September 29, 2018
“I have always been entranced by the craftsmanship and techniques involved in Asian art. Despite natural feelings of apprehension, I wished to create timepieces that would serve as a support on which to express this art”, confides Denis Flageollet, Master Watchmaker and Creative Talent of De Bethune. After the special series of 12 Art Pieces, the DB25 Imperial Fountain timepieces, De Bethune once again draws inspiration from the Asian heritage so greatly prized in the West and presents two one-of-a-kind models. The first is crafted from a specific alloy little known in the West, using the working methods of historical Japanese metallurgists and combining this ancestral expertise with cutting-edge techniques. Conversely, the second model focuses on the quest for artisan-style techniques that involved adjusting hand engraving methods to fashion an extremely high-tech material such as titanium.
This model recreates the technical and aesthetic spirit of Tsubas, the Japanese sword guards designed to protect a samurai’s hand from sliding into the blade.
In creating this entirely engraved contemporary timepiece, De Bethune conveys its determination to perpetuate a heritage shared by goldsmiths and watchmakers, by applying to this timepiece born of cutting-edge technologies a set of meticulous ancestral techniques illustrating powerful symbols from Japanese and Chinese mythology.
The animal motifs inlaid and engraved on the model exalt this material by infusing it with strength and light.Witness the dragon perched on the clouds and stretching across the entire watch, from the dial to the case middle and on to the back. He is boldly defied by a tiger, master of the bamboo forest. The tiger represents power, courage, bravery and ferocity, all elements of raw human nature.The dragon also embodies power and vitality, but combined with wisdom.
These two types of character appear in human beings in the making. To begin with, the tiger dominates and then, as time goes by, the dragon progressively takes over and an individual thus acquires balance and maturity. The tiger and dragon thus represent an important symbolic image often used to signify self-control in the teaching of martial arts. The hours and minutes functions are displayed on a microlight dial, in the centre of this objet d’art.
This model evokes the finesse and extreme delicacy of Asian etchings, often made on bronze vases. It channels the spirit of Chinese poetry and engravers through a modern watch. After the achievement represented by its starry skies, De Bethune continues its research on titanium, this time focusing on hand engraving. Enhanced with gold particles, the latter drew upon the spirit of innovation and expertise cultivated by the Manufacture. The result is a classic blued titanium watch with hours and minutes shown on 12 diamond hour-markers.
In Asia, and particularly in China, symbols occupy a crucial place in art, culture and daily life. Whether ancient or modern, Chinese koi symbolism appears in the decoration of objects, furniture and clothing. With its powerful scales, the carp was often compared to a warrior and venerated for its courage and perseverance in swimming upstream to leap over the “Dragon’s Gate” (Longmen Falls). If it managed to clear the falls, it turned into a dragon. A candidate having successfully passed the difficult exams giving access to the highest levels of the imperial administration was referred to as “a fish transformed into a dragon”.
In developing these artistic creations, De Bethune highlights the work of the greatest artisans in their respective crafts. Both engraved by the artist Michèle Rothen, these two models are at the crossroads between art and artisanship. Sharing values such as meticulous care and fine craftsmanship, combining its watchmaking expertise with the experience and creativity of illustrious Japanese and Chinese artisans, the Manufacture De Bethune recognises in Far Eastern art the same level of excellence as that prevailing in Swiss Watchmaking.