Astronomy, time in its purest form is the source of inspiration for the most famous watchmaker in the Netherlands. Christiaan van der Klaauw, an honorary member of the prestigious AHCI, founded the company - Christiaan van der Klaauw Astronomical Watches - in 1974. 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.
In 2014, we celebrate the fact that Christiaan van der Klaauw presented his first astronomical clock 40 years ago; 20 years ago he produced his first wristwatch with astronomical complications. It is a celebration in its purest form, with a balanced collection of unique astronomical watches. Christiaan van der Klaauw (1944) was born in Leiden, the city where the Netherlands’ greatest scientist of all times, namesake and inspiration Christiaan Huygens started his studies in 1645. Van der Klaauw attended the School for Instrument Makers (LiS) in Leiden, the curriculum established in 1901 at the initiative of Prof. Dr. Heike Kamerlingh Onnes.
When Kamerlingh Onnes was appointed professor in experimental physics in 1882 it was common practice for the physicists to make their own instruments. The scientist considered this nonsensical and initiated the founding of the LiS. This trade school describes instrument makers as ‘handymen, puzzle solvers and inventors who use their technical knowledge and creativity to make just about anything conceivable’. This certainly applied and applies to Van der Klaauw who, in the course of his training, acquired practical experience at the Leidse Sterrewacht, the world’s oldest university-affiliated observatory, which was established in 1633. In this magical world of stars and planets Christiaan van der Klaauw’s love of astronomy burgeoned.
Good instrument makers are able to make what their eyes can see and are certainly capable of making timepieces. The idea of combining the mathematically predictable movements of celestial bodies with a clock was an idea that was certainly not unique to Van der Klaauw. Astronomical clocks had been made thousands of years earlier and the Netherlands had the Friesian Eise Eisinga (1744-1828), a virtuoso who had built a highly accurate planetarium in a house in Franeker. After Christiaan van der Klaauw had completed a clock maker’s course as well he moved from Leiden to Joure in 1967, where he started working for a producer of Friesian grandfather clocks.
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 that made him one of the best clockmakers in the world, saw him receive (in 1989) an honorable membership of the Swiss Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI), whose members include watchmaking greats such as Vincent Calabrese, George Daniels, François-Paul Journe and Franck Muller. In 1992, he won the award for the most innovative movement design for his Pendule Variable in Basel, Switzerland.
Two years later he started with his first wrist watch, the CVDK Satellite du Monde - with astronomical complications, of course. The watch showed the time, day and date, as well as the moon phase, day and night indicator and the place on earth where it is exactly noon at the time you are looking at your watch. It remains an amazing and elegant watch even today. In 1999 he presented the masterpiece CVDK Planetarium, equipped with the smallest mechanical planetarium in the world. Making wrist watches was the start of a new phase in the life of the Netherlands’ most important watch maker.
In 2009, a new era began for Christiaan van der Klaauw. He was succeeded by the Dutch designer Daniël Reintjes. Daniël Reintjes had known Christiaan for many years, ever since he had asked him to produce watches for his own designer label ‘Dark Rush’. He got on extremely well with the watchmaker he respected so highly, brought Maurice Doppert and Maria Reintjes van Laar into the project as fellow shareholders and started repositioning the brand. The new directors decided to focus exclusively on astronomical watches; the phrase ‘astronomical watches’ was added to the brand name and models with new, beautiful astronomical complications were added. This new direction was immediately awarded by winning the ‘Watch of the Year Award’ in 2011, and the prestigious European Watch of the Year Award in 2012, 2014 and 2016.
In 2014 the legendary maison Van Cleef & Arpels presented the mesmerizing timepiece ‘Midnight Planétarium Poetic Complication’ at the SIHH in Geneva. In 2018 the Maison astonished the world again by presenting the extraordinary timepiece ‘Lady Arpels Planétarium’. Both Haute Horlogerie masterpieces are equipped with a complex Planetarium module developed in Switzerland by Christiaan van der Klaauw, exclusively for Van Cleef & Arpels.
Christiaan van der Klaauw was listed as ‘Haute Horlogerie’ on the White Paper list of the respected Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) in Switzerland. The FHH did research on 600 watch brands for 3 years - done by 46 experts - with 29 distinguishing criteria. In 2016 the FHH finally presented a list of only 65 watch brands that can claim the respected term of ‘Haute Horlogerie’.
The main characteristic of the CVDK watches is the astronomical complication. Every watch has one or more complications that originate from astronomy. All watches feature the same, round case design. Each of our watches is instantly recognizable, with the hour indexes above an imaginary horizon, the astronomical complication normally situated at the 6 o‘clock position, a radiantly decorated dial and a transparant case-back with a beautiful CVDK rotor. And finally a stylized picture of the sun with 12 claws (Klaauw = claw) at 12 o‘clock, the sun’s zenith.
All these beautiful timepieces are made with great attention for detail and only the finest and best materials are used for our collection. We produce in such small quantities per year that each watch can be seen as a limited edition. All watches are therefore numbered.
In 2014 we celebrated our 40-year anniversary. Until today, 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.