Figurative reproductions of the heavens are a long-standing tradition. The term “planetarium” came into being in ancient times, referring to models representing the Sun, the Moon, and the planets closest to Earth. 

The planetarium tradition

In 2014, Van Cleef & Arpels set to work on reducing the dimensions of the planetarium, adapting them to the scale of the wrist. This gave rise to the Midnight Planétarium, which depicts the trajectories of the planets in the Solar System on a timepiece of great complexity.


In 2022, eight years after the revelation of its Planétarium collection, Van Cleef & Arpels revisits what has become an emblematic concept, and presents a new Extraordinary Object to enrich its universe of Poetic Astronomy.

The ballet of the planets

Distinguished by its impressive dimensions (50cm high and 66.5cm diameter), the Planétarium automaton presents the Sun and many of the planets of its system visible from the Earth: Mercury, Venus, the Earth – accompanied by its satellite, the Moon –, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Each heavenly body moves at its genuine speed of rotation.


When the animation is engaged, a shooting star appears from a small door and circles the dial to indicate the hours. It sweeps the planets along in a veritable ballet – accompanied by a melody specially created in partnership with Michel Tirabosco, Swiss musician and concert artist. Every second planet moves in the opposite direction to their natural orbit, bringing a fairy-tale poetry to the ensemble.

Watchmaking expertise dedicated to the Poetry of Time

To faithfully reproduce the movement of six planets around the Sun along with their positions at a given time, this decorative object employs a mechanical movement of great complexity. It is fitted with a planétarium module, along with an on-demand animation allowing the dance of the orbs to be replayed at will, developed specifically for Van Cleef & Arpels.


Beneath the automaton’s glass case – blown specially for the object – a shooting star in gold, diamonds and Mystery Set rubies indicates the time on a 24-hour dial. On the base of the object, several windows follow one another: hours/minutes, day/night, perpetual calendar indicating the day, month and year, and finally power reserve. A door also allows to observe the automaton’s musical box and chimes.

The magic of materials

To recreate the wonder inspired by gazing at the heavens, Van Cleef & Arpels has paid particular attention to selecting and working the materials; derived from traditional jewelry making, they combine precious and ornamental stones.


The Sun displays a core of diamonds set on over 500 gold stems. When the automaton comes to life, it quivers as a result of a trembleur in the mechanism. This jewelry technique enables the motif to vibrate at the slightest movement, accentuating the sparkle of the stones.


Different three-dimensional planets are arranged around the Sun. Mercury is represented by a moonstone, while Venus offsets the shades of agate. Earth gives pride of place to a stone making a first appearance in the Maison’s creations: chrysocolla. The familiar glow of the Moon, in orbit round the Earth, is evoked by an opal. Carnelian lends its warm tones to Mars. Lastly, Jupiter is adorned with a heart in chalcedony, while Saturn showcases jasper, its rings blending white gold with sapphires and diamonds. 

    Planetarium automaton seen from above, Planetarium automaton. Extraordinary Object, Van Cleef & Arpels
The magic of materials
Adjustment of the gold ring around Saturn, Planetarium automaton. Extraordinary Object, Van Cleef & Arpels
Setting of the shooting star in white gold, rose gold, Traditional Mystery Set, diamonds, Planetarium automaton. Extraordinary Object, Van Cleef & Arpels
Adjustment of the gold ring around Saturn, Planetarium automaton. Extraordinary Object, Van Cleef & Arpels
Work on a yellow gold piece of the mechanism, Planetarium automaton. Extraordinary Object, Van Cleef & Arpels
View of the mechanism from the inside, Planetarium automaton. Extraordinary Object, Van Cleef & Arpels
Assembling the perpetual calender module, Planetarium automaton. Extraordinary Object, Van Cleef & Arpels

A combination of materials never seen before

In 2023, the Maison proposes a variation of the automaton in a new combination of materials. The Sun is orned by yellow sapphires, spessartite garnets and diamonds, set on 500 gold stems endowing it with an effect of depth and lightness.

Suggesting the expanse of the heavens, nine black aventurine glass discs are positioned concentrically within the dial, seven of them individually animated by the mechanism. 

The planets and the shooting star thus move at their own rhythms within a glittering setting. The ensemble inspires a dual emotion, suspended between immersion in the universe and the beauty of the craftsmanship.

    Close-up view of the planets of the Planétarium automaton. Extraordinary Object, Van Cleef & Arpels

    Close-up view of the planets of the Planétarium automaton