A Love Letter To De Bethune
Dear De Bethune,
Can I call you Thunie? Or, even better, just DB?
I have decided to place quill upon pad after all these years of watching you . . . no, I’m neither a stalker nor a star-struck groupie.
I must admit that since our first encounter in 2002, though, you have sometimes disappointed me.
But more often than not you have intrigued, baffled, dazzled, and surprised me.
You do not remember our first meeting; how could you? You were just a baby, very different from what you are today. You had rather classic looks inside and out, but there was a je ne sais quoi implying that you might grow into something more interesting and perhaps flamboyant.
The child of two great minds – collector David Zanetta and genius watchmaker Denis Flageollet – your genetic code is extraordinary. Imagine a collector and a watchmaker who have held, owned, and worked on some of the greatest timepieces ever created teaming up to create unique mechanical oeuvres with a focus, where quality is written in capital letters in every language known to man.
This was to be something innovative . . . something exciting!
Sure, Zanetta and Flageollet could have repeated the past, making little tweaks here and there, design elements that would certainly be appealing.
But where is the fun in that?
You would have looked like thousands of others; you would have had your Warholian 15 minutes of fame then gone back to relative obscurity.
But your parents had greater plans for you. Much greater.
The plans your parents had for you was to establish a base of twenty-first-century haute horlogerie. In their own heydays, masterminds such as Ferdinand Berthoud, Julien LeRoy, and Abraham-Louis Breguet revolutionized their craft.
And instead of repeating what their great-grandfathers had done, these parents of yours imagined themselves inside the brains of a twenty-first-century Berthoud and Breguet, creating the differentiated and cleverly construed mechanics these old masters might have done were they alive today. This is the real revolution!
In your teen years you were sometimes difficult to follow; you seemed indecisive on where you wanted to go or what you wanted to look like.
A typical teenager: on a regular basis you changed your look, your beating escapement, and your complications.
It was really hard to keep up with you, but today it seems as if you have found your true self and are as beautiful as ever.
I recently asked a very close friend of mine, a great collector, if he had ever seen watches featuring a silicon escapement, a titanium/platinum balance, a triple pare-chute shock absorption system, a three-dimensional moon phase display accurate to 1,200 years, a 30-second tourbillon weighing less than 40 grams, or a chronograph with three column wheels before.
He tried hard to remember, but could not recall ever seeing these in a timepiece.
That’s obvious because you’re the only one who has ever had these elements – and sometimes they’re all even bundled in one timepiece!
This may seem like bragging, but, hey, it’s good to blow one’s own horn once in a while. Something you rarely do. Unfortunately.
And you’re not just brains, you have a great body too. Whether it’s your case with those incredibly comfortable floating lugs or the uniquely gorgeous bullet-shaped lugs; the hand-crafted guilloché or the stupendous hand-engraved dials; the stunning blued hands or even those uniquely crafted in sapphire crystal, every detail has been thought out and painstakingly created by hand.
And your looks . . . mamma mia!
I have never seen the likes of the hand finish in your movements before; you put many to shame who boast about the quality of their finishing. Perfect Geneva waves, polished angles, and the mirror-polished elements are done with panache, dexterity, and love.
This is haute couture in all its glory. Though some may not recognize it as such, I know.
I know this is your everyday life, so it will not impress you. But even the most seasoned collector would not be less than baffled if told him that in the past 13 years you have developed 19 different movements! Yes, 19!
And all the while remaining independent with no large corporation to back you up.
Each caliber has been created with a purpose, where many would have modified an existing movement. Your parents went about creating specific calibers of which at times only ten pieces would ever be made for one specific watch!
Is this utterly crazy? Definitely.
Does it make sense?
Economically, it doesn’t. But your parents are not necessarily businessmen; they are artists, mad scientists, men whose non-compromising vision is on the razor’s edge between madness and genius.
Some may say that you are quirky. So what? A design that pleases everyone is a bad design.
You don’t want to leave a lukewarm impression on people; you want to leave that to the mediocre and the unimaginative.
Others may say you are expensive. That is a fact. But the amount of research and development, the patents, the pure horological genius, and the sheer amount of handwork makes every penny worth it.
With you, exclusivity is not a marketing word. It’s a statement.
In today’s watch world what you do is futile as very few understand or even care about the intricacies and the manual labor of love that goes into creating each component, may it be the tiniest of screws.
But for me you are utterly relevant and needed as you proudly carry the torch of what haute horlogerie is and should be in the twenty-first century.
You created a path that you follow without compromise and without care because you have faith in what you do.
You have faith in your philosophy and you have faith in your art.
For this, I admire you.
With greatest affection,
What Makes Me Tick
For more on De Bethune, please visit www.debethune.ch.