This watchmaker aims for the stars

Elleke van Duin, Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Let’s say you are looking to buy a new watch. You can of course buy a trendy watch by some fashion designer, but if you really wish to make a statement, you go for a miniature piece of art from watchmaker Christiaan van der Klaauw (1944). This Frisian, who started making clocks in his workshop in Joure in 1974, has been fascinated by our solar system all his life. So much even, that in 1992 he started specialising in making watches with astronomical complications. If necessary, he’ll build an entire planetarium into a wrist watch. “The distances between the planets are enormous, and yet they orbit each other with magical precision. I wanted to capture this wondrous mechanism on a dial”, he explains.

His Astronomical Watches have won various awards and the updated version of his Real Moon 1980 watch was recently elected Europena Watch of the Year 2012 in London. At 6 pm, this classic design shows the current phase of the moon. The watch is completely handmade and involves a lot of manual work. As a result the output is low and with an average price tag of 26,000 Euro, prices are steep. Van der Klaauw’s creations are not just technically advanced, they are also infinitely beautiful, using such exclusive materials as rose gold, white gold and platinum. It doesn’t come as a surprise that he was admitted to the presigious ‘Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants’ (AHCI) in 1990, a fellowship that consists of only the best clockmakers in the world.

Amateur astronomer Eise Eisinga was an important source of inspiration for Van der Klaauw. In 1774, this highly gifted young man started building a complex model of our solar system in his living room. Seven years later, he finished his planetarium and people from near and far came to see how the planets orbited each other. In this way, Eisinga removed fears that the planets would crash into the moon and wipe out the earth. His planetarium, which is still in working condition, is the oldest and most famous in the world and more than worth a visit.

Frisians clearly have astronomy in their blood. Or is his success perhaps the result of a favourable position of the stars? “Absolutely not”, says the down-to-earth Van der Klaauw, “I don’t believe in astrology. I care more about the concrete things in life. After all, time’s ticking.”