For over 200 years, double-sided watches have been conceived by erudite watchmakers, who were open to new ideas of the Age of Enlightenment and often inspired by astronomy, decorative arts as well as mechanical engineering.
Horological history has been punctuated by certain major accomplishments in this respect. During the Renaissance, tower clocks, such as the most famous Torre dell’Orologio or Clock Tower in Venice, had several faces. Soon after, table clocks with vertical, four-faceted dials that also displayed several identities within a single object emerged. This was followed by pocket watches featuring two dials. The best-known piece was the Leroy 01 by Louis Leroy – presented in 1900 and winner of the Grand Prix at the Paris World Fair – which long remained the most complicated watch ever created.
As horologists were driven to develop even more complicated models, double-sided cases became increasingly prevalent. It was a solution that enabled artisans to express the full scope of their aesthetic and technical expertise by making it possible to display a greater number of functions.
Indeed, beneath the simplicity of De Bethune’s DB Kind of Two Tourbillon lies a real watchmaking challenge. An idea that had been taking shape for many years in the mind of De Bethune’s co-founder and fourth-generation master watchmaker, Denis Flageollet, he was convinced that it presented an incredible opportunity to provide a different, contemporary interpretation. The initial inspiration was to create a watch with two very different identities, of which the aesthetic aspect guided the technical design of the new movement DB579, entirely developed by Manufacture De Bethune at L’Auberson in the Swiss Jura.
Depending on the wearer’s mood or outfit, the reversible 42.8mm DB Kind of Two Tourbillon can be worn on either side. The creation houses a highly sophisticated mechanism based on a complex system of gears and pinions arranged on the front or back of the watch, enabling the hands to turn in the right direction regardless the dial chosen.
The front of the timepiece displays a dial flaunting a sleek, ultra-modern design with central hours and minutes hands, as well as a tourbillon at 6 o’clock, complete with a 30-second indication. Extensive work has been done on integrating polished, curved shapes, matte and glossy components in varying thicknesses and levels to create an aesthetic of ample space and volume. Positioned in the centre like an isosceles triangle is a new type of perfectly symmetrical deltoid-shaped bridge that contributes to the overall harmony.
The dial on the reverse side boasts a more classic aesthetic with a finely hand-guilloché central portion surrounded by numerals also found on the dials of De Bethune models such as the DB8 and DB10. No tourbillon with its seconds here. Instead, you’ll find that the hours, minutes and the seconds hands are all centrally positioned. This represents an extremely subtle technical challenge that isn’t necessarily perceptible at first glance, and therein lies the elegance of this timepiece.
Every detail has been taken into consideration. Easy to use, yet highly complex, the system of floating lugs lends itself particularly well to the pivoting of the case. Redesigned for the occasion, these elements have been equipped on each side with an ingenious little rotating mechanism made up of 28 components. For increased reliability, they’re manufactured in a stainless material such as titanium, which enables them to withstand external aggressions of water, humidity, temperature variations and continuous contact with the skin.
And thanks to a cam, a small “notch” allows the titanium watch case to be instinctively and perfectly positioned in line with the floating lugs. The round case rotates on its central axis and can be positioned, front or back, in a delightfully easy, smooth and entirely natural way.
(All images: De Bethune)