Cosmic Clockwork: Marvelling at the Christiaan van der Klaauw Planetarium

The Christiaan van der Klaauw Planetarium evokes in me the memory of the words of Carl Sagan, famed American astrophysicist, “We do not know beforehand where fundamental insights will arise from about our mysterious and lovely solar system, and the history of our study of the solar system shows clearly that accepted and conventional ideas are often wrong and that fundamental insights can arise from the most unexpected sources.”

To understand astronomy is to understand time – its passage, its magnitude, its cardinal axioms. When we look at stars, we are not looking at them as they are now. If a star is 100 light years away, that means we are seeing it as they were 100 years ago, because that is how long it takes light from that star to reach our eyes. Even when we look at the sun (not directly, please), we are seeing it as it was eight minutes ago. 

Dutch watchmaker Christiaan van der Klaauw understands the inexorable link between astronomy and time, a fact reflected in its timepieces. It has led the industry in crafting elegant timepieces featuring marvellous complications that draw inspiration from the cosmos. In 2018, the Maison introduced the Planetarium – a collection of timepieces with a miniature planetarium set upon their dials. It captured the imagination, particularly with two specific expressions (CKPT3304 and CKPT33B4) to the collection that feature aesthetically fascinating dials, further strengthening the Maison’s association with the cosmos. 

The dials are made of Aventurine glass – one in midnight blue, the other in black. The dial is speckled with colours to signify the infinite, wondrous stars that dot our cosmos, an apt backdrop for the planetarium. It’s also a great alternative to the sunburst motif of the dials of other expressions within this collection. 

They’re encased in high-quality steel, a more neutral choice, as compared to other watches in the collection that feature rose gold cases or diamond-set bezels. This was essential in allowing the dial and the planetarium to command attention. These expressions are crafted to show a deeper reverence for the solar system and the cosmos. Everything else retains the cosmic marvel of the Planetarium collection. 

The impressive twin barrels of the CVDK7386 automatic winding movement give the watch a power reserve of 96 hours. But don’t forget – Christiaan Van Der Klaauw’s engineers also have to craft a movement capable of powering a planetarium.

The Maison’s in-house designed module offers collectors the world’s most compact mechanical heliocentric planetarium. It provides a real-time display of the solar orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. This Planetarium stands as one of the most intricate timepieces in the Maison’s collection, paying homage to the eminent pioneers of planetarium design, including Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Christiaan Huygens and Eise Eisinga.

This Planetarium complication stands as one of the most intricate timepieces in the Maison’s collection
This Planetarium complication stands as one of the most intricate timepieces in the Maison’s collection

Located at six o’clock, the Planetarium is perhaps the smallest in the world, but a grand wonder of watchmaking complications. In the Planetarium, the Sun is positioned exactly in its middle. The planets are then shown in alignment, all the way up to Saturn – fittingly so as it was the last planet to be discovered during a period of astronomical enlightenment brought about by yet another impressive Dutch invention: the refracting telescope. As a matter of fact, Saturn’s rings were confirmed by the observations of the aforementioned Dutchman and namesake of the Maison, Christiaan Huygens. 

Through a sapphire crystal caseback, collectors can see the rotor, which is engraved with planets, stars and the 12-clawed sun, the logo of Christiaan van der Klaauw. The same design repeats throughout the collection as well. 

The Planetarium collection might be easily dismissed as yet another luxury timepiece, but its meticulous engineering and its reverence for the cosmos remind us of the ingenuity, fearlessness and craftsmanship that have allowed us to explore our solar system and beyond. This is a watch for those who forge ever ahead into new frontiers.

Christiaan Van Der Klaauw CVDK Planetarium

Price + Specs

Case 40mm steel; Aventurine glass dial; sapphire crystal caseback

Movement Automatic winding CVDK7386 with CVDK Planetarium module, with 96-hour power reserve

Price S$67,580

The Christiaan van der Klaauw CVDK Planetarium is available at Sincere Fine Watches, #01-12 of Takashimaya S.C., and the SHH Boutique, #B2M-202 of The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands – with a retail price of S$67,580