Once again, French jewelry and watch brand Van Cleef & Arpels demonstrates that there’s a poetry to the stars. Among their latest pieces unveiled during SIHH (the prestigious Geneva-based watch trade sho) a series of poetic astronomy timepieces capture the majesty of the Western Zodiac. These 12 imaginative releases are more than visual delights with glowing stars upon the dial. They’re also a feat of watchmaking. Crafted at Van Cleef & Aprels‘s Meyrin workshops, each watch face acts as a petite sculpture of white gold and blue glitter enamel; each constellation is composed of delicate, translucent blue enamel beads shaped by hand—some of which light up as if by magic. These are automatic wristwatches, powered by the movement of one’s hand. There’s a magnificence at play, underpinned by technical engineering that sets such a collection apart from any other brand’s efforts at trying to tap the cosmos.
Regarding the technology that ignites the miniature LEDs beneath certain beads, Van Cleef & Arpels explains that energy is drawn from a phenomenon known as piezoelectricity, a process that dates back to the 18th century. The basic premise is that certain materials are capable of accumulating an electric charge when subjected to mechanical constraints. Within the 12 Midnight Zodiac Lumineux collection watches, a unique light-on-demand module features “a ceramic blade whose vibration—under the effect of the wearer’s movements—enables electrical energy to be generated mechanically,” according to the Van Cleef & Arpels team. With a touch to the pusher on each watch, this energy is dispatched to the four to six LEDs per timepiece, situated beneath the dial. For three seconds, the translucent enamel beads light up and an astrologically significant constellation comes to life.
The Midnight Zodiac Lumineux collection marks a divine crossing of influence. This isn’t the first time the brand has looked to the stars with extraordinary effect. In fact, they’ve been incorporating astrological themes in an elegant manner since the ’50s. Developmentally, the movement inside was first incorporated into 2016’s Midnight Nuit Lumineuse watch. Altogether, this charmed new series of models will appeal to their ever-expanding global base of fans, but is sure to lure in those who value astrology or stargazing.
As for technical specifications, the watches are 42mm in diameter, a very reasonable case size considering all that’s happening within and atop. A white gold bezel complements the white gold case, all of which frame the rich blue of the dial. Inside, the self-winding mechanical movement with the light-on-demand module has a 40-hour power reserve. All watches are in numbered editions, and come complete with black alligator leather straps. It’s worth reminding one that, yes, these also do tell the time.
Van Cleef & Arpels will release the models in December 2018 and the price is available upon request.
Images courtesy of Van Cleef & Arpels