Sometimes you need to know the time, occasionally the date, other times the day and here and there the position of the moon. Well, once in a while, you might also find yourself needing to know the relative positions of Venus and Jupiter to Mars and Saturn. I mean these things come up, right? And if this is a situation you find yourself in, I’m afraid your watch options are limited, but there is a solution for you: the Christiaan Van Der Klaauw Planetarium.
Christiaan Van Der Klaauw’s (CVDK) doesn’t just make watches, he makes Astronomical Watches, each model containing one or more complications measuring something from the stars. Time on earth is fast, and relatively simple, but the movement of celestial bodies, well, that’s grander and a lot more complicated, especially in watch size. The functions of his watches range from timing eclipses to a 3D moon phase accurate to 1-day every 11,000 years (a great gift for your immortal friend!) to the mind-boggling Astrolabium, which I’ll just let you look up on your own.
But the watch that speaks most to me and my God complex is the Planetarium model. Located at either 6 or 12 on the dial of these handsome and formal watches is, well, our solar system. Rotating around a tiny sun, you can observer the movement of all Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. (to best see this in action, go here and turn the animated watch to high speed) Let that sink in for a moment. Usually, you glance at a watch and see something that pertains to the moment, to you, to the human scale. On this watch, you step out of your timeline and into something vastly larger.
But of course, you are human, and that planetarium on your wrist is very small. In fact, it’s the smallest mechanical planetarium ever made. A quick glance at the watch and this all seems deceptively simple. The planetarium consists of a series of concentric, stacked rotating disks, each representing the heliocentric orbit of the little planet attached to them. Each disk then has its own motion, accurate to the orbit of the planet in real-time. On the surface, it’s clean and straightforward, but underneath, the in-house module must be immensely complex not only to do the math, but also to move the disks… and believe it or not, the base movement, called the CVDK 1196, is actually a heavily modified ETA 2824-2!
Of course, the planetarium is not to a physical scale as the planets are relatively the same size and shape, their distances from the center are evenly spaced and they are not traveling on elliptical orbits, which was clearly a sacrifice necessary to fitting a planetarium into a watch. That being said, this is an incredible and unique horological achievement, as are CVDK’s other complications, that separates the brand from other independent high-end watchmakers.
The watches themselves are also quite attractive. Considering there are active solar systems on each, they are surprisingly restrained. Guilloche dials, Breguet hands, straight lugs and onion crowns lend the watch a classical look that is befitting of astronomy. The movements are also fitted with rotors hand engraved by Jochen Benzinger. There are various models available, though my favorite features the planetarium at 12, month and day dials at 4.5 and 7.5, and a deep cut guilloche that radiates out from the Sun. The whole thing comes together to look like some alchemist’s tool that was preserved from the 1700’s.
As for the price?.. Well, let’s just say that it’s on a scale that’s befitting of strapping the solar system on your wrist. So, until we win the lotto, or accidentally invent and patent cold fusion, the Christiaan Van Der Klaauw Planetarium will remain on our Watch Lust list. Oh, and don’t forget that you’ll need a winder with that, as I imagine this isn’t a watch you could accurately set yourself.