In a few days at Baselworld 2013 De Bethune will represent DB25 Imperial Fountain, a new special edition of sets of 12 timepieces. Inspired by the bronze Zodiac Animal Heads which adorned an ornate fountain in the famous Yuanming Yuan (Old Summer Palace) outside of Beijing, China, these beautiful watches feature elaborately engraved animal heads for the 12 Chinese zodiac symbols. Each of the 12 animals heads, engraved by master artist Michèle Rothen using the bas relief technique, is in the middle of the dial of its watch, backed by a Grand Feu enamel relief of the corresponding Zodiac symbol.
New techniques, such as the use of micro ball bearings and a new transmission system capable of driving the revolving disks, was developed specifically for this movement. This new movement uses the De Bethune trademark Silicon/white gold balance wheel and balance spring with flat terminal curve, as well as the company’s patented triple parechute shock absorbing system. The movement has 287 parts and a power reserve of six days.
The fountain in the Palace of the Calm Seas of the Yuanming Yuan, built in the mid- 1700s and created by French and Italian Jesuits and Chinese artisans (for the Qianlong Emperor of China), was actually a huge hydraulic water-clock (clepsydra), with water jetting from the mouths of the appropriate animal head to announce the time.
Due to looting and the ravages of time, the Yuanming Yu an is in ruins now, and only seven of the original 12 Zodiac heads have been found. The Zodiac heads are a powerful symbol for the Chinese, and the subject of much discussion, both inside and outside of China. Recently, famous Chinese artist/provocateur Ai Wei Wei created his Circle of Animals (in bronze and in gold), inspired by the fountain’s Animal Heads, to great international acclaim.