Watch collectors are kinda crazy, of course, but it’s a nice kind of crazy’ says Mr. Alias, a 45 years old entrepreneur from the Netherlands. His collection is eclectic and whenever he no longer wears a watch it is mercilessly discarded. His love for the technique, craftsmanship, and the painstaking devotion high-end watchmakers display, however, keeps him eternally intrigued by the world of watchmaking. One of his most interesting complication watches is the Christiaan Van der Klaauw Planetarium 2000 he bought in 2012. “This infatuation will never pass,” he said to me…
Note: Mr. Alias is not currently in possession of his Planetarium, because I am wearing it. In a brotherly whim of trust, we have exchanged our Christiaan Van der Klaauw watches so we can wear each other’s watch for a couple of weeks.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – Didn’t you feel a bit reluctant when you gave me the watch?
Watch Nut Mr. Alias – You can only make such a deal with a fellow collector and friend. Then you can be certain that he will treat your watch with the same reverence and care as you would yourself. And as I coincidentally have had an eye on the Christiaan Van der Klaauw Eclipse myself for years it has been a great pleasure being able to wear your Eclipse for a while. But I must say that I’d like to have the Planetarium back pretty soon because I am starting to miss it!
Do you feel that attached to all your watches?
Not all of them, no. Sometimes the love fades, sometimes it gets stronger. But I must say that I can sell a watch quite easily if it no longer serves its purpose. That is, when I get bored with it. If a watch turns into a “safe-queen” it has to go. There are a few exceptions, of course. My vintage Pie-Pan Constellation, a heritage piece, will never leave the collection. Although I don’t wear it very often. And I don’t think I’ll ever part with my Rolex Milgauss GV either. I’ve had that one for over 10 years, an eternity as far as I am concerned. But you know, you get older, your tastes change… So never say never.
When did you buy this beautiful Planetarium 2000?
I bought it in 2012 at Amsterdam Watch Company, one of the first authorized dealers of Christiaan van der Klaauw. A strongly appreciated little shop in the historic center filled with vintage watches and interesting small watch brands. There were only a couple of months between the moment I first saw the watch, I think it was in one of the dedicated watch magazines I read at the time, and the actual purchase. During Google searches, I ran into the PuristsPro community. There I read in-depth about Christiaan van der Klaauw (articles written by owners/collectors) and his Planetarium and I just had to have it.
Well, some patriotism I guess, since it is made in Friesland, the Netherlands. But also the fact that this is the smallest mechanical planetarium in the world and that it was one of the last ‘pièces de résistance’ of the founder of the brand, mister Christiaan van der Klaauw himself. It is a very interesting watch; historically, mechanically and design-wise. The sunburst guilloche dial is smashing (Benzinger). And let’s be honest, Van der Klaauw is the only Dutch watchmaker to be a member of the AHCI, the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants. I even think you have to be invited to become a member and all of them are or have been important figures in the watch community. So, that is quite something. Moreover, they won the Calendar and Astronomy Watch Prize at the GPHG last year for their Planetarium Eise Eisinga. So the planetarium complication invented by Christiaan is still unique and relevant 22 years after presentation. I like the philosophical component as well. Haven’t we all at one point or another stared at the night sky wondering ‘What is out there?’
It really appeals to my imagination to have the planets of our solar system mechanically (!) displayed in real-time on the wrist. How cool is that? Although, I must admit that at some point in time I forgot to replace the batteries of the CvdK’s (KubiK) watch winder and as result, the alignment of the planets fell back a year or so. It should be sent in for calibration or set by myself to get the planets back in a real-time position. That’s quite a challenge because it will probably take me over 10,000 turns of the crown to get them back to live sun orbiting position. So I’m going to leave the planets for what they are until the next service interval.
Do you send in your watches regularly for service?
Only when they don’t run correctly anymore. Why send a watch in for service when it runs fine? Modern oils have a very long lifespan. I do service the vintage and neo-vintage watches when acquired.
Is it only indies that make your heart beat faster?
No. Before I bought the Planetarium my collection consisted of a 1962 Pie Pan Connie, a PAM 359 and a Milgauss. So I ‘needed’ something dressy to complete (lol) my collection. Discovering the CvdK Planetarium made me feel that this totally different and non-mainstream complication in a dress watch would be the ultimate addition. By the way, I was convinced that the Planetarium would be my last acquisition ever…
But it wasn’t…
No, it even increased my hunger! Before the Planetarium, I felt a slight discomfort spending so much money on a watch, but I actually got somewhat unleashed. Due to discovering the PuristsPro forum – now WatchProSite –, I got in touch with other WIS (Watch Idiot Savants) and a new world opened. This international community includes people that are way more down the rabbit hole than I am, so now I felt it was socially acceptable to add some more pieces. A 16570 Polar, an ALS 1815 anniversary, a Nautilus and a Royal Oak – but the AP has left the nest 3 years ago. I may have sold it too early, but I was through with it so it had to go. And although I once said I would never buy a Rolex, I added some more. And of which I only kept a few, too. A Tudor BB58 got added, which I love, and the Omega Trinity Box, but that’ has been flipped as well because I developed an irritation towards faux-patina. Sadly I do not have an unlimited watch budget and sometimes I just have to free some money for new acquisitions.
Since when were you interested in watches?
Ever since I was a child. I was only 4 or 5 years old, and already opening my father’s bedside table drawer to look at his watch. We lived across from a jeweler, and at a very young age, I already went there regularly to watch what he put in his shop windows. And to be honest, I think this hobby will interest me for the rest of my life!
Do you wear the Planetarium a lot?
No, not that often, mostly on a dressy occasion. Although I must say that I went ice skating with it last year.
Yeah, I figured it being Frisian, and Frisians are ice skaters, haha! No really, that was not the wisest thing to do. I’m glad nothing bad happened to it. But I do like to wear all my watches. It doesn’t really matter what the day has in store. Again; I don’t like having many ‘safe queens’.
Do you ever get any reactions to this watch?
Well, I like not to bore my friends and family too much by talking watches all the time. But collectors will spot this model right away. WIS always look at each other’s wrists first, and then the talking starts. Especially when it comes to the indies. People ‘in the know’ will start a conversation because they have the same passion. These brands make watches for people that do not need to boast with a big brand name, it is more of a private pleasure. You know what you are wearing and that’s enough. And you know, it’s safer too. These days everyone with a Rolex or AP on their wrist is fair game. Some years ago I wore my Nautilus every day, went swimming with it, sat in dodgy pubs until daylight, but I wouldn’t dream of doing that these days. It’s a pity that we can’t wear our watch of choice that freely anymore.
Do you know the current market value of your Planetarium 2000?
No, but undoubtedly it will exceed the list price by a lot. And that’s what I paid for it (list). Anyway, I’m afraid there aren’t many on sale so it is hard setting a price. And I’m not likely to part with it, because once gone it won’t be easily resourced in case a terrible sellers remorse would manifest itself. However, if you make me an offer I can’t refuse….
Can you describe your collection so far?
It is eclectic, to say the least. I like the out-of-the-box thinking of the independents, it’s something you won’t find that easily with the mainstream brands. It is not only the design, or only the mechanics that make me enthusiastic. It is something undefinable. I must like both the design and the movement. This Montblanc monopusher I have, with its beautiful Minerva movement, has a splendid design. Yet, I don’t wear it. It is in my safe, so it has to go. But then I have a Seiko Pressage, for instance, a dress watch with an enameled dial. I really like it. Four years after it came into my collection I still wear it regularly. The enameled dial is beautiful! And all made in-house for only 1000 euros. If you want that in a German or Swiss brand you will have to pay at least 10K. I just love the unique enameling craftsmanship that went into it. The more you know about watches, the more alert you are to really unique offerings.
Are there any other watches on your wishlist?
Yes! The Speedmaster Snoopy III, for example. And some impossible ones like the VC Everest Dual Time and a yellow or red dial Rolex OP 36 mm for the missus. One of the rare times my wife fancies a watch it has to be an impossible one…
And if that all doesn’t work out, I have another list:
- ALS 1815 Chronograph (WG black dial)
- A Grönefeld
- Something by Rexhep Rexhepi
- Hajime Asaoka Tsunami
- Urwerk Spacetime in yellow gold
Quite a list…
Yes, but a person needs goals right? Hajime Asaoka, for instance. I discovered the Tsunami years ago, which looked super cool. He is a self-taught watchmaker who produces almost everything in-house, Tokyo-based. Simple and clean, but with special characteristics like the design of the hands and the dial and subdial finishings. And that enormously cool 16 mm titanium balance wheel of course! I thought it was both esthetically and mechanically a very interesting piece.
His website back then was only in Japanese, too. So I tried, but I couldn’t get a reaction to the emails I sent. And to just pay 25.000 dollars without having had any real contact… So I forgot about it. But now, his watches are worth twice as much. Discovering pieces of (mechanical) art before the artists become really noticed is only possible in the indie scene.
What is your advice to people who want to start collecting watches?
Listen to your gut feeling, try to filter out all the noise. Try to dive into the product, by researching how it (really) was made and by whom. A Limited Edition is almost always marketing BS. Look at Hublot, they only seem to make Limited Editions. Don’t visit the commercial forums. Take your time. Buy with your heart! And don’t listen to your wife.
What communities are you a member of?
Well, I used to be active on the PuristsPro forum, but in the last few years, I mostly had direct contact with other collectors through Whatsapp groups and real-life meetings. Those moments are really important to me because they enable me to exchange ideas with other WIS. It’s nice to be in a bubble together every once in a while ;-). Some of these contacts have developed into real friendships over the years which is more than I ever hoped before coming into this hobby. Or is it an addiction?
Once we made an indie tour through Switzerland with 16 PuristsPro forum members from all over the world. Thanks to the direct contact the forum members had with the watchmakers we were able to visit Voutilainen, Dufour, Gauthier, Halter and De Bethune in 3 days. That was a splendid horological experience. We were received with open arms by the masters themselves so it was like being in a candy shop. We saw the old turning machines live at work over at Voutilainen’s house. We witnessed the blueing of a DeBethune moon and we inhaled the smoke coming from Mr Dufour’s famous pipe while standing in his workshop. That was a very special trip! These experiences while ending up with real friends is the icing on the cake of a wonderful hobby!