aboard the DB25 Starry Varius Chronomètre Tourbillon in 2018.

One of the two 14-karat gold escape wheels visible dial side of the De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds

Another reason the DB28TDS includes a second hand is because the tourbillon cannot serve that purpose. Flageollet judged a faster rotating tourbillon to be better suited to the wristwatch format, so this carriage makes two circuits per minute. Adding to the frenzy is an El Primero-like 36,000 vph rate that equates to ten beats per second; against the ear, this watch has two heartbeats at 5Hz and 1Hz.

As with most tourbillon escapements, this one is exceptionally vocal and can be audible across a room in the still of the night.

Total mass of this tourbillon is as sleight as its voice is bold. Construction from white gold, silicon, and titanium ensures a total of just eighteen hundredths of a gram in motion. That’s 0.18 grams. It ranks among the lightest tourbillon assemblies ever constructed. And, like the gold escape wheels, it looks cool.

There’s a mirror under the tourbillon that has no purpose other than to reflect light on its frenetic splendor.



The 2016-model balance wheel on the example featured is the latest of ten distinct balances patented by Flageollet. Each successive iteration seeks to displace the maximum proportion of total wheel mass into the rim and reduce the effects of temperature changes on timing.

Tourbillon regulator of the De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds

A silicon escape wheel of De Bethune’s design minimizes mass, friction, and lubrication reliance on one of the most lubrication-sensitive parts of a mechanical movement.

De Bethune does not fabricate its own balance springs, but it does shape and modify them. The design, which was patented in 2006, involves starting with hairspring alloy, cutting it, shaping the two parts by hand, and then binding them back together.

The result is a hairspring that retains the slim packaging and shock resistance of a flat balance spring while breathing concentrically like an overcoil. From a practical standpoint, it’s at least as responsible for the watch’s positional timing stability as the tourbillon – and possibly more so.

Although De Bethune launched its distinctive twin-barrel movement architecture on the DB15 perpetual calendar of 2004, it didn’t become a dial-side fixture until the 2011 DB28.

Solid caseback of the De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds

The manual wind caliber can retain four days of power reserve when fully energized; a slipping mainspring ensures that over-zealous winding of the mechanism can’t accidently crash through the breaking point of the barrels. The self-adjusting pair is patented and includes phased mainspring torque curves to maintain a plateau-like consistency of force unless pushed to one or the other extreme of mainspring wind.

A power reserve indicator at the base of the dial changes from silver to red as the mainsprings discharge.



Certain predilections of the De Bethune brand inspire consistent questions. The most common is the inquiry about the shape of the barrel bridge. Officially, this has been described as a “deltoid” shape. Unofficially, many watch collectors draw immediate comparisons to the Star Trek Starfleet insignia. I’ve spoken to Flageollet about this, and the idea likely springs from a composite of his experiences.

De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds

As an avid outdoorsman, Flageollet describes certain leaves found on hikes as the most direct inspiration. As a hiker, he views the peaked bridge as a symbol of a challenge overcome or general ambition to make upward progress.

When he explained this to me at Dubai Watch Week this past fall, I felt genuine remorse for being the internet’s most prolific promoter of the Star Trek theory. But then again, people love Star Trek, so maybe it can do for De Bethune what it did for Gene Roddenberry’s cultural legacy.

The second common question relates to De Bethune’s prolific application of the color blue. Note that the DB28TDS is laced with fire-oxidized blue bridges, hands, and a balance wheel. Flageollet had many inspirations, but the short answer to this query is that he likes to burn, oxidize, and temper materials in a homemade forge he constructed at his house.

The blue color emerged from a series of trial-and-error sessions. Flageollet’s secondary education was in science, so this isn’t quite the monkeys-at-typewriters shot in the dark that it may appear to be.

Additional reasons for the omnipresent De Bethune blue include natural inspirations from the sky and the sea, plus possible links to the color’s regal heritage in Denis Flageollet’s native France. Finally, the greatest watchmakers of the eighteenth and nineteenth century fire-blued steel, and Flageollet has great respect for history.

Blue Jean Rousseau hand stitched leather strap of the De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds

Engraved pin buckle of the De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds

The De Bethune name itself derives from a noble-born eighteenth-century French horologist, the Chevalier de Bethune.



From a fabrication and finishing standpoint, the DB28TDS is an inside job. That is, most cases, dials, and movements are fabricated and finished inside De Bethune’s three-story converted farmhouse in L’Auberson. Quality control is part of the reason, but so is low volume production.

Even when a fellow Swiss brand is asking, few component suppliers want to honor requests for seven dials or eight cases. There’s not much of a business model for such a project unless you can capture the full value-added payoff of selling the finished watch. And only the final link in the supply chain – the watchmaker – is able do that.

De Bethune tourbillon watches historically trickle out of the factory at a rate of a few dozen per year at most, so in-house fabrication is close to mandatory for this type of watch and its specialized parts. Materials as disparate as gold and meteorite are cut and hammered into dials and cases at the factory, and certain models including the Dream Watch 5 and DB29 Tourbillon Maxichrono are offered in any material on a custom-only basis. However, the company’s most prolific material output is the titanium featured on this survey’s subject watch.

Decoration is a major feature on the DB28TDS; it’s split between historic conventions and nuances that are peculiar to the brand. For example, the barrel bridge and base plate cap of the caliber DB2119 are striped using traditional passes by an abrasive wheel. However, the wheel is reversed for each side.

Beautifully executed strips on the De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds

The “shaded” side of each stripe occurs on the inboard side of the wave; each striped side is a mirror image of its opposite. This is described as “côtes De Bethune” in contrast to uniformly laid “côtes de Genève.”

Poli noir or “black” mirrored polishing is a time-honored tradition in watchmaking, but De Bethune employs it on a massive scale in the DB28TDS. From any vantage point but a handful of reflective angles, this exhaustively polished metal appears pitch black to the eye.

The steel superstructure that straddles the barrel bridge and deadbeat escapement is finished with either diamond paste or a zinc plate to achieve specular shine.



Small details matter on this watch. The solid rose gold deadbeat escape wheels receive both mechanical and aesthetic finish; they glow like a mirror with topside polish and bright interior chamfers. Both barrels incorporate richly grooved spiral “snailing.”

De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds

A satin brushed surface on the deadbeat bridge contrasts with the stripes below it and the mirrored steel above. Finally, media blasting achieves a matte blue effect on the balance and balance bridge that distinguishes them from the polished blue of the handset.

De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds

The final highlight brings this survey full-circle, pun intended; look closer at the hour track above the dial. It’s crafted of sterling silver, frosted, engraved, and inked manually. De Bethune retains in-house engraving and metal sculpting for these types of projects.

In the end, I submit to your scrutiny. As part of the same corporate family as De Bethune, I can’t claim to be an impartial observer. Is my ardor authentic? You’re not wrong to wonder.

However, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I saved my Perry Mason moment for last. Between 2016 and the day De Bethune joined my corporate Watchbox family in 2021, I recorded gushing tributes to these watches – tributes that live forever on YouTube. Did I sound as captivated with no strings attached? Literal hours of video evidence await you.

For more information, please see

Quick Facts: De Bethune DB28 Tourbillon Deadbeat Seconds
Edition: Several dozen since 2012

Reference Number: DB28STTS1PN
Case: 45mm in grade five titanium, 12.6mm thick, variable geometry floating lugs
Dial: Open with sterling silver time track, brass barrel bridge, steel motion works and deadbeat bridges.
Movement: DB2119, manual wind with 144-hour power reserve, 5Hz balance, 1Hz deadbeat escapement, twin barrels, 30mm diameter, 45 jewels, 30-second tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes, deadbeat seconds, power reserve indicator, hacking seconds
2024 Market Value: $200,000

* Tim Mosso is the media director and watch specialist at Watchbox. You can check out his very comprehensive YouTube channel at Watchbox is a shareholder in De Bethune.

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Reflecting on Ten Years of the Sensational De Bethune DB28

De Bethune DB Eight: The Ultimate in Chronograph Refinement!

De Bethune Navigates Uncharted Territory with the Stunning DB28xs Starry Seas

De Bethune DB28: How I Launched It, Why I Bought It, And Why It’s The Perfect ‘One Watch’

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