Astronomical Watch Gorgeously Depicts the Real-Time Orbits of Planets

Van Cleef & Arpels
Van Cleef & Arpels

Most watches can tell time, but how many keep track of the planetary orbits? Luxury watch maker Van Cleef & Arpels created the Midnight Planétarium timepiece, which does just that. The wristwear is encased in 18-carat gold and sports a variety of different semi-precious gems. As the watchmakers explain on their website, the company has "achieved its dream of reducing the scale of the heavens to the dimensions of a wristwatch." Pretty fancy stuff.

Each planet is represented with a different colored stone: Earth is turquoise, Mercury is serpentine, Venus is chloromelanite, Mars is red jasper, Jupiter is blue agate, and Saturn is sugilite. Other celestial objects on the watch include a pink gold shooting star and sun.


This watch isn't just for looks: The planets actually move in time with their real-life depictions. A self-winding mechanism containing 396 separate parts moves each miniature planet in true time to its actual orbit length. That means it will take your tiny Saturn 29 years to make its way around the watch's dial, with Jupiter taking about 12 years, Mars 687 days, Earth 365 days, and Mercury 88 days. (Neptune and Uranus aren't included as their orbits are longer than most human lifetimes at 165 years and 84 years respectively.)


The back of the watch features an engraving of the starry night sky. You can set the date and view it through two apertures on the dial. You can also tell the time thanks to the shooting star which completes a revolution around the dial in 24 hours. Adorably, the owner can choose a specific day as their "lucky day" and on that date the Earth will move directly underneath the star engraved on sapphire crystal to symbolize good fortunes.

The watch retails for $225,000, which really isn't so much to have the entire solar system adorning your arm.



[h/t Lost at E Minor]

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Centre of Excellence
Centre of Excellence

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Remembering Sara Little Turnbull, Whose Bra Cup Design Became the N95 Mask

Design innovator Sara Little Turnbull.
Design innovator Sara Little Turnbull.
Photo Credit: © Center for Design Institute

The coronavirus pandemic has made something of a celebrity out of the N95 mask, a particle-filtering face covering that’s long been used to protect wearers from inhaling or exhaling pathogens. (The “95” refers to the fact it can block 95 percent of airborne particles.)

Like most nondescript and pervasive products, not many people stop to think about where it came from. Now, owing to the attention placed on it as a key tool in the health care professional’s fight against coronavirus, the woman behind the mask has come to the forefront. Her name is Sara Little Turnbull, and she designed what would become the N95 based on the shape of a bra cup.

A design consultant, Turnbull was working with the 3M company in 1958 in their gift wrap and fabric division when she was exposed to Shapeen, a non-woven material made of polymers and used for decorative ribbons. Turnbull was fascinated by the molded version of Shapeen and devised the first-ever pre-made bows for gift wrap.

Turnbull didn’t stop there. She saw endless possibilities in Shapeen and assembled an audience of 3M executives to present a number of ideas she had for products—more than 100 in all—using the material. At the presentation, which she titled “Why,” she impressed 3M with the scope of Shapeen's potential. The company quickly enlisted her to work on a design for a molded bra cup.

But Turnbull had another, arguably more important notion. At the time, she was taking care of three ailing family members who were under the care of doctors. Turnbull was often in a medical setting and noticed health care workers were constantly adjusting thin masks that tied in the back. She returned to 3M with the idea of using that same molded material to make a mask that would fit more comfortably on the face.

Again, 3M saw potential in Turnbull’s idea. By 1961, they introduced a non-woven lightweight medical mask based on her concept, with elastic bands instead of strings, an aluminum nose clip, and a form-fitting "bubble" shape. (The bra patent was approved in 1962.) Though innovative, the mask couldn't block pathogens for medical use and was marketed for dust filtration instead. An improved respirator hit the market in 1972 that was suitable for other industrial purposes. As the mask’s filtration evolved, so did its usefulness. In 1995, the N95 respirator was introduced in the health care field, fulfilling Turnbull's original ambition.

Though Turnbull had been relegated to a nondescript part of 3M, she had an extensive background in design, graduating from the Parsons School of Design in 1939 and later becoming the decorating editor of House Beautiful magazine. After Turnbull wrote an article taking companies to task for not designing products suitable for the end user, she was hired by 3M. As a consultant, she also collaborated with Corning, Revlon, General Mills, and Ford, among others.

After Turnbull died in 2015, the Sara Little Turnbull Center for Design Institute was formed, which offers information to the public on the value of design and supports the efforts of disadvantaged women's design education. Turnbull's vast archive of material is available to view by appointment. A foundation in her name also provides educational grants. The “Little,” incidentally, was in acknowledgment of her height. At 4 feet, 11 inches tall, Turnbull wasn’t terribly physically imposing. But her contributions were gigantic.

[h/t NPR]