Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium

When poetry and technique rhyme with Van Cleef & Arpels

2014 is all about poetic astronomy and among other amazing timepieces, Van Cleef and Arpels, the Parisian jeweler presents two exceptional complications.

By Eric Othenin-Girard
Specialised journalist

To begin with, the Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium, a watch that represents a dream of the maison. This new watch reproduces a miniature solar system with six planets around the sun and their position at a given time. The watch displays the Earth, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – all visible from the Earth to the naked eye. They are all driven by a highly complicated, self-winding mechanical movement. The movement features an exclusive module developed in collaboration with the Maison Christiaan van der Klaauw and made of 396 pieces.

Each of the planets rotates according to its real rotating time. Thus, Saturn will take more than twenty nine years to complete a turn of the dial, Jupiter will take almost twelve years, Mars 687 days, the Earth 365 days, Venus 224 days and Mercury 88 days. All this is great but how do we actually read the time on this superb timepiece? Well, it’s easy enough; we just need to look for the shooting star – the lucky charm motif dear to the Maison.

Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium

It makes its 24-hour rotation on the periphery of the dial. The story continues on the case back where the oscillating weight is engraved with a starred décor. Thanks to two push buttons, two apertures display the day, month and year. Along with the different functions mentioned above, a poetic invitation is given to celebrate one’s lucky day. The turning bezel enables the owner of the watch to select any day by positioning the red triangle on a graduated calendar. When the particular date comes, the Earth will move and place itself precisely on top of the star engraved on the sapphire crystal like a lucky charm.

Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium

The jeweler’s know-how

By using its expertise in jewelry, Van Cleef & Arpels has chosen to represent planets through a selection of hand-cut hard stones: turquoise for the Earth, serpentine for Mercury, chloromelanite for Venus, bloodstone for Mars, blue agate for Jupiter and sugilite for Saturn. They are all of different dimensions and colors and have been cut into a sphere to circle the pink gold sun. These different elements and the pink gold shooting star have been fixed on the same amount of aventurine plates. These concentric plates of a deep sparkling blue follow one another perfectly up to the center of the dial.

Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium

On the whole, a rigorous work of stone selection, plate and sphere cutting has been necessary to give substance to this animated tableau which allies jewelry with watchmaking expertise.

Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium

The second exceptional complicated timepiece is the still very poetic yet different “Pierre Arpels Heures d’ici et Heure d’ailleurs”. It houses a self-winding mechanical movement designed, developed and produced by the excellent Jean-Marc Wiederrecht at his Agenhor manufacture in Geneva. It is an example of a splendid collaboration between the seasoned and talented but humble professionals. In short, it is a beautiful story. See for yourself!

Van Cleef & Arpels Heures d’ici et Heure d’ailleurs
Pierre Arpels’s fondness of travelling, –which, as he used to say, made him open his eyes to the world– has inspired the manufacture to express this vision of Elsewhere while respecting the timeless aesthetic of the Pierre Arpels collection. These are highly streamlined watches, with a refined case fixed by central attachments and a pattern to decorate the dial’s center. This new creation takes its inspiration from other stylistic signatures of the manufacture such as asymmetry – often found in its jewelry pieces –  or the watch’s name in italics, a tribute to the poetry of words.

In an ode to elegance, a single crown enables the winding of the movement, adjusting the two time zones and the minutes, while illuminating the case’s roundness with a diamond.

Van Cleef & Arpels Heures d’ici et Heure d’ailleurs

A double time zone movement

This is the first time the Pierre Arpels collection includes a complicated watch, double time zone, interpreted with regard to the “Temps Poétique” by Van Cleef & Arpels. The display of a double retrograde jumping hours and minutes is what makes this exclusive self-winding movement – developed in collaboration with Agenhor– unique. Time here is the reference, which is visible through the aperture on the top of the dial. Time elsewhere corresponds to the second time zone indicated through the aperture at the bottom of the dial. Both times jump simultaneously thanks to a unique center that synchronizes the two hours plates and the minute retrograde hand. When the latter reaches 60 minutes on the graduated scale, it goes back to its starting point in perfect synchronization with the hours’ display.

Van Cleef & Arpels Heures d’ici et Heure d’ailleurs

In order to preserve the refinement of the case – an icon of the Pierre Arpels collection – the self-winding movement is equipped with a platinum micro-rotor, which is easily spotted due to its small size. Its bi-directional nature allows it to constantly generate energy.

The movement – visible through a sapphire crystal – is decorated with snailed finishes on the bridges, the Van Cleef & Arpels seal and a blue lacquered décor on the micro-rotor, which has the same pattern as the one on the dial. Absolutely splendid!

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