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Keeping time with the seasons: 5 astronomical watches
Watch Stories

Keeping time with the seasons: 5 astronomical watches

Thursday, 22 September 2016
By Emmanuel Schneider
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Emmanuel Schneider

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3 min read

Morning dew, scattered showers, russet leaves and the scent of wild mushrooms are there to remind you that today is the first day of autumn. But does your watch know?

First, the unmistakable signs: a dampness in the morning air, the sun that dips beneath the horizon earlier than before, the autumn haze. Then something that stirs inside: for those closer to nature, it might be the irresistible urge to go hunting for wild mushrooms; for those who are closer to the stars, the sensation of vibrating to the universe. Your watch will have the final say: yes, we’ve changed season. Watchmakers have a longstanding love affair with the planets and stars, and for this reason seek to mechanically transpose the changing of the seasons to the infinitely small space inside a watch. Enjoy this journey, in images, through the seasons with five of the most outstanding astronomical timepieces.

Van Cleef & Arpels Quantième de Saisons (2009)

The dial of this Quantième de Saisons, from the Garden collection, opens to reveal a disc that rotates in time with the seasons, giving its wearer a watch that displays time on two scales. First the precise measuring of hours and minutes, then a far more poetic appreciation which shows the changing face of time as the months slip by. A similar one-year rotating disc system equips the more masculine Midnight in Paris watch, which depicts the stars above Paris as they traverse the sky over the course of the year.

Van Cleef Arpels Quantième des Saisons
Van Cleef Arpels Quantième des Saisons
Greubel Forsey Quantième Perpétuel à Équation (2014)

Greubel Forsey, whose variations on the tourbillon need no introduction, has paired its renowned 24-second tourbillon inclined at 25° with an ingenious perpetual calendar indication aligning day, date and month, complete with an equation of time on the reverse side. Displays are controlled by a “mechanical computer” which shows the seasons at a glance, thanks to different colours, as well as the equinoxes and solstices.

Greubel Forsey Quantième Perpétuel à Equation
Greubel Forsey Quantième Perpétuel à Equation
Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium Galileo Galilei (1985)

The Astrolabium Galileo Galilei belongs to the famous trilogy presented by Ulysse Nardin and created by Ludwig Oechslin on the theme of different conceptions of time. The first in the series, it considers astronomical time with indications of the seasons, equinoxes and solstices among a host of other information. Joining it in this pantheon of astronomical watches at Ulysse Nardin are the Planetarium Copernicus from 1988 and the Tellurium Johannes Kepler from 1992.

Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium Galileo Galilei
Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium Galileo Galilei
Patek Philippe Star Caliber 2000 (2000)

Very nearly as impressive as its older sibling – the Calibre 89 watch which Patek Philippe unveiled in 1989 – the Star Caliber 2000 appeared at the start of the millennium, an assembly of 1,118 components for 21 complications. It too tracks the changing seasons, together with the solstices and equinoxes.

Patek Philippe Star Caliber 2000
Patek Philippe Star Caliber 2000
Vacheron Constantin Ref. 57260 (2015)

No compilation of “seasonal” watches would be complete without the latest timepiece to come steeped in superlatives, as per the wishes of the anonymous owner who commissioned this extraordinary piece, the only one of its kind. Reference 57260 with its 57 complications was presented to the world the same year as the 260th anniversary of Vacheron Constantin, the venerable Maison that brought it to life. Turn over this monument of 2,826 components to see the indication of the seasons, marked by the solstices and equinoxes.

Vacheron Constantin Référence 57260
Vacheron Constantin Référence 57260
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