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A Breathtaking Watch – That Orbits With the Planets

By Guan Tan

Jupiter opposition falls on the 7 April 2017.
 
Felicia Yap
Jupiter opposition falls on the 7 April 2017.

Astronomy has long been a spring of creativity for the watchmaking trade. The science of celestial objects and universe is the foundation of time. It was in 1974 that Hollander Christiaan Van der Klaauw founded a mechanical watchmaking business committed to handmade astronomical complications. This year, Van der Klaauw joined forces with 121-year-old Parisian maison Van Cleef & Arpels on a beautiful timepiece, the Midnight Planétarium.

Van Cleef & ArpelsThe Midnight Planétarium features a 44mm case, pink gold with sapphire glass back, aventurine glass dial, and a self-winding mechanical movement manufactured by Stern.
The Midnight Planétarium features a 44mm case, pink gold with sapphire glass back, aventurine glass dial, and a self-winding mechanical movement manufactured by Stern.
Van Cleef & ArpelsIt boasts a 48 hour power reserve. Every piece is numbered, but is not a limited edition model.
It boasts a 48 hour power reserve. Every piece is numbered, but is not a limited edition model.

Nestled on the watch face are six semi-precious stones for six planets – an intense green serpentine for Mercury, a dark green jadeite called Chloromelanite for Venus, a clean turquoise for Earth, an opaque red jasper for Mars, a greyish blue agate for Jupiter, and a purple-black sugilite for Saturn. The sun is a smooth, polished ball of pink gold. The six gems follows real-time orbital periods of the planets – mirroring movements of planets in the solar system above us.

It will take Mercury 88 days to complete its orbit around the watch dial, 224 days for Venus, 365 days for Earth, 1 year and 322 days for Mars, 12 years for Jupiter, and 29 years for Saturn.

If you have this watch, you’ll be able to observe actual alignments of the planets on your wrist. “One upcoming alignment is the opposition of the Jupiter on 7 April, when Jupiter is in opposition to the Sun as viewed from Earth,” Professor Cindy Ng from the Department of Physics, NUS explained. That means Jupiter-Earth-Sun are aligned in this order.

Felicia Yap
 

“Opposition of Jupiter occurs once every approximately 400 days, when Earth overtakes Jupiter in the orbital motions of the two planets around the Sun. It happens because Earth’s orbital period is shorter than Jupiter’s.” In 2015, the opposition took place on the 6 February, while in 2016, it was the 8 March.

Since Jupiter will be directly facing the sun, it’ll be at its brightest, hanging at the highest point in the sky on the night of the 7 April 2017. “The opposition of Jupiter is visible everywhere. When Jupiter (or any other planet) is in opposition, it is seen rising in the east shortly after sunset; it remains visible throughout the night, as it only sets in the west at sunrise.”

The Jupiter-Earth opposition will be a sight worth observing. If you have access to a small telescope or binoculars, you might even be able to see the bands of Jupiter.

Alternatively, Professor Cindy suggests there are several amateur astronomy groups in Singapore which holds regular telescope sessions. “All these telescope sessions usually welcome the general public”.

 

On the 7th April 2017, visit the Singapore Science Centre for a gazing session. Read more about the Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planétarium here.

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