Astronomical Design: Talking To Daniel Reintjes, CEO Of Christiaan Van Der Klaauw
by Martin Green
In 1974 Dutch watchmaker Christiaan van der Klaauw founded his own workshop. Initially making astronomical clocks, he soon also created similar complications for wristwatches.
In 2009, van der Klaauw retired, passing his baton along to Daniel Reintjes, who is now in charge of the world’s only watch brand completely dedicated to astronomical watches.
Given the fact that Reintjes, as a designer, has a completely different background than van der Klaauw, I sat down with him to talk about the past, present and future of his independent, Netherlands-based brand.
Q&P: In 2009 you succeeded A.H.C.I. watchmaker Christiaan van der Klaauw and started a new chapter in the history of the company. You have been able to transform it from a one-man brand into a competitive niche player. How did you made that transition?
DR: The most special clocks and watches that Christiaan made back in the day included astronomical complications. For me, this was clearly the “DNA” of the brand, but that was not as clear in Christiaan’s early days.
I decided to fully focus on the astronomy aspect, and now it is very clear: Christiaan van der Klaauw makes astronomical watches.
This means that there is now an astronomical complication in each watch and that this astronomical complication is very prominently visible – which gives us our own recognizable face and signature “DNA.” We are now seen worldwide as the authority in the field of astronomical watches.
This is, for example, reflected in the collaboration with Van Cleef & Arpels Midnight Planetarium Poetic Complication.
Q&P: The design of Christiaan van der Klaauw has clearly evolved since you took over, yet it remains very recognizable as the boutique brand it was before. What is your approach when you design a new model?
DR: Within the concept of a Christiaan van der Klaauw watch, we try to display the astronomical complications in an understandable and unique way.
And with the design of the watch we always start with a strict design grid. All our watches have a signature look – and even that design is based on astronomical elements:
- The CVDK logo – which is the sun – is always at the 12 o’clock position.
- Our indexes are always only visible above (an imaginary) horizon.
- Roman numerals are always in use, which slide along the shape of the dial’s sunrays.
- This leaves space for a prominent astronomical complication at the 6 o’clock position.
This strict design philosophy taken as a whole creates a distinctive and recognizable CVDK “signature” and our own “DNA.” You recognize a CVDK timepiece anywhere.
Q&P: Christiaan van der Klaauw the watchmaker left pretty large shoes to fill in a technical sense. Who now designs the astronomical complications?
DR: We design all the astronomical complications ourselves.
Q&P: Together with Van Cleef & Arpels you created the stunning Midnight Planetarium Poetic Complication in 2014. This watch got, and still gets, a lot of attention. How did that collaboration with Van Cleef & Arpels go? Was it commercially and otherwise successful for both parties?
DR: Van Cleef & Arpels approached us for this cooperation because the brand wanted to make a very special astronomical watch. So we made a concept and worked it out together. This process took more than three years.
The relationship is very good and the collaboration for both parties is a great success, both commercially and in terms of publicity. The worldwide exposure was extreme. This was Van Cleef & Arpels’s most complicated and expensive timepiece ever.
Q&P: In an article in The New York Times you said that you declined collaborations with other brands because of a lack of resources. What are these resources and are you working on expanding them or do you think that the resources currently available are effective enough for Van der Klaauw as a company?
DR: We are a small company and we would like to remain small. Our goal is to make special astronomical watches in very limited editions. We can share our knowledge with other brands that suit us, like Van Cleef & Arpels. But since that is not our core business, we do only a limited number of collaborations.
Q&P: With your clear focus on astronomical complications, would you say there are still astronomical complications that you might really look forward to still developing?
DR: We have more than 25 unique astronomical concepts on the shelf at this moment, so more than enough ideas for the next 30 years to come.
Q&P: Recently there has been quite a bit of turmoil in the Swiss watch industry due to decreasing sales. How do you view these developments and do they also affect a specialized niche player like Christiaan van der Klaauw?
DR: As I said, we are a specialized niche player with very limited production numbers. With us, it is not a challenge to sell watches, but to make them. This means we can sell more watches then we can make.
Q&P: What is your personal favorite watch from the collection and why?
DR: Haha! You can’t ask a father who his favorite child is. But I do have a particularly strong love for the Real Moon Series (see Ebb And Flow: Christiaan Van Der Klaauw Real Moon Tides) and the Planetarium.
Further reading: The 8 Most Accurate Moon Phase Wristwatches Today.
For more information, please visit www.klaauw.com.
Also published on Medium.