De Bethune, renowned for its high-end innovative space-age watches that are simply out of this world, shares an appreciation for well-crafted items. While still a relative newcomer to Haute Horlogerie, De Bethune has already won some of the industry’s highest honors, including the prestigious Aiguille d’Or at the Grand Prix d’horlogerie de Genève for their DB28.
In addition to being one of the few remaining independent watchmakers, De Bethune is responsible for every step of the process from concept to finished product. An ambitious new technology in chronometry, the Sensoriel Chronometry Project allows customers of De Bethune to have a watch customized for their preferred style of wearing.
Exploring this realm of watchmaking, the design journey, a possible secret, and more, our Co-Founder, Punit Mehta at The Hour Markers caught up with Pierre Jacques, the CEO of De Bethune. Let’s see how the conversation unfolded!
Talking about his journey from watch seller to a watchmaker to CEO he said, “I started my journey in the world of watchmaking through publishing at GMT Magazine in 2002 and was the Co-Founder of it. Later I was the Managing Director of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) and manager of Les Ambassadeurs in Geneva. All these backgrounds gave me a 360-degree overview of the watch industry and it led me to De Bethune. I was extremely impressed by their creativity and craftsmanship. I became the CEO from 2011 until 2015 when I left to lead MCT, an independent, cutting-edge watch company. I came back to De Bethune in 2017.”
‘Creation, magic, always sold out’ – words we often hear when it comes to De Bethune. However, this brand also witnessed several ups and downs in its journey. Sharing his thoughts Pierre said, “Like every company, we also had several ups and downs. When you’re a small company, you compete with the bigger brands. Communication is key to surviving in such times. It took us 20 years to become very famous. During COVID, we realized that people are looking for craftsmanship and creativity in independent brands. We are blessed to have made the success and it’s taught us to stay humble!”
What is so special about De Bethune? Talking about the vision of the company, after the DBS, the entire design language of the brand changed. Pierre has followed his vision and it’s working for the brand. De Bethune surprises the customers every time with a new piece but still retains the commonality – from its hues to designs. “From the DBS to the DB28 today, you can see several links to the origins of the 1700s. Our watches have evolved the same way humans have over different eras. There were several talks on the movement due to the bullet-shaped watch. All the small details, new complications, seven balance wheels, innovations, and more make De Bethune what it is today”, he further added.
If you look at the brand slogan, it says L’Art Horloger Au XXI Siècle, which means watchmaking art in the 21st century. This is what they’ve maintained in all the watches they make, maintaining a fine balance between futuristic and traditional. Recently, the online pre-owned watch retailer WatchBox, founded in 2017 by Danny Govberg, Justin Reis, and Tay Liam Wee, has purchased a controlling interest in the independent high-end watchmaker De Bethune. Sharing the impact of this step Pierre said, “It was a bet on the future that we’ve taken to join the WatchBox family. What could be the retail experience of tomorrow? Should we stick to one model or open our minds to explore multi-model experiences? WatchBox was the perfect match that answered these questions. They create a very luxurious experience for the customer which is not seen on other similar platforms. They have a knowledgeable team that can advise you during your purchases. It’s a win-win situation!”
Looking at the present generation of watchmakers, companies like WatchBox are going to keep them alive to an extent that it would increase the aspirational value of a timepiece. It also showcases the brand and what watchmaking is truly about. Recently De Bethune partnered with Reuge, a storied manufacturer of mechanical boxes and music automation This is not only about partnering with the brand but also synergies with the product. What can we expect in the future? “You may expect birds on the timepiece but also more mechanical timepieces. And not only music boxes, but more mechanical objects and clocks”, he added.
De Bethune has reached a stage where the timepieces are not only expensive but also exclusive. What are the plans for an affordable timepiece to cater to young collectors who are passionate about watchmaking? Sharing his thought Pierre said, “At present, we don’t have any such plans. Our vision is to make the best possible watch with great finishing. It’s difficult to mass produce due to the time it takes to create the final product.”
Denis Flageollet has a different way of working. Apart from the knowledge he possesses, he also transmits it to the people around him. Will the world get access to this? To this Pierre added, “Certainly. Denis has decided to keep the savoir-faire in the region of the factory and transmit this knowledge to his team and the next generations. He wishes to inspire people.”
While the brand has plans to come to India which is a great market for an independent brand, the difficulties keep them for exploring. However, they wish to cater to the collectors differently. A brand that grows on you. A brand that surprises you. We look forward to seeing what De Bethune does next!
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