For many watch collectors, there are designs that are instantly recognizable. For some, it’s the brand logo that jumps out at them. For smaller independent brands, creating this point of recognition can at times be more of a challenge. How does one create a recognizable design characteristic? Is it a matter of case design? The choice of hands or indices? Or does one step further outside the box? With De Bethune, get a bit of an amalgam of the above, in turn leading to watches that are immediately recognizable as work. Other details aside, one item that is consistent across most references is their unique bridge design, reminiscent of the Starfleet Insignia. On the De Bethune DB27 Titan Hawk V2 we’re looking at today, it’s definitely there, though perhaps a touch more subtle than what we see in other references.
For a brand that has only been around since 2002, De Bethune has been busy. They’ve won three GPHG awards, have numerous patents, and produced a number of in-house calibers. The De Bethune DB27 Titan Hawk is a model that was first introduced in 2012, to mark the 10-year anniversary of the brand. Carrying forward the floating lug design and 12 o’clock crown from the DB28, the DB27 was designed as the brand’s more “entry level” offering. 2017 saw a minor refresh of the original De Bethune DB27 Titan Hawk, as a sort of final edition, then followed by the fully reworked V2 the following year. For the DB27 V2, central seconds replaced the date indication, and the case back was opened up a good deal more.
Let’s start here with those changes on the dial. For the V2, we lost the date indicator from the V1, but the memory of it is there in the central design on its guilloche dial. Here is that modified Starfleet insignia again. It’s bold, due to its size, but also subtle. In contrast to other references where this “logo” appears in the form of movement bridgework, the raised application on the dial is prominent, but still subtle on account of the monochromatic finish. You can’t help but see it, but it’s not jumping out at you.
For being a thoroughly modern watch, the Titan Hawk V2 sneaks in a few more classic design cues than expected. The dial features a mix of Roman and Arabic numerals, and a thin bezel surrounding sapphire crystal. The case is another area where classical convention meets modern innovation—stick with me here. De Bethune’s floating lug case has been around since the launch of the DB28, and is unlike anything else on the market. Aside from being extremely futuristic in design (not to mention it’s one of the most comfortable watch cases on the planet), there’s a subtle nod to history here. If you look at the lugs and the case as two separate units, you begin to see that the watch head itself is effectively a suspended pocket watch, albeit in very modern form. That modernity is further cemented by the use of titanium as the case material, which was never in the catalog in the days of pocket watches.
Inside the DB27 Titan Hawk V2, you have what turns out to be De Bethune’s 26th movement – the AUTOV2. With the V2, you can actually see a lot more of the movement. Through that slice of sapphire, you can see the skeletonized tungsten/titanium alloy rotor echoing the skeleton handset from the front of the watch. Oh, you want something more than titanium? De Bethune has you covered with white gold inserts in the rotor, and an escape wheel made of good old steel. Once wound up, the movement runs at 4 Hz (28,800 vph) and should keep running for 60 hours after you take it off of your wrist.
What is interesting in this caseback view is just how uncluttered it is. Yes, you get to see the more frenetic moving parts in action, but a large part of the view is a wide expanse of hand-finished metal. Not overly embellished, but definitely there. Why so “plain?” Well, remember that this is the brand’s point of entry, and this watch is not meant to be quite as refined as other references that consistently fetch six figure.
Versus The Competition
If we’re going to talk about competition, we’ll set aside the other De Bethune models, which are intriguing in their own right. What we need to do is look at what other options we see for something with a very classic design with modern underpinnings coming from an independent brand. How about one that started in the same year as De Bethune? We have that in the form of Kari Voutilainen. From his watches, we might point you to the Vingt-8 ISO. Here, we’ve got a very classic dial that exposes a very interesting mix of textures when you look more closely at the dial. And the movement, that’s just as lovely, and enables a rather unique method of reading the time that is a bit of a mind warp (just read the article to see what we’re talking about).
If that throws you off a bit too much with the rotating outer track, then consider the Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten. Rose gold and deep blue are pleasing to the eye, and you’ve got a very classic dial offset with a view of the movement down below. But wait – where’s the crown? For that, you flip the watch over and see Gauthier’s genius at work, with a serrated wheel allowing you to wind the movement. This also gives you a rather lovely view of the work that went into the components involved in creating such a piece.
The De Bethune DB27 Titan Hawk V2 takes a slice of horological history, and delivers it a proper tribute in a refreshed and refined style such that it’s ready to boldly go into the future. While many tend to be drawn to De Bethune’s more vibrant offerings, the subtlety of this one is worth giving it a second chance. For all of its quiet conservative looks, the spring-loaded lugs and modern movement speak of high technical capability. Think of it as the quiet engineer who has a tattoo or three hiding under their shirt sleeves. Capable, with a well-sorted sense of style that isn’t without a bit of flair.
For fans of De Bethune, the De Bethune DB27 Titan Hawk V2 is instantly recognizable as coming from their workshop in L’Auberson. For those with an eye towards the history of watches, this presents an interesting thought exercise of “what if” some of these modern materials and methods existed a hundred years ago. Finally, for those who grew up on a steady dose of Star Trek, well, this is a way to get a spaceship for your wrist, and carry your love of Trek with you, cloaked like a Romulan Bird of Prey. Whatever angle you approach this watch from, it is one that delights the eye and scratches that indefinable itch of why these micromachines call to us, even now.