A highlight of the annual Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), held every January in Geneva, is seeing the various brands compete against each other in the very technical and artistic ends of the market with creations that have never been seen before—often with prices that are equally out of this world. One of our favorites from this category from 2014's SIHH is the 44mm Midnight Planétarium from Van Cleef & Arpel's Poetic Astronomy series. In addition to telling time by way of a shooting star that rotates along the outmost area of the face, the watch more prominently features an accurate rotation and representation of the Earth and the five other planets visible from here around the sun—Mercury in 88 days, Venus in 224, Earth in a year, Mars in 687 days, Jupiter in 12 years and Saturn in 29. It’s a very complex watch and a true display of supreme watchmaking. But as complicated as the piece is—with 396 parts to the movement—it's also beautiful.
Astronomical representations were popular in the 18th century, the root of this timepiece's inspiration. Manually driven ancestors of the modern planetarium were created across multiple shapes, sizes and styles—from watches to mobiles. For even longer, people have been captivated by the heavens, and because of this Van Cleef & Arpels captures its magnificence and awe it inspires.
On top of the already extravagant design, one of the more standout features is the ability to set any of the 365 days in the year as a "lucky star," an additional element in this magical cosmos. When your day arrives the lucky star is located just above the Earth on the dial.
"The complication is not only to make orbits for the planets, the biggest or the most complicated is to make it with this type of case—it's very thin," their master watchmaker, Denis Giguet, explains to CH. "It's fantastical and beautiful, as well." The mechanical movement with an automatic winding unit was developed in two parts: An internal movement (made in-house) is partnered with a module made specifically for Van Cleef & Arpels by boutique designer Christiaan van der Klaauw, who specializes in astronomic design. The Van Cleef team pushed van der Klaauw to develop something using the brand's DNA.
Leveraging the brand's specialty in jewelry, each of the planets are represented by precious and semi-precious stones, ranging from red jasper to serpentine and turquoise. An even more extravagant edition is available with baguette-cut diamonds set into the bezel. All of it comes together with a black alligator leather strap. It's just as much couture jewelry as it is a watch, and arguably invokes science as much as art. The standard version of the Midnight Planétairum Poetic Complication in pink gold will sell for $245,000, and will be available later in 2014.
Images courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels