The Van Cleef & Arpels 'Midnight Planetarium Poetic Complication' by watchmaker Christiaan van der Klaauw, is a hypnotic astronomical timepiece bearing a miniature solar system that you can wear on your wrist.
Ok, maybe the title of this post is a tad crass but the fact is the watches below have the balls to use spheres of all kinds in their design & functionality. Some indicate the entire solar system, the phases of the moon, the hours, minutes or even incorporated into the design itself as the crown & pushers of a chronograph. Whether they're the upper crust of haute horlogerie, obscure vintage or affordable contemporary timepieces, these ballbusting watches are some of the most unique of this horological genre.
Each aventurine ring moves independently around the dial, requiring a negligible amount of torque due to the extended amounts of time they take to move around the dial. Six planets are included on the dial, each represented by a semi-precious stone sized accordingly. At the center, a solid pink gold sphere represents the sun.
This chart displays the movement of each planet on the actual watch, when fully wound.
Before his commission with Van Cleef & Arpels, Christiaan van der Klaauw created other planetarium & other astronomical watches like the CVDK Planetarium (above) for his namesake brand.
Spheres for planets in our solar system may be the pinnacle of our topic but Christiaan van der Klaauw also delved deep into dimensional orb displays like the moonphase of his CVDK Real Moon Tides watch (above). It contains a tides indicator and the most accurate 3D moon phase in the world ever incorporated in a mechanical watch.
The De Bethune DB28 Digitale
Like two chambers of a pneumatic tube, the Christophe Claret X-TREM-1 features two sapphire tubes with floating steel spheres to indicate retrograde hours and minutes. A flying tourbillon inclined at a 30° angle, mounted on a three-dimensional curvex titanium mainplate, equipped with a retrograde hours and minutes display system that is radically different from existing watchmaking conventions. Two tiny hollowed steel spheres, isolated within sapphire tubes on the left and right sides of the case magically move with no mechanical connection thanks to magnetic fields.
Digging deeper back in time, many iterations of spherical crown and pushers have been introduced in the 1970s Mach 2000 Chronograph by famed industrial designer Roger Tallon for LIP France. A wholly bizarre completely spherical ladies watch from the sixties by Vendome. A pair of interesting Mido tank watches with spheres instead of hand and a very unusual Gruen with floating hour sphere and contouring minute hand. All are spectacular mechanical specimens using every imaginable variation of incorporating balls into their designs.
Last but not least, something contemporary and affordable utilizing spheres not just for design but actual function. This is the EONE Bradley watch, created for the visually-impaired customer or fans of unusual watches. It's a wristwatch that doesn't require eyes. It's a tactile timepiece that allows you to not only see what time it is, but to 'feel' the time. Instead of traditional watch hands, the time is indicated by two ball bearings — one indicating minutes (center), and one indicating hours (side). These two ball bearings are connected, with magnets, to a watch movement beneath the watch face.The magnets make it so that even if the ball bearings are moved when touched, they rotate right back to the correct time with a gentle shake of your wrist.