De Bethune DB28YT "Yellow Tones"

Innovative From Every Angle: The De Bethune DB28YT “Yellow Tones”

It’s rare to see true originality in the watch world. Unlike other material goods or pieces of fashion, watches have changed very little over the last few hundred years. Show someone from the Victorian era a pair of New Balance’s or someone dressed in athleisure, and it would likely throw them for a loop. However, show that same person a Calatrava, and they’d instantly comprehend its purpose and appeal. While I admit that an antiquated look can often be an appealing trait in a timepiece, not all watchmakers are content to make watches that look two hundred years old. Case in point, this futuristic-looking DB28YT “Yellow Tones” from the independent watchmaker De Bethune. 

De Bethune DB28YT "Yellow Tones"
De Bethune DB28YT “Yellow Tones”

History 

Founded in 2002, De Bethune is one of the most inventive watchmakers in operation. The award-winning brand reimagines all aspects of watchmaking, and along with offering unique designs, they also have gone so far as to create their own finishing techniques and have introduced numerous mechanical innovations. They have produced over 25 original calibers and possess numerous patents, all while operating with less than fifty employees and producing roughly 150 pieces a year. As a frame of reference, another “small” watchmaker you may know, F.P. Journe, produces closer to 1000 watches annually. De Bethune’s independent and innovative spirit has produced some of the most interesting and original watches on the market today. The DB28 line is among the most notable lines they produce. In fact, the founding model of the DB28 line won the Aiguille d’Or in the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. The watch we have here is a distinct part of that famous collection.

De Bethune DB28YT "Yellow Tones"
De Bethune DB28YT “Yellow Tones”

This is the DB28YT which was introduced in 2019, almost ten years after the original DB28. The YT in the name stands for yellow tones, as this is not gold but rather heat-treated titanium; we’ll dive more into that in a second. While the color and finishing are different, the rest of the watch is very similar to the DB28s that came before it in that this watch totally embodies De Bethune’s avant-garde spirit. Almost every component on this watch has been examined from every angle, and if De Bethune figured out a way to make said component better, they did. 

De Bethune DB28YT "Yellow Tones"
De Bethune DB28YT “Yellow Tones”

Design Details

My first impression of this watch is that it looks like the kind of timepiece Spock would wear to his wedding. The case looks like a spaceship, and the Côtes De Bethune finished bridges are even shaped like the Star Trek logo. This is just De Bethune’s unique design language, and it doesn’t officially have anything to do with Star Trek, but there’s no denying this thing looks like it’s right out of Gene Roddenberry’s head.

Then you have the remarkable case finishing. As I mentioned earlier, this is not a gold watch but rather a specially treated grade 5 titanium. Traditionally heat-treated titanium watches are a deep and rich shade of blue with various hues of purple. This watch has undergone a special fire oxidation process performed exceptionally quickly, resulting in the various golden tones you see here. This not only allows De Bethune to show off their in-house finishing prowess, but it also imbues the watch with an increased luster when compared to many other watches that are actually gold. 

De Bethune DB28YT "Yellow Tones"
De Bethune DB28YT “Yellow Tones”

Measuring 42.6mm in diameter by just 9.3mm thick with a symmetrical crown at twelve o’clock, the DB28YT will fit a wide range of wrist sizes. This versatility is further increased by its unique spring-loaded “floating lugs,” which flex downward toward the wrist and range from 55mm to 51mm lug to lug, depending on the wearer’s wrist size. This is just another example of De Bethune’s habit of rethinking and improving components that have otherwise been unchanged for decades. 

On the dial, we find more futuristic design queues. The movement is exposed and visible through the dial, but it’s still extremely legible. The contrasting finishing and tones of yellow, gold, and silver give proper visual separation. Along the outer permitter, you’ll find a silver-colored minute track with cutouts to denote the minutes with polished titanium spheres to indicate the hours. At six o’clock, just below the well-finished balance and mesmerizing escapement, is a distinct 360-degree spherical moonphase. One half of the sphere has been oxidized yellow while the other is polished white palladium. This complication has been around for centuries; it just hadn’t been done De Bethune’s way. That sentiment really sums up the whole design of this watch. There simply isn’t anything else like it. 

De Bethune DB28YT "Yellow Tones"
De Bethune DB28YT “Yellow Tones”
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Inner Workings

Inside the DB28YT is the manually wound caliber DB2115V4 which has a six-day power reserve and a massive amount of mechanical ingenuity. Among the movement’s components invented by De Bethune are a self-regulating twin barrel, a patented titanium balance wheel with white gold inserts, a patented De Bethune balance spring with a flat terminal curve, a triple pare-chute shock absorbing system, and the patented spherical moon-phase indicator. Combined, these make for a seriously efficient, reliable, and durable watch movement. This isn’t really a sports watch, but it will probably be fine if you happen to find yourself sporting.

De Bethune DB28YT "Yellow Tones"
De Bethune DB28YT “Yellow Tones”

Along with the mechanical innovation, the movement is also beautifully finished with its yellow-toned titanium components, which can be seen through the front and back of the watch. The fired titanium and steel components have been expertly hand-finished to provide visual intrigue from every angle. 

De Bethune DB28YT "Yellow Tones"
De Bethune DB28YT “Yellow Tones”

Versus The Competition

A watch this distinct, original, and expensive—this specific example is worth roughly $160,000—doesn’t have many direct competitors. But there are kindred timepieces, so to speak, that one might cross-shop. 

If you love timepieces that push the envelope in terms of design originality and mechanical innovation, you can’t go wrong with Richard Mille. Sure, it’s become the go-to “flex” piece for the rich and famous, but Richard Mille doesn’t rest on its laurels. This rose gold RM32 Automatic Flyback Diver’s Chronograph offers a uniquely futuristic and technical aesthetic while offering top-notch functionality and reliability. If you’re looking for a modern timepiece that’s unlike anything else but find the De Bethune a little too formal, then maybe this forward-thinking yet beefy rose gold watch is for you.

De Bethune DB28YT "Yellow Tones"
De Bethune DB28YT “Yellow Tones”

On the other hand, if you’re not really into futuristic design but do appreciate originality and innovation, then this F.P. Journe Octa Lune Automatic might be worth a look. It still fits into the traditional dress watch mold, but like all F.P. Journe’s, its movement is top notch, and it has an original and unique design language all to itself. Additionally, like the De Bethune, the Octa Lune also possesses an exceptionally long power reserve—it boasts 120 hours of run time— and has a moonphase. If you want something different but not too different, this F.P. Journe will do perfectly.

De Bethune DB28YT "Yellow Tones"
De Bethune DB28YT “Yellow Tones”

Personality

Plain and simple, this watch is for those with very individual tastes. There is very little about this watch that one could classify as “traditional.” The DB28YT isn’t just for someone who wants something unique; it’s for someone who hates normal. 

De Bethune DB28YT "Yellow Tones"
De Bethune DB28YT “Yellow Tones”

Final Thoughts 

I’ll admit, I love traditional watches, and part of why I like them, in general, has to do with nostalgia. However, the industry as a whole can’t just recycle designs and expect to thrive in the 21st Century. Either way, while they all figure that out, you can have the future now with this DB28YT.

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