Executive Director of The Hour Glass, Michael Tay, not being able to obtain more than one piece of the “Ninth Mayan underworld” series for his numerous Asian points of sales, the Singaporean distributor and retailer has encouraged De Bethune to continue on the way of artistic crafts while suggesting the theme of the Chinese Zodiac. True aesthete, avid collector of contemporary art and also of vintage Rolex, or Patek Philippe electronic clocks, Michael Tay turns out to be an informed silent partner. To his query, the independent brand responds with the idea of an Imperial Fountain, this set of twelve watches De Bethune DB25 celebrating Chinese annual cycles.
Magic fauna full of sense
The result is puzzling, even mesmerizing, so much so as the twelve pieces of art with symbols of Chinese zodiac animals decorated dials seem to emerge from the distant past with mythological connotations, as rediscovered after disappearing for years or even centuries. The 12 animals heads have been hand engraved by artist Michèle Rothen, according to a free interpretation of the bronze heads surrounding the fountain of the old Yuanming garden summer Palace near Beijing. From this clepsydra fountain built in the eighteenth century, only seven of the twelve animal heads have reached us, this monument of inestimable historical value having been destroyed.
If the engraving work is exceptional, it is widely highlighted by the “Grand Feu” enamel ornaments prepared according to the method of translucent enamel on carved reliefs. The heads finely crafted from solid gold seem to spring from a jewel case with multiple reflections. In the examination of the twelve pieces of art, one first asks which figures is the most likable to finally get to the evidence that each is part of a whole. The overall feeling is pervasive and the term set is not overused here: the twelve pieces are only sold together, and just four boxes will be produced, probably with different enamel colours for the next three.
Mechanical subtleties service scarcity
Only a few collectors could, assuming the payment of 1,500,000 Swiss francs, be the purchasers of one of the four sets of 12 watches sold by The Hour Glass. With this stunning thematic series, De Bethune revives the lost fountain and fits aptly in the Chinese zodiac symbolism.
The voice of the markets to service the product.
In both art and architecture, great works are often born of the encounter between an artist and an inspired contractor, as evidenced by masterpieces of the Renaissance, which are in their vast majority the result of orders.
In the contemporary history of successful watches, including some iconic models, there is often a retailer or a "man with field experience" that has re-lit a forgotten piece or suggested a new creation. Sometimes in the tone of the challenge, armed with solid arguments, as his informed knowledge of market expectations or his taste as enlightened connoisseur, this kind of incentive to brands’ creativity deserves a place in history.