Van Cleef and Arpels Midnight Planetarium watch

The Midnight Planetarium watch from Van Cleef and Arples has one extraordinary look. With this watch you wear an entire solar system on your wrist. And you are way deep in the world of haute horology.

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To get the exceptional representation of the solar system right, Van Cleef & Arpels enlisted the help of the foremost astronomical horloger, Christian Van der Klaauw.

The Midnight Planetarium is part of Van Cleef & Arpels’ “Poetic Complications collection”. This collection features wristwatches with elegant mechanical animations and the Midnight Planetarium is not the first astronomy themed watch with a star chart in it.
Although planetarium watches tend to be more visually interesting than attractive, Van Cleef & Arpels makes an excellent case for the “pretty planetarium”.

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It may sound really surprising, but this complicated watch is relatively easy to use. Usability was a key consideration of Van Cleef & Arpels. The planetary mechanism should be both: easy to operate and elegant – which was the most difficult part of the entire designing process. Two pushers control the day, the month and the year.

The dial of the watch is composed entirely of rings of solid aventurine. Since the stone is difficult to cut precisely, there were some challenges, but in the end Van Cleef & Arpels was able to manufacture discs with flatter surfaces, resulting in a more elegant dial. The aventurine provides the sparkly deep blue backdrop which look absolutely amazing.
Each of the aventurine rings moves independently around the dial. Six planets are included in the dial, each represented by a stone sized accordingly. At the center, a solid pink gold sphere represents the sun. The movement and orientation of the planets is accurately represented as they are in reality. To revolve around the dial just once completely, the gemstone representing Saturn needs 29 years.

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A pink shooting star acts as the hour indicator, attached to its own solid aventurine disc that rotates along a 24-hour scale. Time telling legibility isn’t exactly a major focus of the design, that’s why there’s no minute hand and the Midnight Planetarium can be considered as a single-handed watch. The date is shown on the back of the watch through the sapphire crystal back. There is also a reminder, which stone on the dial is representing which planet.

The Midnight Planetarium Poetic complication is the most complicated watch to date offered by Van Cleef & Arpels. Over the course of two-and-a-half-years was a custom planetarium module developed, which is integrated into a movement by The Richemont Group’s in-house Stern manufacture. The movement totals 396 parts all together. It’s an automatic movement. This is necessary because of the real-time movement of the planets on the dial. Most planets have long orbits and the initial adjustment of a watch like this is a chore best left to a professional. When not worn on the wrist the Midnight Planetarium can be kept on a winder, so the planetarium complication is not too far off at any given time.

The case is 44 mm in diameter and about 13 mm in height. The sapphire crystal that covers the dial is domed, allowing the gemstones sufficient room to move. The bezel is rotating and actually moving the sapphire crystal and with it a small star shape on the crystal. This is the “lucky star”, which highlights a special event in the life of the watches owner.

This magnificent watch is priced at $245.000. More expensive is the version with the diamond bezel, but this is absolutely optional.

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