De Bethune DW5 Empreinte

The new DW5 Empreinte, a one-of-a-kind creation belonging to the Maestri’art collection, stems from collaboration between Denis Flageollet, founder and master-watchmaker of De Bethune and Clara Martin, designer and winner of the first De Bethune/ECAL prize in 2019.

The challenge was to find a new way of developing the colour black which becomes matter. The black colour has been frequently used by Denis Flageollet for many De Bethune models and is an omnipresent theme in Clara Martin’s work. Empreinte thus marks the culmination of a lengthy process of research, experimentation and sharing know-how between the two designers.

The pictural research Empreinte (imprint)

As a designer Clara Martin is developing an investigation into black and the way in which light is drawn. She is expanding this research through graphic experiments, textures and shapes that she classifies by creating a taxonomy. This method of classification allows her to combine her eclectic treatments of black in order to create objects that “sum up” her research.

De Bethune DW5 Empreinte watch

Her objective with these objects is to change the current perception and connotations of the colour black, which she no longer treats as such, but as a material, regarding it as “material-colour”. She strives to prove that this colour is much more powerful and sensitive than we think. It is both incredibly demanding and a source of freedom and infinite projection.

After a long period of research and constant dialogue with the De Bethune workshops, solutions were implemented to soften the material and redesign the Dream Watch 5, while retaining its identity.

The Empreinte (stamp) of technical innovation

With the DW5 Empreinte, De Bethune examines the notion of time through a poetic object that defies any prejudices regarding black and metal. To divert their potentially pejorative symbolism, an unexpected watch was created, vulnerable through its delicacy and evoking a meditative state.

De Bethune DW5 Empreinte

Denis Flageollet, with his experience of blackened metal and his work on the bluing of titanium, took up the technical challenge imposed by the graphic choice of linking for the first time the very different processes of oxidation of titanium in order to achieve textured, mottled blue and black patterns.

The Empreinte (impression) left on the material

Engraver Michèle Rothen exercises her craft with peerless meticulous care. In this latest Dream Watch, she has surpassed herself in expressing her skills through the quality of structures serving to create an almost volume-like expression of pictural research.

De Bethune DW5 Empreinte

This involved infinitely accurate craftsmanship, coupled with acknowledged top-flight artistic talent. Working with this material was a particularly arduous task on this model given the considerable complexity of engraving titanium (a metal even tougher than steel). The concentration of so many different tracings is a feat in itself.

Playing with these superimpositions represents an additional challenge. It is all about making titanium – a material of unequalled strength and coldness – tender and sensitive. About subtly modifying each surface state, each micro-detail, each depth effect, in such a way as to “enhance” the graphic research. As if redrawing the model one last time.

De Bethune DW5 Empreinte watch caseback

The caseback features a more restrained approach focused on drawing out and accentuating the structural lines of the watch’s volume.

The legendary Empreinte (mark) made by Pierre Soulages

Pierre Soulages is a great French master painter who has dedicated his life to obstinately working on black and on light. At over 101 years of age, the French artist continues his research in his studio in the south of France. He was the first artist in the world to modulate and play with volumes, shades and shimmering colours in order to redirect light according to a unique rhythm and movement in each of his works.

According to Pierre Soulages, “Black is the most vehement way to bring light into being”, as he proves with his “outrenoir” (beyond black) creations, a series of purely black paintings that captivate observers by the power and fragility of these works sometimes measuring several metres high.

When Clara Martin came face to face with one of these “outrenoir” masterpieces, she wondered whether it was possible to convey this impression not through a large-scale bas-relief work of art but instead through functional objects. This is where she began her work of exploring the drawing of light through black.