Monday, April 22, 2013

De Bethune DB25 Imperial Fountain

This just in from De Bethune -

"There was, in a corner of the world, a wonder of the world; this wonder was called the Summer Palace. Art has two principles, the Idea, which produces European art, and the Chimera, which produces oriental art. The Summer Palace was to chimerical art what the Parthenon is to ideal art. All that can be begotten of the imagination of an almost extra-human people was there. It was not a single, unique work like the Parthenon. It was a kind of enormous model of the chimera, if the chimera can have a model. Imagine some inexpressible construction, something like a lunar building, and you will have the Summer Palace..."
Victor Hugo, in a letter to Captain Butler Hauteville House, November 25th 1861

DB25 Imperial Fountain
Courtesy of De Bethune
As a follow up to the sold out Ninth Mayan Underworld, De Bethune debuts the DB25 Imperial Fountain, a new special edition of sets of 12 timepieces. Inspired by the bronze Zodiac Animal Heads which adorned an ornate fountain in the famous Yuanming Yuan (Old Summer Palace) outside of Beijing, China, these beautiful watches feature elaborately engraved animal heads for the 12 Chinese zodiac symbols.

Each of the 12 animals heads, engraved by master artist Michèle Rothen using the bas relief technique, is in the middle of the dial of its watch, backed by a Grand Feu enamel relief of the corresponding Zodiac symbol. These engraving masterworks take up the space where a watch's movement normally goes, so Denis Flageollet and the De Bethune watchmaking team were faced with a unique challenge - where to put the mechanism to power the watch?

A completely new movement, Calibre DB 2145, was created to free the center of the dial. The resulting movements uses peripheral hour and minute hands, circling the engraved zodiac head as if by magic. New techniques, such as the use of micro ball bearings and a new transmission system capable of driving the revolving disks, was developed specifically for this movement. This new movement uses the De Bethune trademark Silicon/white gold balance wheel and balance-spring with flat terminal curve, as well as the company's patented triple pare-chute shock-absorbing system. The movement has 287 parts and a power reserve of six days

The fountain in the Palace of the Calm Seas of the Yuanming Yuan, built in the mid-1700s and created by French and Italian Jesuits and Chinese artisans (for the Qianlong Emperor of China), was actually a huge hydraulic water-clock (clepsydra), with water jetting from the mouths of the appropriate animal head to announce the time.

Courtesy of De Bethune
Due to looting and the ravages of time, the Yuanming Yuan is in ruins now, and only seven of the original 12 Zodiac heads have been found. The Zodiac heads are a powerful symbol for the Chinese, and the subject of much discussion, both inside and outside of China. Recently, famous Chinese artist/provocateur Ai Wei Wei created his Circle of Animals (in bronze and in gold), inspired by the fountain's Animal Heads, to great international acclaim.

The De Bethune DB25 Imperial Fountain Limited Edition sets exhibits the brand's commitment to continuing to use and update the traditional arts of engraving and enameling, as well showcasing De Bethune's knowledge and savoir-faire in the worlds of traditional and contemporary watchmaking. The rare timepiece sets are traditional, contemporary, elegant and possess rate emotion - all hallmarks of De Bethune.

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