De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono Watch Hands-On
The DB28 Maxichrono watch is De Bethune’s answer to the chronograph (and it is a “high beat” one at that), and like many of their horological products, it offers something you know in a way that is at least a little bit unique. The brand began showing prototype versions of the De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono to us a few years ago, actually, but it was not until perhaps a year or so ago that the final De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono was done. This particular version is the De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono Black Gold which, as the name implies, is in 18k rose gold along with elements of blackened zirconium. That material combination alone makes a watch like this unique.
More so, if you had simply told me that a chronograph watch would have looked nice in an 18k rose gold case with polished black zirconium lugs and a silvered dial, I might have taken a skeptical approach to your suggestion. On top of that, the dial mixes elements of traditional chronograph timing tools with modern touches such as the De Bethune hands and font for the Arabic numeral hour markers. All of this is a weird combination of elements that, thanks to De Bethune’s particular aptitude for curating the strange, works out for a very useful, very nice-looking, and very original high-end timepiece.
Then there is the matter of the movement which is visible through the sapphire crystal caseback window on the rear of the case, and you have yet another item of beauty. What is interesting is that even when looking closely at the movement, it doesn’t really resemble a chronograph unless you take a close look at the elements which, I believe, form the clutch mechanism. According to De Bethune, this in-house made and designed caliber DB2030 movement even has three columns wheels (if one is to understand them correctly).
The DB2030 movement is manually wound and produced from 384 parts – the majority of which are hand finished and decorated. De Bethune actually has a few patented elements in the movement which include their particular silicone escapement wheel, silicon and 18k white gold balance wheel, as well as “self-regulating” twin mainspring barrels (more on that in a moment). The DB2030 also has a patented chronograph clutch system they call the “De Bethune Absolute Clutch.” Together, the elements make for a high frequency chronograph that uses all central hands and measures up to 24 hours.
There is no impressive trick involved in making a chronograph watch that measures 24 versus 12 hours (or any amount of time, for that matter). This is all about dial design and gearing. With that said, due to the fact that most chronograph watches rely on small subdials to register elapsed time, most chronograph watches you see only measure up to 12 hours. Using the entirety of the dial for the chronograph indicators, the De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono was designed as just that – a watch which maximizes the dial space for the chronograph.
The De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono technically has subdials, but they are more about concentric rings within the larger dial, the smaller of which is in the center of the face and is used to measure the chronograph hours up to 24. This uses a blued steel hand, and so does the indicator for the chronograph seconds, which is also the longest hand on the dial. De Bethune uses a rose gold hand for the chronograph minutes, and blackened steel hands for the time. All of the hands are hand-polished. I also like the design of the dial which takes inspiration from classic pocket watches. The dial uses various levels to better emphasize legibility, but it also lends a higher-end look to the dial presentation.
I recently wrote about how I wasn’t a fan of promoting monopusher chronographs over those with separate pushers to start/stop and reset the chronograph. If, however, you want a situation where a modern monopusher chronograph movement is cool, then you’ll find it in the DB2030 movement. De Bethune integrates the chronograph pusher into the crown which is located at 12 o’clock for a very elegant, clean look for the case.
This crown position is ideal, given the position of the large articulating lug attachments on the case at 3 and 9 o’clock. If you’ve never worn a De Bethune DB28-style case before, then allow me to explain that this system has the lug structures designed to be “spring loaded” and to wrap around the wearer’s wrist, making what would otherwise be a larger watch much more wearable. It is a cool system, and the difference in materials and colors between the lugs and the case help emphasize this unique functional design element of the De Bethune DB28.
At 45mm wide, the De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono case is just 11mm thick, but wears larger due to the lug structures. With that said, I hope you recall what I said above about the watch otherwise being very comfortable due to the pivoting lugs. De Bethune really excels at decoration and polishing, and if you see less refined elements about this particular piece, it is because it is a pre-production prototype.
Above, I mentioned that the De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono’s DB2030 movement was a high-beat caliber. That is true, and like the famed Zenith El Primero, the DB2030 movement operates at a frequency of 5Hz (36,000 bph), and it still has enough power reserve for 4 days. Consider that a long time for such a power-hungry movement and the high frequency is part of why De Bethune utilizes their own special balance wheel and regulation system in the watch. Taken together, the elements of the De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono watch as a chronograph are both unique and desirable, which makes it possible to digest the premium pricing for an independently made and very original chronograph timepiece.
Further, I like that in one item, De Bethune was able to combine their brand’s aesthetic DNA, hints to classic chronograph/stopwatch devices, as well as a degree of avant-garde elegance which makes the movement and layout of the dial appealing and refined. The De Bethune DB28 Maxichrono Black Gold reference DB28MCRZN is a fascinating and highly limited production watch from one of my favorite independent Swiss watch makers, and it comes with a price of $166,500. debethune.ch