A friendship spanning 25 years, human endeavour, the summit of high-flying watchmaking expertise and an unprecedented blend of talents have all come together in the Tourbillon Planetarium Only Watch 2023 for the charity timepiece auction. This single piece features a Frederique Constant tourbillon and the brand’s remarkable manual finishings alongside Christiaan van der Klaauw’s planetarium – the smallest in the world and the first ever produced for a wristwatch. The superlative creation has been hand-finished throughout, housed in a platinum case with a diameter of just 42mm. For the first time ever, it unites the Dutch firm’s planetarium with the Geneva tourbillon, both suitably clad for the occasion with an aventurine dial.
For 35 years now, Frederique Constant has been embodying its mantra of traditional, luxury Swiss Made watchmaking at a fair price, an equation that had been deemed impossible to solve until the Firm’s founders Aletta and Peter Stas did just that. Their vision has been brought to life with the help of dozens of watchmakers, designers, and craftsmen working together in Geneva at Manufacture Frederique Constant.
Niels Eggerding was one of the pillars of this ascent. Working his way up the ranks from Head of Sales to Managing Director before becoming CEO of the Frederique Constant Group, he has gradually established the maison’s international reputation and its status as an acclaimed watchmaking house. For nearly a quarter of a century, Pim Koeslag worked by his side as one of the technical brains that have given birth to over 30 Manufacture calibers, the first of which was released in 2004.
A very fruitful transition
A few months ago, Pim Koeslag moved over to take the helm at Christiaan van der Klaauw. Like him, Aletta and Peter Stas, and indeed Niels Eggerding, the firm is Dutch. In a demonstration of the longstanding friendship between Switzerland and the Netherlands, the two watchmaking houses have made the most of the handover to pool their knowhow. Not for a collection, but for a unique piece to benefit a cause dear to Frederique Constant: Only Watch. This auction has been held every two years since 2003 under the patronage of Prince Albert II of Monaco, with all profits going to Association Monégasque Contre les Myopathies, a charity devoted to research into muscular dystrophy; Frederique Constant has been supporting the initiative since 2005.
How many firsts?
The exceptional collaboration has resulted in an exceptional piece, with the Tourbillon Planetarium Only Watch 2023 boasting more than one first. It’s the first Frederique Constant Manufacture Tourbillon to have a planetarium – and the first Christiaan van der Klaauw piece of this type to feature a tourbillon. It’s also the first time that a Manufacture Frederique Constant timepiece has had an aventurine dial – or indeed a 42-millimetre platinum case, designed especially for the model in question. And too, it’s the first time since the firm’s inception that a Frederique Constant has included a combined month and date display using hands on a single counter. In all, that makes five firsts in one watch – only one of which will ever be made. That itself is unprecedented in Frederique Constant’s history.
The majestic planetarium
The Tourbillon Planetarium Only Watch 2023 isn’t hiding anything: the piece proudly displays its two main complications against the cosmic backdrop of the aventurine dial. The planetarium designed by Christiaan van der Klaauw reigns supreme at 12 o’clock. The man himself created the first such model over 40 years ago, in 1982, for a clock, before miniaturising it for a wristwatch in 1999. Since then, the firm that bears his name has become the unrivalled expert in timepieces with astronomical complications, constantly refining the planetarium through to the version unveiled today, still the smallest mechanical planetarium in the world.
The heliocentric system brings together six moving discs in the same plane, each with its own planet completing its orbit around the sun in real time: Mercury (88 days), Venus (225 days), Earth (365 days), Mars (687 days), Jupiter (12 years) and Saturn (29 years). This feat, involving such long spans of time, requires some of the mechanisms used to operate at an incredibly slow pace. The wearer will have to wait almost thirty years to see Saturn, the outermost planet in this system, complete a full orbit.
The planetarium surround indicates angles of rotation from 0° to 360° and the relevant star signs for each sector, calibrated with respect to the Earth’s relative position. The colours of the planets use the Only Watch 2023 palette – whilst also remaining faithful to the hues of the original heavenly bodies.
The height of complications and finishes
The Manufacture Tourbillon at six o’clock has been designed, assembled and finished by Frederique Constant in its Geneva manufactory, integrated into a movement that’s been hand-finished throughout. Using traditional tools and instruments, two watchmakers spent weeks on the meticulous finishings of each component: a buff file for bevelling, a hammer and punch for hand-punching, and so on. A single bridge required two or three days’ work.
Beading and graining the flanks was done entirely by hand, and all the components have been decorated on both sides – even those that aren’t visible. And for what can be seen, Frederique Constant has worked on even the tiniest details, including the block-polished, chamfered screws. The especially demanding technique in question involves diamond polishing a on a zinc plate. Once polished, the screws take on a dark or steel sheen depending on the light, creating endless and unique contrasts depending on the dial’s orientation. The movement has some forty such screws, and it takes some forty minutes to polish and bevel each of them by hand.
An unprecedented composition with unprecedented balance
On the dial side, the two complications brought together here for the first time are supplemented by two counters located on either side, resulting in perfect visual harmony: the day/month pair at 9 o’clock and the respective emblems of Frederique Constant and Christiaan van der Klaauw at 3 o’clock, encircled by the inscription “Only Watch Pièce Unique”. The wording on the tourbillon’s circular surround proudly announces the partnership in full: “Frederique Constant X Christiaan van der Klaauw”.
For the caseback, Frederique Constant has created a specific decoration for the automatic bridge (or frame): a miniature artistic engraving, done by hand in a more figurative and abstract spirit. Symbolically, the Sun takes its place at the centre of the composition – and thus of the oscillating weight. Around it, shooting stars and planets wheel through the heavens in delightful, organised cosmic chaos – perfect for a collector in touch with their inner child and still (a little) starry-eyed.
About Frederique Constant
Frederique Constant is a Swiss watchmaking manufacture located in Geneva, Switzerland. The Maison was founded in 1988 by a couple of independent entrepreneurs, Aletta and Peter Stas, to offer quality Swiss watches at an affordable price, with the aim of democratising luxury Swiss Made watches.
Frederique Constant creates, develops, assembles and controls a wide variety of mechanical, quartz and connected timepieces at the same time within its 6,200 m2 Manufacture in Plan-les-Ouates (GE). To this day, Frederique Constant has designed 30 Manufacture calibres, including high complications, such as the Tourbillon, the Perpetual Calendar, the Flyback Chronograph, as well as a new and unprecedented type of escapement in watchmaking – the Monolithic. Made from a single piece of silicone, replacing the 26 components of a standard assortment, it oscillates at a frequency of 40 Hz, which is 10 times that of most mechanical movements.
In 2015, Frederique Constant launched the Horological Smartwatch, the first Swiss Made connected timepiece featuring a traditional appearance. In 2018, the Classic Hybrid Manufacture succeeded it, combining a mechanical Manufacture movement with connected features. It was followed by the Smartwatch Vitality line in 2020, equipped with a new generation built-in heart rate sensor.
The same year, Frederique Constant reinvigorated the Highlife collection (1999) with a redesigned case and an interchangeable integrated strap. This was followed in 2021 by the Slimline Monolithic Manufacture with its very high-frequency one-piece escapement, then by the Highlife collection for women.
Frederique Constant is currently present in nearly 3,000 points of sale in 120 countries across the world. In 2016, the Frederique Constant group (Frederique Constant, Alpina Watches, Ateliers deMonaco) joined the Japanese group Citizen, so as to pursue its international development and nurture new synergies.
About Christiaan van der Klaauw
Christiaan van der Klaauw Astronomical Watches is the only atelier in the world that is completely devoted to the design and the production of exclusive, hand-made astronomical watches.
Christiaan van der Klaauw (1944) was born, raised and trained in Leiden, the city where the Netherlands’ greatest scientist of all times Christiaan Huygens started his studies in 1645. Here, Van der Klaauw’s love of astronomy burgeoned and he wanted to combine the mathematically predictable movements of celestial bodies with a clock mechanism. In 1974 Van der Klaauw started his own business and presented his first clock with astronomical complications. It was the start of an exceptional story. He received an honourable membership of the Swiss Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI) in 1989, and in 1992, he won the award for the most innovative movement design for his Pendule Variable in Basel, Switzerland. In 1999 he presented the masterpiece CVDK Planetarium, equipped with the smallest mechanical planetarium in the world.
In 2016, CVDK was recognized as an Haute Horlogerie atelier by the Fondation Haute Horlogerie (FHH). And in 2021 CVDK received the ultimate acknowledgement in watchmaking being awarded the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève – Calendar and Astronomy Watch Award for the ‘CVDK Planetarium Eise Eisinga’ at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG).
Master watchmaker Pim Koeslag acquired a majority stake in CVDK on the 1st of June 2022. Koeslag joined the existing managing board and is now CEO, along with Daniël Reintjes (Creative Director) and Maria Reintjes (Marketing Director) who retained a share in the company.