One of the most fascinating toys your NWC editor had as a child was a small globe of planet Earth, with the moon moving around it. You simply wound it with a big key, then pressed a lever to release and the moon went clicking n grinding around in orbit on a metal arm. It broke after a year or two, but it was fun.
When I got older, I saw a masterpiece chiarascuro painting by Joseph Wright, which showed an Orrery being demonstrated back in the mid-18th century, the dawn of watchmaking and automata.
It’s an astonishing theatrical piece of painting, which captures the essence of the Enlightenment in many ways; different generations and various social classes are captivated by the solar system made metal and powered by clockwork. A fragment of God’s Universe is presented as both a scientific fact; an immutable series of objects and, because the person in charge is a Philosopher, as the hand of God commanding all things in eternal motion.
In this picture, the deep questions of the age are showcased across the social hierarchy, almost as a Gordian knot, a riddle of insignificance and beauty, as endless as time itself.
So it is no surprise that the movements of the planets remain the ultimate complication in watchmaking for many. Christiaan Van Der Klaauw is one artisan brand which devotes time and attention to this ancient art. The Planetarium is the most variant in their astrological range of watches and it has the smallest planetarium in watchmaking set as a sub-dial. The planets move at different speeds, just as the real ones do, and Mercury orbits fastest, with Saturn taking years to move on its track. Your children could watch Saturn complete its circuit – talk about never owning a watch, just looking after it for the next generation..
The in-house movement is a pure one-off, with 35 jewels and twin barrels to give it extra power. The dial is covered in what looks like stardust, which is fitting. It’s actually tiny fragments of glass which create the night sky effect. At 40mm wide, it is a wearable watch and has sapphire crystals front and rear, so that brilliant movement can be viewed. The rotor has lots of decoration, with astrological motifs aplenty.
A large 19th century onion crown adds a vintage detail.
The CVDK watchmaker who designed this movement is from the Netherlands and spent years working at Patek Philippe and Frederique Constant, so there is a truly individual approach to this watch. It’s no casual assembly of high cost parts from around the Swiss industry, but something of a work of art, definitely limited edition.
The watch comes with its own winder, so it can always stay in motion, just like the planetary dance. You can customises the order, by case material, colour, dial etc. I chose a white gold case, blue Aventurine dial and gold clasp. Think it looks nicer than the Mars surface sandy dial colour. Anyways, it came out at 75,300 euros, so yeah, where’s that lottery ticket..?
Here’s the final word from CVDK;
“This is the ultimate way to carry the universe closely to your heart. Our in-house designed module gives you the smallest mechanical heliocentric planetarium in the world. It displays real time the solar orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. It also shows you the minutes, hours, date and month. The result is a magnificent spectacle that continues to fascinate in all its complex mechanical beauty.