Great artists are custodians of the tradition of their craft and build a future upon the foundations laid by the grand masters who came before them. This is the conviction upon which De Bethune bases its pursuit of excellence in the world of horology. With its "feet firmly planted in history and [a] head resolutely turned towards the future," the company has entered the new century of watch-making with a clear vision. They want to honour the legacy of one of humanity's oldest machines, but also take it to new heights, by combining the classic art of fine watch-making with cutting-edge technology and pioneering research.
Race against time
"Watch-making has lost its soul." The face of De Bethune's President, David Zanetta, takes on a serious expression as he outlines the situation that has compelled him to embark on a business venture with Technical Director Denis Flageollet. "In the old days, a great watch was a masterpiece of art. Its many different components were made by the most brilliant craftsmen in their field: the best dial-maker, the best case-maker, the best hand-maker, etc. These masters of the trade had a true understanding of the history and culture of horology. Today, many of these specialist professions no longer exist and, often, one person has to take on many roles to reduce costs. With no true masters left to pass down the skills of the trade to the next generation, the traditional ways are getting lost. For example, we are no longer able to reproduce the high-quality dials we made 200 years ago!" The integrated manufacture De Bethune was founded in 2002, based on an "avant-garde vision of traditional horology" to counterbalance this "economy of scales," which prioritises profit margins over quality.
Ten years and a dozen calibres later, the company, which remains under the joint management of its co-founders, has achieved a capacity for production that is impressive for an independent watchmaker, maintaining a production site in L'Auberson and an R&D department in La Chaux. All components (except sapphire crystal and leather) are produced in-house and not one year has passed, when De Bethune hasn't filed a new patent. Over the past decade, the brand has continuously distinguished itself--first, with a unique three-dimensional moon-phase mechanism, then with the use of silicon in its movements, and finally with a combination of titanium and platinum in its escape wheels. And the hard...