Space-themed watches: Timepieces that look like spaceships and place the solar system on your wrist

Space-themed watches: Timepieces that look like spaceships and place the solar system on your wrist

Three... Two... One... Lift-off!

Text: Karishma Tulsidas

For all our fascination with space, our galaxy remains woefully unexplored. I mean, it was only this week that the Chinese lunar probe Chang'e-4 made history by becoming the first spacecraft to land on the far side of the moon

As the likes Elon Musk and Richard Branson speak about space tourism the way Donald Trump speaks about the wall (it will definitely maybe perhaps never happen in our lifetime), the fact that so little is known about our galaxy only serves to tantalise our imagination. I bet that most of us dreamt of becoming astronauts when we were growing up, and fed on a steady diet of pop culture space utopias (and dystopias) such as The Jetsons, ET, Star Wars, Men in Black, and more.

The less we know, the more we allow our imagination to run wild - and in the hands of creatives, space is at once scary and fascinating. But when explored through the eyes of watchmakers, outer space becomes almost romanticised. The timepieces below, inspired by the galaxy far, far beyond, reflect the unbridled imagination of horologists who've managed to capture the intrepid exploration of our universe onto our wrists.  

The aventurine dial on the Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium resembles the star-speckled galaxy

Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planétarium

Watchmakers have long engineered timepieces that can track not just the hours and minutes, but also the months, days, dates, leap years, sidereal years, and even the Hebrew calendar. But one actually follows, in real time, the trajectory of the planets around the sun - that's the Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planétarium. This being Van Cleef & Arpels, the timepiece is an exercise in technical ingenuity as well as design mastery. The dial is made of concentric circles of aventurine, reflecting the vast space, upon which serpentine Mercury, chloromelanite Venus, turquoise Earth, red jasper Mars, blue agate Jupiter and sugilite Saturn revolve around the pink gold sun. There is a date and day display on the outer circle, while a shooting star is a whimsical element that serves as the hour indication.

Can you spot at least three of the six aliens on the HM6 Alien Nation?

MB&F HM6 Alien Nation

We could argue that almost every timepiece within MB&F's Horological Machines (HM) collection looks like a UFO - if you squint a bit and exercise your imagination. But the HM6 was truly borne from founder Maximilian Büsser's childhood memories of the Japanese anime series Capitaine Flam, where the brave space explorer saved humanity on his trusted spaceship. The bulbous shape and five domes are reminiscent of a spaceship, and MB&F playfully called the timepiece "Space Pirate". The motto of MB&F is "a creative adult is a child who survived", and this ethos is perfectly embodied within the HM6 Alien Nation. It comes manned with an alien crew of six, which are each hand-sculpted by engraver Olivier Kuhn. It takes him 34 hours to sculpt one tiny alien.    

RJ Watches' Spacecraft has a distinct Star Destoyer look to it, doesn't it?

RJ Watches The Spacecraft

It's no surprise that RJ Watches, formerly known as Romain Jerome, is a Silicon Valley favourite - the likes of Batman and Spiderman have made special appearances on the dial, and most recently, the brand took a walk on the dark side with its latest collection, the RJ x DC Comics Villains. Nonetheless, in a galaxy far way on earth, and not so long ago either, RJ released the Spacecraft. The inspiration is so obvious that we're not going to insult your intelligence by spelling it out, but it does warrant the question: how do we imagine space ships? It depends, perhaps, on the kind of pop culture imagery we've grown up with: while MB&F's was all bulbous curves, RJ's interpretation is all sleek lines and architectural prisms. Reading the time on The Spacecraft is not straightforward, but quite intuitive when you get the hang of it: the hours are displayed in a linear fashion at the front of the watch, while the minutes are in a rotating disk on top of the ship.

The De Bethune Dream Watch 5 is fashioned from meteorite

De Bethune Dream Watch 5

De Bethune is one of those independent watchmakers that makes sci-fi look positively upscale. Its Dream Watch 5 was first launched in titanium, but it's the meteorite version that's truly out of this world. The shape itself is unusual - the triangular contraption is facetted and houses an aperture with a jumping hour display and a rotating minute disk. A tiny rotating moonphase indicator sits on top of the hour and minute indicators, while a ruby cabochon ties the aesthetic together. The case itself is fashioned from meteorite, upping the sci-fi ante of the timepiece. The blue, coloured by copious amounts of iron, and minute amounts of nickel and cobalt, has an iridescent look to it, which simply adds to the poetic allure of the timepiece.

This multi-dimensional mechanical artwork by Jacob & Co features a mini galaxy on the wrist

Jacob & Co Astronomia Sky

If you've ever dreamt of owning the world, Jacob & Co's Astronomia Sky literally puts the earth on your wrist. Giving new meaning to "the world revolves around you", the globe sits at the centre of the Astronomia universe, and doubles as a day-night indicator. The entire timepiece is constructed in sapphire, so you can get a holistic, unencumbered view of the entire workings - it feels as though you're looking through a telescope at the galaxy, as the gravitational triple axis tourbillon resembles a space satellite, while there's an orange moon, made from a Jacob-cut sapphire, on another end. These rotating bodies are all placed against a blued sidereal display that showcases the stars in the northern hemisphere, enhancing the celestial nature of the timepiece.

The Urwerk UR-1001 Titan is massive, and measures 106mm

Urwerk UR-1001 Titan

Imagine being stranded on a spaceship, and stuck in the command centre, with the controls in front of you and you have absolutely no clue what to do. This is what the Urwerk UR-1001 feels like. This mammoth of a timepiece is nicknamed Titan, for its titanium case and, we like to believe, its 106mm case. It's what independent watchmaker Urwerk calls a "grand uber complication", and features all the codes that we'd expect from the brand. Its signature orbiting satellite complication displays the hours and minutes, as well as the calendar.  The case back features an "oil change" indicator, which informs the wearer when it requires servicing.  


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