Koen Simon is a 26-year-old watch collector from The Netherlands. A regular reader of Quill & Pad, he is a fan of high-end watchmaking. He recently sent me this story to add to our “Why I Bought It” series about his one-of-two Orion timepiece by Christiaan van der Klaauw.
My watch collecting journey started in 2008 and to date has led me to focus primarily on vintage IWC and vintage Vacheron Constantin. However, sometimes a watch crosses your path that you immediately fall in love with. And when that watch does not match your usual taste, it becomes all the more exciting. Today I will elaborate on why I bought a two-tone Christiaan van der Klaauw Orion, one of only two examples made.
A fascination for space
I have been fascinated by space ever since I was a child. One of my favorite children’s books my father would read to me when I was about four or five was about a little bear who was afraid of the dark and couldn’t fall asleep. To comfort him, father bear brought a little lantern. He continued to bring larger and larger lanterns until he finally showed the little bear the moon as a lantern and they both fell asleep under the stars.
When I was in high school, I would occasionally cycle to more isolated, neighboring villages late at night to go stargazing. I live close to the De Hoge Veluwe national park, which is known for having very little light pollution. A nice memory is packing my backpack with a picnic blanket, snacks, and drinks and heading over there. I still occasionally go stargazing.
How I met my Christiaan van der Klaauw Orion
When I was a teenager, I regularly visited our local high-end jeweler, Van Hell. Mr. Van Hell always allowed me to come in and look at his special watches, even giving me catalogues. One of the brands he carried was Christiaan van der Klaauw, all of whose watches have an astronomical complication of some sort. Given my fascination for the stars, I immediately liked these watches.
A couple of years ago, I swung by the store again, and he showed me something truly amazing: the Christiaan van der Klaauw Orion in two-tone execution. This particular watch was a Van Hell custom order. I absolutely love the two-tone elements; these give a lot of life to the watch and represent a throwback to earlier bespoke unique pieces. The fact that only two were ever made is very appealing to me.
The first moment I laid my eyes on this watch I fell in love with it. And after a little while I was in the financial position to acquire this lovely timepiece. I love having a watch that links to my childhood fascination. To be able to take that sentiment with me everywhere I go is meaningful to me.
Christiaan van der Klaauw
Christiaan van der Klaauw is a Dutch independent watchmaker with a very special history.
Mr. van der Klaauw was originally a clockmaker who made specific traditional Frisian-style clocks: the so-called “Friese stoelklok.” These clocks house astronomical complications and are richly decorated.
It is fascinating to trace the technical development of the company through the development of van der Klaauw’s clocks, the earliest of which only offered a moon phase. Relatively quickly thereafter the so-called Real Moon was introduced in his clocks, a three-dimensional globe representing the earth’s biggest satellite.
Van der Klaauw started his clockmaking company in 1974. In 1989 – 14 years after founding it – he made the masterpiece that granted him access to the A.H.C.I. (Academy of Independent Creative Horologists) as a member. This table clock, the Planeto Astrolabium, included a three-dimensional planetarium, an astrolabe, and a planisphere for both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. It took him two years to complete, and it remains the most complicated clock ever made in The Netherlands.
Seven years later, in 1996, van der Klaauw began constructing wristwatches, making him one of the early independent watchmakers. From the beginning he focused on astronomical watches, building on his clockmaking experience.
The miniature planetarium of Christiaan van der Klaauw
One such truly monumental piece, now considered his signature complication, is the planetarium: this is a phenomenal timepiece in that van der Klaauw managed to miniaturize an entire planetarium to a diameter of just 12 mm. He introduced this in 1999.
Van der Klaauw retired in 2009, passing his baton along to Daniël and Maria Reintjes, who are now in charge of the world’s only watch brand completely dedicated to astronomical watches.
The Christiaan van der Klaauw Planetarium Eise Eisinga Limited Edition, which contains this miniaturized planetarium complication, was awarded the prize in the Calendar and Astronomy category of the 2021 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. That watch to me is one of the most important wristwatches ever made in The Netherlands. It is the most perfect summary of the brand’s core capabilities, reflecting its original inspiration.
The dial of the van der Klaauw Planetarium Eise Eisinga Limited Edition simulates the look of the ceiling planks of the Eise Eisinga planetarium. Eisinga was a Dutch astronomer who built a planetarium on the ceiling of his living room. Completed between 1774 and 1781, this is the oldest still-functional planetarium in the world. And it was the direct inspiration for Christiaan van der Klaauw to make clocks and later watches.
Both his clocks and his wristwatches reflected Christaan van der Klaauw’s desire to push technical boundaries and express his personal fascination for the Eisinga planetarium.
On top of that, there are occasional collaborations with the best craftspeople in the world. To me that makes Christiaan van der Klaauw among the best independent watchmaking brands in the world.
My Orion and what it means to me
My Christiaan van der Klaauw Orion features a planisphere that makes one full rotation in 23 hours and 56 minutes, displaying the correct position of the Northern Hemisphere’s stars and constellations, and is executed in two-tone metals comprising stainless steel and pink gold.
The bezel, crown, and lug screws are executed in 18-karat pink gold. This makes it almost unique as it was never in the catalogue thanks to being a custom order of just two examples for Van Hell jewelers.
In a way, this watch to me embodies two special personal relationships: one with Christiaan van der Klaauw through our shared fascination with space and planetariums. And one with Mr. Van Hell, who played a key role in developing my knowledge and taste in collecting watches.
I absolutely love to wear this watch, which symbolizes personal relationships in a world of impersonal online retail and brand boutiques. It encourages me me to reflect on what the universe has planned for me.
For more information on the standard models, please visit www.klaauw.com/eng/cvdk-orion.
Quick Facts Christiaan van der Klaauw Orion two-tone
Case: 40 x 15 mm, pink gold and stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber CVDK1072 (based on Soprod A-10 with in-house planisphere module) and custom rotor, 42-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; rotating celestial map (planisphere) with current Zodiac sign indicator
Limitation: 2 pieces (sold out)
Price: €18,950 (all stainless steel model) / €38,450 (all pink gold model), both still available
Remark: three-year warranty