When meteorite hunter Luc Labenne first placed a piece of the moon in the hand of Jean-Marie Schaller, the CEO and creative director of the boutique watch brand Louis Moinet teared up. "It's very touching to hold something from the moon," says Schaller. The meteorite had traveled 239,000 miles to land on the earth before it ended up on the face of the Moon Tourbillon watch.
It is part of a growing (and costly) trend that employs dials fashioned from slivers of the rare interspace material. Now Louis Moinet's one-of-a-kind Mars Tourbillon (about $253,000, pictured left) features a meteorite that made the 140-million-mile journey from the red planet. "It's more expensive than gold, platinum and diamond combined," says Schaller. Jiddat al Harasis 479 meteorite is one of fewer than 50 known Mars meteorites. Another unique piece, the Meteorite Tourbillon contains a piece of the Muonionalusta meteorite, the oldest on record.
Composed of iron and nickel alloys, iron meteorites are believed to be similar to the material that makes up the earth's core. The striated crystalline structures called Widmanstätten patterns are formed in zero gravity at an extremely slow rate of cooling. Dial makers slice the extremely dense and irregularly structured rock into discs of a mere tenth of a millimeter thick, then polish and etch the stone.
A meteorite that originated in an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter enlivens the dial of Jaeger-LeCoultre's latest Master Calendar ($24,500 in 18K pink gold, center). Given that our calendar system is based on the movements of planetary bodies, meteorite is a fitting complement to the watch's complete calendar and moon phase complications. A central hand, tipped with a red crescent, points to the date on a numeric scale that encircles the dial, while the day of the week and month are displayed in apertures at the center. A golden moon phase inside the small second sub-dial at 6 o'clock balances the elegant dial.
Parmigiani Fleurier uses a galvanic treatment to color the meteorite dials of its Tonda 1950 Special Edition Meteorite ($19,500, right), available in Abyss Blue or Black. Titanium, an abundant natural element formed in supernovas, was selected for the watch's ultrathin 39 mm case. As strong as steel at less than half the weight, anticorrosive titanium is frequently used in the aerospace industry.
Zenith honors early aviation with the limited-edition Pilot Type 20 Tribute to Louis Blériot ($221,000, not pictured), outfitted with a generous slice of the Muonionalusta meteorite. The massive 60 mm watch is housed in a transparent case made of sapphire crystal with white-gold bezel, lugs and crown. Scenes of Blériot's groundbreaking 1909 flight across the English Channel are hand-engraved on the bridges of the movement, recalling man's early successes at defying gravity, an endeavor that would eventually take us to the moon and beyond.