The Midnight Planetarium Watch by Van Cleef & Arpels will shock and awe the most sophisticated and demanding watch aficionados with its mind-numbing intricacies. If this is your introduction to astronomical watch creations, I’m happy to provide you with a brief encounter of watchmaking brilliance.
When I was twelve years old, I made my first Rolex purchase. I happened to be strolling through “the shops” of Tijuana while visiting relatives in nearby San Diego and made an offer on one of the most amazing watches I’d ever seen. My uncle explained to me it was fake and completely worthless, but I didn’t care. It was the finest $2 watch in the world as far as I was concerned. This was my introduction to the amazing world of fine (and not so fine) watchmaking.
As the years passed, I found an appreciation for great wristwatches. Shortly after my $2 Rolex investment, I started noticing what other people were wearing on their wrists. Slowly, I began figuring out why these watches were so important to their owners. Once I began to understand the incredible craftsmanship that went into creating each high-end luxury watch, I could see how certain watches would be more desirable than others, depending on the functions and materials encapsulated within the watch.
Astronomical watches take delicate craftmanship to the extreme. Dutch clockmaker Christiaan Van Der KIaauw developed an interest in astronomy while studying at the Leidse Sterrewacht, one of the oldest observatories in the Netherlands. After decades of building increasingly complicated clocks, he began to apply his astronomical knowledge to wristwatches. In 1996, Van Der Klaauw released his first watch called, “Satellite du Monde,” featuring a display showing the wearer of the watch exactly which city the moon is at any given time. The “Satellite du Monde” also featured a day and night indicator and a moon phase.
The Van Cleef & Arpels, Christiaan Van Der Klaauw Venture
When Van Cleef & Arpels decided to embark on an incredible watch creation representing the solar system, naturally, they approached Christiaan Van Der Klaauw for assistance. Together, the partnership created the Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium watch, which makes up part of the Van Cleef “Poetic Complications” collection. In this stunning design between two watchmaking icons, the Midnight Planetarium watch displays Earth and five nearby planets in the solar system as they revolve around the sun. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, along with Earth, are represented exactly as they are positioned in real-time. The planets, represented by stones on the watch face, move around the dial at their true pace relative to the sun.
Mercury will complete one full trip around the dial of the Midnight Planetarium watch in just 88 days, exactly what it takes the actual planet to complete one full revolution around the sun. Venus, 224 days. Earth, 365 days. Mars, 687 days. Jupiter, approximately 12 years. And Saturn will make one full trip around the dial of the Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium watch face exactly one time every 29 years.
Nearly 400 pieces assembled over the course of almost 3 years, the Midnight Planetarium watch is a marvel in watchmaking. Not only do the planets represent the actual time of one true revolution around the sun, but the planets are also positioned on the face of the watch in the exact arrangement they are actually found in space.
Midnight Planetarium Price
The Midnight Planetarium watch price starts at $245,000, with only 20 – 30 pieces produced each year. Van Cleef & Arpels also produced the Lady Planetarium watch, adding white gold and diamonds around the perimeter of the watch face. With so many iconic watches produced by incredible craftsmen, this watch is high on the list of the most desirable and iconic timepieces ever created.