Van Cleef & Arpels Complication Poetique Midnight Planetarium Watch Hands-On

Van Cleef & Arpels Complication Poetique Midnight Planetarium Watch Hands-On

Van Cleef & Arpels Complication Poetique Midnight Planetarium Watch Hands On   hands on

Van Cleef & Arpels is not a watch brand we normally associate with men's watches. That isn't to say that the Paris "maison" doesn't cater to males, but rather that the luxury maker's offerings for women are so strong they overshadow the pieces for men. It is also a fact that Paris-based watch makers who specialize in jewelry tend to be known more for their ability to execute items with perfect elegance versus macho masculine accoutrements. With that said Van Cleef & Arpels certainly does produce men's watches and a new one for 2014 is among the most interesting we have seen in quite a while. Called the Midnight Planetarium Poetic Complication, the astronomically-themed watch is a welcome departure from the norm and is a  beautiful new high-end piece for traditionally complicated timepiece lovers.

The Midnight Planetarium Poetic Complication is a very difficult watch to understand both thematically and technically for those who aren't familiar with some of the key players in the watch industry. This is a product not born in a vacuum but rather inspired by the recent history of Van Cleef & Arpels as well being based on the talents of some key watch industry minds. Van Cleef & Arpels has another astronomically themed watch with a star chart which is more than likely still in the brand's collection known as the Midnight in Paris. Highly complex, I believe it is the product of the brand's ongoing relationship with designer Jean-Marc Wiederrecht. It is very easy to consider the Midnight in Paris as having inspired a follow-up astronomical watch with the much more complicated Midnight Planetarium - though Jean-Marc Wiederrecht did not have anything to do with it.

Van Cleef & Arpels Complication Poetique Midnight Planetarium Watch Hands On   hands on

Rather, Van Cleef & Arpels turned to a very unlikely source for the Midnight Planetarium movement system that as far as we know they haven't worked with before. That would be the workshop of Dutch-based boutique watchmaker Christiaan van der Klaauw, who for watch lovers, is amongst the few characters in the industry known for producing planetarium style watches. The Midnight Planetarium is a sort of collaboration piece that includes an exclusive Christiaan van der Klaauw designed planetarium module over a base automatic mechanical movement. The watch also features a perpetual calendar on the rear of the watch with indicators for the day/night/and year.

It is an amazingly thorough design that retains an ability to become elegant despite everything going on with the display. Even though miniature planetarium watches tend to be more visually "interesting" versus classically attractive, Van Cleef & Arpels makes a good case for the "pretty planetarium" with this complex member of the Midnight collection. Much of the dial is aventurine, which provides the sparkly deep blue backdrop for the celestial complication. Allow me at this early point to mention how indeed the Midnight Planetarium Poetic Complication is available with diamonds. One can theoretically order the watch with  a diamond-lined bezel (if you wish of course).

Van Cleef & Arpels Complication Poetique Midnight Planetarium Watch Hands On   hands on

Van Cleef & Arpels Complication Poetique Midnight Planetarium Watch Hands On   hands on

Given the rotating bezel over the dial, the Midnight Planetarium watch does not look like most Midnight collection watches. The bezel actually moves the sapphire crystal as it rotates around and a small star shape on the crystal of course goes with it. What purpose does this serve? To indicate your "lucky star of course..." That is what they are calling it and the first step is using the peripheral calendar display around the dial and lining up the red arrow with a special day of the year. On that day (and around it), the Earth indicator orb will be under the star-shape helping to  highlight your special (poetic) day of the year. An element like that is really where you see Van Cleef & Arpels' DNA covertly sneaking its way into an otherwise technical and straightforward watch design.

Those at all interested in the movement of the heavenly bodies will love the idea of having a small wrist-sized representation of six planets and the sun. It isn't the entire solar system, but the watch does represent everything from the sun to Saturn in a range of colorful gemstones. They move in real time just as they do in the sky. The trick of course is in setting the watch. Most planets have long orbits and the initial adjustment of a watch like the Midnight Planetarium Poetic Complication is a chore often best left to a professional. In fact, that is probably why it is so important that the watch has an automatic movement. With that installed it is possible to simply keep the watch on a winder when not wearing it and not fear that the planetarium complication be too far off at any given time.

18 comments
MatiW
MatiW

Nice Watch, what lucky star suppose to be?

Grinnie Jax
Grinnie Jax

What happened to the pushers (2nd page, upper photo)? They look scratched and dirty.

But the space instrument is absolutely amazing.

Ulysses31
Ulysses31

It's beautiful.  Looking at the dial is like peering into deep space.  I wouldn't mind having an orrery on my wrist.

Zzyzx
Zzyzx

Looks whimsical and gorgeous. I love it!

Frauss
Frauss

I love the idea and execution but I can't imagine this watch surviving bumps and knocks with the infinitesimal grooves the planets move through. This is no beater. Looks like a safe queen to me. Especially at this price.

spiceballs
spiceballs

I think that this is an outstanding device, regardless of whether it tells the time or not.  When I was very much younger our science teacher brought a mechanical clockwork planetarium to school.  It was made mostly of brass and was the size of a small coffee table.   Had all the planets (out to Pluto) plus Earth's moon.  So to get most of this within 42mm, be an auto watch with date is amazing (to me) and an attractive design to boot.  Wow!

Shawnnny
Shawnnny

I thought the Earth was supposed to be under the star, not mars.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

What if your lucky day is Feb 29th? Does the Earth only appear under it once every 4 years? Kidding aside, I like it but then I've always liked Christiaan van der Klaauw's planetarium watches. Would have been nice if some of the planets (yeah, I'm picking on Jupiter and Saturn) were closer to their actual colors in the sky.

SuperStrapper
SuperStrapper

I actually really like it. I've had a high appreciation for Van Cleef watches, but as mentioned, they are more often than not curios for women, and have made for nice 'off the beaten path' articles from time to time. This is clearly a mans watch, and not a dandy's either. The case structures are undeniably masculine, and the deep adventurine dial is quite striking. 


Ariel, you may or may not remember that years ago you featured the CvdC planetarium watch in an article, and I derided it for being ugly and cheap looking. I stand by those comments today - recently someone plopped a pictured of it down in a forum and I held fast. The complication is interesting, but the execution was unappealing. This attempt is much more refined. The 'planets' are better rendered (I remember the CvdC version used what basically looked like plastic beads), and the Van Cleef whimsy makes an appearance with the shooting star, and also the 'special day' indicator. 


This is removed enough from what I'm used to seeing from this brand that I would likely struggle to guess who's house (maison?) it came from. I think the Van Cleef and Arpels DNA it is missing is some really impressive hand painted/lacquered element somewhere. 


Regardless, probably my favourite men's VcA watch that I know about. The Pierre Arpels watch is too... rococo? for me, and the Laterale just really doesn't exemplify Van Cleef and Arpels (to me). 


Well done. 

Zeitblom
Zeitblom

Recently, gold watches are appearing in your photos with a very beautiful orange tone --- the full gold AP you featured recently was like that too. Is this a trick of photography or have watchmakers suddenly discovered a way to make gold look nicer?

StylinRed
StylinRed

neptune and uranus are saying "wth?" 

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@MatiW Any day of the year you like. Perhaps your mother-in-law's birthday or any other day you hold equally dear. Then the star will be over the Earth on that day.

StylinRed
StylinRed

@MatiW it's just a day in the year that you set which is your "lucky day" or simply a day you need to remember and the Earth will land on it on that day

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@Frauss  What do you mean is there a convergence of mars and saturn right now? I don't have time to look at my quarter million dollar watch right now. Can't you see I'm in the middle of changing the oil on my Prius? The light is not good under here and the planets don't have any lume on them for gosh sakes.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@Shawnnny Parallax. You just need to be Polaris (the North Star) and look directly down on that little solar system, then the star will be over the Earth's orbit. Then again to "be Polaris" with this watch, you would have to be about 141,000 miles away from the dial (scaling approximate: Polaris is 2 to the 7th times further from the sun than the sun is to the Earth. And I assumed the Earth orbit on this watch to be about 11.3 mm in diameter). Cheers.

Frauss
Frauss

@MarkCarson @Frauss  Your watch must be sadly out of alignment. The last Mars/Saturn conjunction was 17 Aug 2012 and the next 27 Aug 2014. Try putting lume on your Prius. Then you'll see the watch, which I'm surprised to note has no markings of the zodiac on it. How sad for the astrologers among us! Wait, the Sky-Moon Tourbillon and the Siderale Scafusia don't either! An outrage!!

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