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Hands-On The De Bethune DB28GS Grand Bleu

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Among the many complexities and contractions that reside within my soul, witness my extreme fondness for De Bethune. While I will always extol the endearing nature of a simple steel sport watch or the usefulness and relatively good value of a 12-hour bezel, there is something about this brand that really gets me excited. With many of their designs being about the jaw-dropping experience of interacting with the actual watch in person, I'm not sure why I was so surprised when, at Baselworld earlier this year, I was handed the DB28GS Grand Bleu, the latest in water-resistant sport watch design from De Bethune. 

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The DB28GS Grand Bleu on my 7-inch wrist. 

As mentioned here in our look at the original DB28GS, the "GS" stands for "Grand Sport" and the 45mm wide DB28GS Grand Bleu is made of titanium and offers both 100 meters of water resistance and unidirectional dive bezel. Slated as the brand's first true sport watch, the DB28GS Grand Bleu also offers two special features for the luminous aspect of the display. First is what De Bethune calls "manual dial lighting" which uses a dynamo along with energy stored in the power reserve to illuminate the dial when a pusher at six is depressed. 

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The "manual dial lighting" system activated by a button at 6 on the case. See the 15-minute marker for evidence of the glow (photo taken in a very bright room). 

This functionality works in a manner similar to those old school bike lights that were powered by the rotation of the wheel, so there's no battery. Shown active in the above photo, the illumination is stronger than you might expect (that photo was shot in a very bright room, look at the 15-minute marker on the dial) and you can feel the mechanical process at play within the lightweight confines of the DB28GS Grand Bleu's titanium case. 

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The 45mm DB28GS Grand Bleu on Cara's wrist. 

The second glowing talking point for this hilarious and awesome watch is the application of a new luminous material developed with James Thompson of Black Badger. Black Badger has worked on other watches in the past and De Bethune wanted to develop a special material that appeared blue in daylight while still offering enough glow for a sport watch. The result is an exclusive material called "Blue Moon" which was created by Black Badger in collaboration with Swiss Super-LumiNova. While the DB28SG Grand Bleu prototype that was shown at Baselworld was finished before Blue Moon could be applied, you can see many literally glowing examples of Black Badger's work here. 

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The button to activate the "manual dial lighting" on the DB28GS Grand Bleu. 

Lume on lume – I love it. The DB28GS Grand Bleu is powered by De Bethune's DB2080 hand-wound movement. Offering time, a power reserve (dial edge between nine and 10), and that manual dial lighting system, the 4 Hz DB2080 has over 400 pieces and a power reserve of five days.  On wrist, the DB28GS Grand Bleu wear like any other DB28 I've ever tried on. Visually it is large, but the centrally hinged and spring mounted lug design ensures that it sits flat and, at only 12.8mm thick, the Grand Bleu is entirely wearable. Nothing wears like a De Bethune, even when they go extra sporty.

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The centrally spring lugs of De Bethune's DB28 design ensure a comfortable and flexible fit, even for a large watch. 

Positioned in the overlap between avant-garde watchmaking and neo-futurist design that feels born of an era that predicted flying cars by the turn of the millennia, De Bethune is precisely modern, but with a specific blend of whimsical sci-fi appeal. So why not make a dive watch? Priced from $93,500 including both a textile strap (as photographed) and a rubber strap, the DB28GS Grand Bleu is De Bethune's appeal bent towards the format of a dive watch. Is it practical? No. Is it a good value? Hardly. But just as the five-year-old in me will always love supercars, I can't help but love this haute horology sport watch and its glowing personality. 

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