Watches are an interesting area of design, and not just because everything takes place in just a few square centimetres. Traditional techniques still dominate the area of high watchmaking to a degree that is not found in architecture or automotive design, and many watches made today look very similar to their 19th century ancestors. At the same time, there is a lot of research going on, and a few brands are making watches that look like something out of this world.
Vancleef & Arpels
If magnetism is the enemy, electricity is the Darth Vader of mechanical watches. The arrival of cheap quartz watches caused two-thirds of Switzerland’s watch brands to disappear in the 1970s and ‘80s, and so it is understandable that quartz and electric current don’t have a glowing reputation in the luxury watch industry. When the poetic engineers at Van Cleef & Arpels decided that it would be nice to pick out a constellation in diamonds on the dial, and to actually get them to light up, they couldn’t really use bulbs and a battery. The solution they devised for the Midnight Nuit Lumineuse was piezoelectric, based on a type of ceramic, which, when caused to vibrate by the movement, generates enough energy to power six electroluminescent diodes for about four seconds. www.vancleefarpels.com