This is the De Bethune DB27 Titan Hawk. A stylish three-hander positioned as an “entry-level” model to the brand. Although at this price point, I’m not sure that terminology still applies. Regardless, the DB27 Titan Hawk has proven popular with collectors. It’s imbued with all the award-winning and distinctive De Bethune DNA. Yet, unlike some other indie watches, it’s still very wearable on a daily basis. Which, combined with its relative affordability and low volume, makes it a rare bird. Hence the growing demand from the market. But is the DB27 Titan Hawk the best value indie watch? Keep reading and decide for yourself.
A (Very) Brief History Of De Bethune
To understand the appeal of the DB27 Titan Hawk, it helps to know a bit more about De Bethune itself. Founded in 2002, the company has produced no less than 29 calibers in-house over its short history. It’s also presented some 30 world premieres. Registered a large number of patents. And won three GPHG awards, including the “Aiguille d’Or” Grand Prix in 2011. All that with a team of less than 50 people producing roughly 160 pieces per year total. These technical achievements are the work of De Bethune co-founder, Denis Flageollet.
Considered one of the best master watchmakers of the modern era. In the late 80’s he co-founded Techniques horlogères Appliquées (THA) with FP Journe and Vianney Halter. Two other giants in the field of independent watch making. THA specialised in the design and manufacture movements for several major Swiss brands. A famous example is the now iconic Cartier Monopoussoir CPCP. The association was short-lived though, disbanding after a decade or so. Journe went off to establish his own manufacture. Halter started his eponymous label. And Flageollet teamed up with former THA client David Zanetta to found De Bethune. The mission: to make the best quality Swiss watches without regard for cost.
Enter The De Bethune DB27 Titan Hawk
The De Bethune DB27 Titan Hawk V1 made its debut in 2012, to celebrate the young brand’s 10-year anniversary. Signature design elements include the crown at 12 o’clock and fancy floating lugs. Inside the case is the in-house caliber S223. It offers hour, minute and date functionality and delivers a 6-day power reserve. In 2018, De Bethune launched a major revision with a new dial design and new movement.
In this V2 model, we get a central seconds hand on the dial, while the date function disappears. The case back is completely visible now, as compared to the partial view of the V1 model. And what a view it offers! The self-winding calibre AutoV2 comprises 217 parts, and a high level of hand finishing. The oscillating weight is in titanium and tungsten with blue accent. And spins around the periphery, so as not to impede the view. The key highlight is De Bethune’s signature balance spring with flat terminal curve on a redesigned balance wheel. Beating at a frequency of 28,800 vph, the movement provides a max power reserve of 60 hours. Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a look at some of the key DB27 pieces from over the years.
The First DB27 Titan Hawk V1 – 2012
As mentioned, the first example of the DB27 Titan Hawk came to market in 2012. It featured a silver dial with blue hands and was an instant sensation. This was a breathtaking showcase of De Bethune’s unique design language. Elegant, classic yet also futuristic.
The design of the case back was also quite unusual, highlighting the balance wheel only. And the escapement encompassed advanced technology invented by De Bethune.
DB27 Titan Hawk V1 with Salmon Dial – 2017
Following the initial version, several more DB27 references came to market. After the inaugural silver dial version, came one with a deep blue dial. A black dial followed in turn, and then a gorgeous salmon dial in 2017. In De Bethune’s reference scheme, S1, S2, S3, S4 and S8 stand for silver, salmon, blue, green and black, respectively.
The First DB27 Titan Hawk V2 – 2018
A new chapter for DB27 Titan Hawk started in 2018 with the launch of the DB27 V2. There were subtle updates to the dial design but the key design elements remained. For example, the minute ring with Arabic numerals and the hour ring with Roman numerals are the same. While the central, rotating “arrow head” for the date indicator disappeared. In its place is a fixed “arrow head” that resembles the Star Trek symbol. Fitting, given De Bethune’s unofficial moniker as “space-ships for the wrist”. Another innovative feature that remained is the floating lug system. Very popular with collectors, these offer both wearing comfort and a stylish look.
A Special Collaboration with Fort Aero – 2019
In 2019, a collaboration with Fort Aero, a jet company, produced a very special timepiece. The dial is exactly the same as the blue DB-27 V2. It’s only when you turn this watch over that you realise there’s something extra special about it.
The rotor has turned into a jet engine turbine with very realistic-looking propellers. There were only five examples of this collaboration, making it all the more desirable.
DB27 Titan Hawk V2 in Green Dial – 2021
We would not expect De Bethune to miss out the “green party” that has been gaining steam in 2021. A 10-piece DB-27 in green dial and green canvas strap debuted in early 2021. And promptly sold out. There is one currently available though, through our retail partner WatchBox. Click here for the details. (Affiliate link.)
DB27 Titan Hawk V2 in Burgundy Dial – 2021
Another recent addition to the DB27 Titan Hawk family is the piece unique “DB-27 La Romanée 1865”. This was a collaboration with Baghera Wines. The highlight is the rich burgundy dial. Complete with multitude of small white gold pins, inserted one by one. This constellation overlooked “La Romanée” on the day of the grape harvest of September 12, 1865.
DB27 “UAE Hawk” – 2021
The latest release in the DB27 line is the “UAE Hawk”, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the founding of UAE. This 7-piece limited edition adopts a dial design from one of the faces of the “Kind of Two Tourbillon”. Notice the striking “50” in sand color at 10 o’clock.
My DB27 Titan Hawk V2 in Salmon Dial – 2020
When I discovered the history of the DB27 Titan Hawk, I became intrigued. Enamored even. I contacted an AD in the US last year and they happened to have a rare salmon dial Titan Hawk in stock. This watch ticked many of my boxes and I felt it would be a great addition to my collection. So, I went for it. And I could not be happier about that decision.
The reference number of my watch is DB27TIS2V2PS. TI stands for Titanium used for the case. S2 indicates the salmon dial. V2 refers to the fact that it’s part of the Version 2 series. And PS means “polished and small”, referring to the floating lugs. My DB27 Titan Hawk keeps very accurate time. It is half a second slow per day measured over 30 days. It is a bit faster lying down dial-up while a bit slower vertically (or on a winder) or when worn. So, my trick is to let it lie down flat dial-up during the evenings.
One surprise to me is that the second hand doesn’t hack, which is a feature I’d prefer to have. Being a V2, my watch features the newer, self-winding calibre AutoV2. Complete with a 60-hour power reserve that I find plentiful. The transparent caseback and skeletonized rotor offers a good view of the movement.
Price & Availability
The retail price of the De Bethune DB27 Titan Hawk V2 is around US$43,000. Which is not exactly entry-level for most brands. But when you consider how much some of the more complex pieces retail for, it makes sense. The real kicker is availability. Keep in mind total annual production is around 160 pieces a year across all collections. This means no single model is being made in large quantities. As such, there are waiting lists for this reference into 2022. And likely beyond.
Pricing on the secondary market reflects this demand outstripping supply. A pre-owned DB27 Titan Hawk V1 with box and papers will run you north of US$60,000. For a V2 it will be even more. Of course, this may be your only option if there is a specific, discontinued version you want. Or you’re not willing to wait. If that sounds like you, check out this DB27 Titan Hawk V1 available now from our retail partner WatchBox. (Affiliate link.)
Is It The Best Value Indie Watch?
This is of course an impossible question to answer. There’s too many choices and variables to consider. In general terms though, you do get a lot for your money. While the DB27 Titan Hawk V2 is the entry-level model in De Bethune’s lineup, there is nothing “entry level” about it. Instead, it represents the avant-garde in both technology and design. It is the fusion of classical and futuristic elements in one. Yes, it is a simple three-hander, but put one on your wrist and it looks and feels like so much more than that. It’s no wonder than that the Titan Hawk has become a darling of watch collectors. Resulting in all recent allocations selling out fast.
As I mentioned above, this has led to waiting lists going into 2022. But collectors need to be patient. It takes time to polish and assemble by hand an exquisite high-end timepiece. As a result, this is the “new normal” now for acquiring desirable indie pieces like the Titan Hawk. Unless you go preowned. But even then, there are no guarantees of a quick turnaround. I can tell you one thing for sure though – it’s worth the wait.
Technical Specifications: De Bethune DB27 Titan Hawk V2
- Case: 43mm x 9mm thick – polished grade 5 titanium, with middle microlight – short floating lugs in brushed grade 5 titanium – sapphire crystal on both sides, 1800 vickers hardness with double anti-reflective treatment.
- Dial: microlight – chapter ring with roman numerals – minutes circle with Arabic numerals placed around the rim of the dial
- Movement: AutoV2 – in-house – mechanical self-winding – diameter 30mm – 217 parts – hand-crafted finishing and decoration – 29 jewels – 28,800 vibrations per hour – power reserve 60 hours
- Price: USD43,000
This article by TheWatchLounge has been sponsored by our partner WatchBox.