How My De Bethune DB28 Pièce Unique Went to Michael Rubin’s White Party

The unique DB28 with white minute track that I commissioned more than 10 years ago was one of the first watches to feature De Bethune’s stunning blue aesthetic. Here’s how it ended up in the Hamptons.

Yes, I am old. And like the semi-desiccated Corvina grape found in one of my favorite Italian wines, Amarone, time has only made me more intense in flavor. I am a salty and contentious mother**ker well on my way to becoming a curmudgeonly old fart. But I’ve learned to take it easier, and to treasure the moments of tranquility in life. Because at every given moment, especially when trying to keep up with my stunning Lululemon ambassador and fitness high priestess girlfriend, I feel my knees are about to explode. One thing I’ve realized is that once you hit the mid-century mark, as I did a full four years ago, there are few things that you find as edifying as a strong cup of coffee followed by the smooth enactment of one’s morning ebullitions. While I have not yet achieved my “Coming to America” dream of having professional “wipers” that prestidigitate out of thin air when I clap, let’s just say this is a special moment of personal reflection for me.

During these moments of meditative introspection, I like to watch YouTube Shorts. My discovery feed invariably draws from a variety of subjects such as women’s high diving, Harley-Davidson stunt riding, dachshunds attacking lions and, of course, watches. It was during one such moment a few weeks ago that YouTube fed me a video of a young man named Chad Alexander who specializes in what YouTube calls verticals, where he projects images of celebrities wearing watches and narrates around them. I landed on his story detailing all the watches worn by the various ballers, shot callers and elite underwear models who attended Michael Rubin’s White Party in the Hamptons. I paused to view the story because the cover image featured two of my favorite contemporary timepieces, Audemars Piguet’s blue ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, one of which I’m lucky enough to own, and Richard Mille’s ultra thin chronograph, the RM 72-01. Incidentally, I recently discovered something pretty amazing about Richard Mille’s chronograph. When I remarked to François-Paul Journe that the caliber CRMC’s design used the barrel to drive the minute and hour counters, and thus reminded me of Journe’s Centigraphe, the great man winked at me and said, “That’s because I helped design it.” That to me only makes this oscillating pinion chronograph even more extraordinary. Talk about incredible watchmaking pedigree. Nothing beats having a movement that Journe was involved in.

DJ Khaled (left) wearing an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Openworked In Black Ceramic; Michael Rubin (middle); Corey Gamble (second from right) wears the Patek Philippe Grand Complications in rose gold. Photo: @michaelrubin Instagram

But I digress. Back to Chad Alexander’s White Party video. I watched with amusement as he chronicled the watches worn by Jay-Z, his Patek reference 2499 with integrated bracelet sourced for him by retired watch dealer Tony Kavak, Kevin Hart’s vintage Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, DJ Khaled’s black ceramic Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, and Travis Scott’s Richard Mille RM 69 Erotic Tourbillon.

Jay-Z with Beyoncé. He wears a vintage yellow gold Patek Philippe Reference 2499. Photo: @michaelrubin Instagram
James Corden with Kevin Hart, who sports an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in yellow gold. Photo: @michaelrubin Instagram
Travis Scott reportedly wears the Richard Mille RM 69 Tourbillon Erotic. Photo: @michaelrubin Instagram

But the last person featured was NBA star Kyle Kuzma of the Washington Wizards. To my surprise, on his wrist was a very special De Bethune DB28 Pièce Unique watch which I knew very intimately, because for more than 10 years, it was my watch. And as I saw it on Kyle Kuzma’s wrist decked out with an all-new, all-white strap which not only fit the theme of the party, but also perfectly complemented the special white minute track of the watch, a vast range of emotions ran through me.

From left: Winnie Harlow, Kylie Rubin, Michael Rubin, Kyle Kuzma. Kuzma wears Wei's pre-owned De Bethune DB28 Piecè Unique

De Bethune DB28: All the Best Innovations in One Watch

My love affair with De Bethune stretches all the way back to 2004, two years after the brand was launched by Denis Flageollet and David Zanetta. I remember Mike Tay, the owner of Singapore retailer The Hour Glass, organizing a trip to his favorite independent watchmakers. And our last stop was in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland, where we met the individuals behind the brand. Immediately, I was smitten with De Bethune’s unique design philosophy and horological language. The aesthetics of the watch were like nothing I had ever seen, like 18th-century watchmaking married to science fiction, with a brilliant integration of ergonomic details such as crowns at 12 o’clock where they couldn’t hurt your wrist, and (later) spring-loaded flexible lugs that made the watches wearable by a wide variety of wrists. For years, De Bethune would fly decidedly under the radar, one of those best-kept secrets, a community symbol for ultra watch nerds that loved discussing Flageollet’s relentless advancement of horological innovation, best represented by the 10 different balance wheels he’s created over the years.

De Bethune started to gain momentum around 2011 with the launch of its sublime DB28. Says the brand’s CEO Pierre Jacques, “The DB28 was kind of the greatest hits list of everything that was De Bethune.” And he was right. It was almost all of the brand’s signature inventions in one watch — the front facing movement with the mirror polished Delta-shaped bridge, the in-house balance wheel and hairspring, the three-dimensional moonphase indicator, the triple shock absorption system, the crown at 12, the mirror polished titanium, and the flexible lugs. It was no wonder that this absolute watchmaking masterpiece won the top prize, the Aiguille d’Or, at the 2011 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG).

After a decade-long love affair and scrupulous saving of my shekels, shortly after the launch of the DB28, I commissioned my own watch. Around this time, Denis Flageollet had been experimenting with flame bluing titanium. He explains, “I started this initially to harden and protect the arms of our titanium balance, but then I found that I really loved the color and started to apply this thermal bluing to other parts of the watch.” I encouraged Flageollet to use my timepiece as a test platform for the maximum amount of flame blued parts. Says Flageollet in my video interview with him, which you can watch at our Revolution Watch YouTube channel, “Yes, that’s true, yours was the first piece.” This would eventually lead him to create the Kind of Blue series of fully flame blued watches and I’m lucky enough to own one of the very first tourbillons made with this treatment.

OK, I know what you’re about to ask. With all this love for De Bethune, why did I eventually end up selling my DB28 Pièce Unique? The answer to that is simple. It was in order to buy another De Bethune, a Pièce Unique DB25 40mm Perpetual Calendar with a blue titanium case. How did this happen? Well, at the beginning of this year, I was lucky enough to collaborate with De Bethune on a tiny limited series of the DB25 40mm Perpetual Calendar with the sobriquet “Rhapsody in Blue.” In fact, the idea of putting the perpetual calendar mechanism inside this smaller case size was born during a Clubhouse chat on De Bethune, which I had organized during the COVID pandemic when we were all stuck in our respective houses. My friend, renowned collector and GPHG Jury member Ahmed “Shary” Rahman suggested the idea during the virtual get-together and, to my amazement, Pierre Jacques replied that he would discuss it with Denis. A few days later, he replied, “We can do it as long as you don’t mind if we do our own version of this watch.”

Needless to say, I was blown away with gratitude. Even cooler was that De Bethune’s commercial director Jörg Hysek Junior messaged me to tell me that Denis had also approved an all-blue unique execution of this for my personal watch. This was amazing, but the reality was that I simply didn’t have the requisite amount for the new watch lying around. I eventually spoke to both Pierre Jacques and Jörg Hysek Jr. to see if they would mind if I were to sell my DB28 to fund my DB25. Jacques checked with Flageollet, then replied, “Yes, it’s fine, everyone knows you’ve owned this watch for more than 10 years and it meant a lot to you.”

I also checked in with Danny Govberg, the co-founder of WatchBox, which purchased De Bethune. He replied, “I get why you want to trade in for the new watch because the DB25 is, to me, more wearable at 40mm. Not only do I feel it’s okay, we [at WatchBox] will help you out.” And incredibly, they took in my DB28 and helped me afford the new DB25. Of course, I was incredibly grateful to them, and especially to Govberg and Mike Manjos, WatchBox’s chief sales officer, for helping me.

Wei's Pièce Unique DB25 40mm Perpetual Calendar with a blue titanium case

Naturally, I was completely overwhelmed with my new DB25, but I would occasionally think of my DB28 and wonder what happened to it. That was, of course, until I landed on the video about Kyle Kuzma wearing it to Michael Rubin’s White Party. This piqued my curiosity about Kuzma and his watch tastes. Fortunately, there was another video on Chad Alexander’s page chronicling Kuzma’s watches. From what I could see, his collection featured an end-of-series Tiffany Blue Patek Nautilus 5711, an end-of-series olive dial 5711 with diamond bezel, a Journe Élégante, a frosted white gold AP Royal Oak Chronograph, and a Patek skeleton Calatrava. It seems like he has a genuine passion for watches and the De Bethune represents his first foray into more hardcore independent watch fare.

De Bethune made watches cool again

What is cool is that De Bethune has clearly shifted from being the insider’s hardcore watch nerd brand to becoming something more mainstream. Much of this has to do with the merits of the watches themselves, which — let’s admit it — are stunning to behold. But at the same time, it is representative of the tireless efforts of the De Bethune team to connect their brand to the contemporary world by collaborating with artists like Swizz Beatz as well as WatchBox’s capacity to galvanize some of the most passionate high visibility celebrities around the brand. This March, at WatchBox’s stunning apartment concept lounge in West Hollywood, in an intimate event hosted by CEO Justin Reis, De Bethune launched its new DBD Digitale “Season 2.” Apart from the insane guest list, the single most memorable image of the evening was of Alicia Keys rocking two De Bethune watches, including one that became hers when it was purchased for her by Swizz Beatz that evening.

Why do I feel that the gain in public awareness for independent brands like De Bethune is so important? It’s because the watch industry is about to face another major challenge, and the brands that will come through it will be those that have created something truly authentic and singular, and those that have made the effort to ensure the significant growth in public awareness of their brands, like De Bethune and WatchBox have done. So, for that reason, it doesn’t bother me that my ex De Bethune DB28 Pièce Unique went to Michael Rubin’s White Party without me. In fact, I’m proud that it did and congratulate the people that made it happen.


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