The idea of using a celestial object like a meteorite in a wristwatch isn’t exactly, ahem, an alien concept. From ancient Egyptians who created the first solar calendar by observing the heliacal rising of Sirius, to Greeks who turned to the moon to calibrate their concept of time, we’ve always looked towards the skies to keep track of time.
To recap, a meteorite is piece of a comet or asteroid that falls to the Earth. The biggest meteorite in the world today was discovered in Namibia in 1920, the "Hoba meteorite is named so because it was found on a farm named Hoba West. It is believed to have fallen to Earth about 80,000 years ago. While there are three types of meteorites, the one used in the watch industry is the metallic type (ferrous meteorites) that contains iron and nickel.
The characteristic crisscross lines seen on meteorite dials is known as Widmanstätten pattern. They appear when a cross section of a meteorite is treated in a nitric acid bath or subject to intense heat. When the core of an asteroid cools, crystals of extraterrestrial minerals kamacite and taenite are formed. These crystals have varying resistances to acid and heat and is the reason patterns emerge on exposure to heat or acid.
Meteorites are uncommon but not as rare as the marketing spiel of watch brochures suggest. Most discovered meteorites are first presented to academia for scientific research, analysis, and classification. The surplus is for public consumption, the price and rarity of these space rocks really depends on where it was found. The fact that it was presented to academia and entered into scientific literature actually boosts the commercial value of a meteorite. For example a 342 gm unbroken space rock from the Campo del Cielo, a massive crater about 1,000 km northwest of Buenos Aires where a huge iron meteorite landed 4,000-5,000 years ago, sells for about $230 on the Internet.
Here are 10 terrific examples of watches that use these space rocks:
DeBethune DB28 Kind of Blue Tourbillon
DeBethune used the remnants of a ferrous meteorite on the dial of a unique one-off watch, DB28 Kind of Blue Tourbillon Meteorite. The meteorite was sourced from the aforementioned Campo del Cielo. It was discovered in 1576 and is believed to be among the largest meteorites found on earth.
A thin slice is cut off the meteorite to create the dial. It is then subject to intense heat and since the meteorite is rich in iron content, this turns the disc a shade of deep blue. This process is not dissimilar from the practice of blued screws and hands used in haute horology timepieces. Read more here.
Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS
The stainless steel Prestige HMS has a dial made of meteorite originally discovered in 1931 and sourced from the Henbury crater field in the Northern Territory of Australia. The meteorite used on the dial is an Octahedrite — the most common form of ferrous meteorites — and reveals crisscrossing Widmanstätten lines of nickel-iron crystal.
The example used by Romain Gauthier is particularly noteworthy for the coarseness of its nickel-iron crystal bands, also known as lamellae, which add a sort of glisten to the dial’s appearance. Read more here.
Rolex Cellini Moonphase
The Cellini Moonphase is a dressy Rolex that features a patented, astronomical moon-phase function with a meteorite-appliqué moon, and an Everose gold case.
Its white lacquered dial — swept over by rose gold hands and punctuated by rose-gold hour appliqués — opens up at the 6 o’clock position to reveal a blue enameled disk displaying the full moon (represented visually by a round fragment of rhodium-plated meteorite applied to the disk), the new moon (represented by a thin, silver ring), and a field of stars. Read more here.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Meteorite
Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced the Master Calendar with a meteorite dial during SIHH 2015. The meteorite used here comes from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
This annual calendar displays the date by means of a long hand tipped with a moon crescent. The 39.5 mm wide case in two materials, rose gold (Ref. Q1552540) or stainless steel (Q1558421).
Rolex GMT-Master II (Ref. 126719BLRO)
This is the other GMT that Rolex launched this year. While collectors clamored to get on the waitlist list for GMT-Master II ‘Batman’, Rolex also introduced a white gold number with a meteorite dial too.
Encased in a white 40 mm white gold case, the meteorite dial has hour markers fashioned from 18K white gold, is powered by Caliber 3285, and is paired with a matching three-link white gold Oyster bracelet.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Météorite Special Edition
The dial of the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Météorite Special Edition comes from a meteorite discovered in Sweden. According to the brand, this piece of cosmic stone is “unlike any other… and could potentially shed new light on the most important aspects of the solar system.” Unlike most other meteorite dials that are a shade of gray, this one’s in bright white.
The dial is encased in lightweight polished titanium that measure 39 mm in diameter and is a slender 7.97 mm thick. Inside is Parmigiani’s proprietary Caliber PF 702, an ultra-thin (2.6 mm), self-winding movement.
After a flurry of limited edition launches to mark the Apollo 11 landing, Omega unveiled an exclusive model in a platinum alloy case powered by the recently-revived, fan-favorite Caliber 321 movement.
The 50th anniversary edition references the asymmetrical 42 mm steel case of the fourth generation Speedmaster (Ref. 105.012). The stepped black onyx dial and uses moon meteorite for the subdials and the indexes, the hours and minutes hands are all made from 18K white gold. Read more here.
Piaget Altiplano Ultra-Thin Classic Meteorite
Piaget gave their Altiplano line a celestial twist this year by unveiling two time only models that featured meteorite dials. The dials have been galvanic-treated to obtain different colors: gray; a gold brushed version for the time only options. There is a third model with a blue meteorite version fitted with a tourbillon.
The time only versions are fitted into rose gold 40 mm wide cases. Ref. G0A44050 has a gold brushed meteorite dial while Ref. G0A44051 has a gray meteorite dial. Both watches are powered by the same movement, the self-winding Caliber 1203P.
DeBethune Dream Watch 5 Meteorite
The entire case of this watch is milled from a meteorite sourced from the Campo del Cielo crater in Argentina. The case is then heat-treated to achieve that distinct blue typical of DeBethune watches.
Due to the non-homogenous nature of the material, the blue hue of the case is not consistent and there are fissures that dot the polished case. While time is indicated via an aperture on the spaceship shaped case, the watch is powered by a hand-winding Caliber DB2144 complete with a high frequency tourbillon.
David Rutten Streamline Meteorite
Streamline Meteorite is an aperture watch, a design that was popular in the 1930s. The design of the case is inspired by Streamlining, a style that grew out of the Art-Deco movement and dominated American design from the 1930s to 50s.
The case, made of meteorite, has a fluted surface and apertures for the jumping hours and minutes indication. The caseback is made from titanium and the watch is run by a movement sourced from British watchmaker Christopher Ward. Read more about the watch here.