Hands-On: Urwerk x De Bethune Moon Satellite for Only Watch 2019

A perfect collaboration.

The collaboration between Urwerk and De Bethune for the upcoming Only Watch is pretty straightforward: an Urwerk wandering hours time display module mounted on a De Bethune base movement, and housed in a De Bethune case. But it works, and the Moon Satellite is one of the coolest watches of the charity auction.

Conceptually the Moon Satellite is similar to the Arpal One made for the last Only Watch. Long and sleek, the Arpal One was a collaboration between Urwerk and Laurent Ferrier that looked good, but with an enormous case – it was 60.8m long – that was much too large.

The Moon Satellite, on the other hand, is just right. That’s because the case is derived from De Bethune DB28, which is a large watch but one with a smallish footprint and sprung, pivoted lugs that allow it to hug the wrist. The Moon Satellite is slightly larger than a DB28, but almost the same on the wrist.

Entirely in mirror polished titanium, the case looks like a helmet for a warrior robot. Its shape is asymmetric – angular on the lower half and rounded at the top – in order to accommodate the time display. It’s reminiscent of a helmet, but instantly recognisable as coming from Urwerk, having the U-shaped crystal first found on the Urwerk UR-103 and now on the UR-105.

Coincidentally, both Urwerk and De Bethune position the crowns on most of their watches at 12 o’clock, and so there it is. Though it has a similar shape to the standard Urwerk crown, the Moon Satellite crown is flat, so that it can clear the pivoted lugs. But it is too flat, making it difficult to use.

Satellites and a moon

The time display is vintage Urwerk, essentially a 21st century take on the wandering hours complication invented in the 17th century. It uses four satellite discs to indicate the time against a minute scale on the lower edge of the face, with the carrousel carrying the satellites covered by a black “canopy” made of polyetheretherketone (PEEK), a high tech plastic, which has been decorated with a hobnail surface.

But the time display discreetly includes a signature De Bethune complication at six o’clock – the spherical moon phase, which is made of two joined halves, in blued steel and palladium respectively. It’s accurate to a day in 1,112 years, as compared to the norm of 122.5 years.

From the back, the look is vintage De Bethune. The base movement is a De Bethune calibre (I think from the DB2100 family) that’s wonderfully striking.

Both the barrel bridge and base plate are finished with a mirror polish, a decoration inspired by 19th century Chinese market pocket watches and one favoured by De Bethune. The broad expanse of polished metal contrasts against the blued bridges for the balance wheel and triple pare-chute shock absorber – both patented De Bethune inventions.

The balance is made of heat-blued titanium with white gold regulating masses

Concluding thoughts

Proof that the right collaborations make sense, the Moon Satellite is one of the stand outs at Only Watch. Urwerk and De Bethune nailed it, even if the crown is inconvenient.

The estimate, however, feels a bit high. It starts at 120,000 Swiss francs, which is fair enough for the watch, but isn’t low enough to give the bidding some runway, an important factor in drumming up enthusiasm during a live auction. Many of the other watches in the auction, like the Akrivia Rexhep Rexhepi Chronometre Contemporain or Patek Philippe Grandmaster Chime, have conservative estimates that will eventually be a fraction of the hammer price.

Key facts and price

Urwerk x De Bethune Moon Satellite for Only Watch 2019

Diameter: 45mm
Height: 13mm
Material: Titanium
Water-resistance: 30m

Movement: URDB01
Functions: Hours, minutes, moon phase
Winding: Hand-wound

Frequency: 28,800bph, or 4Hz
Power reserve: Four days

Strap: Fabric with titanium pin buckle

The Moon Satellite carries an estimate of 120,000-150,000 Swiss francs. It’ll be sold at Only Watch 2019 that takes place on November 9, 2019, at Christie’s in Geneva. For more, visit Onlywatch.com.

Update November 11, 2019: the Urwerk x De Bethune Moon Satellite sold for 300,000 Swiss francs, with no fees since it was a charity auction.

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