Watchuseek Blog

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Martian magic: Louis Moinet Astralis collection

Astralis Mars

With the Mars space rover Curiosity busy beaming down High Definition pictures of the red planet, Astralis remains the only wristwatch to contain a genuine little piece of the planet; a fragment of a Martian meteorite that travelled over 55 million kilometres before reaching the Earth!

To date, only 63 meteorite rocks found on Earth have been identified as being from Mars. By any measure, it makes the Lous Moinet Astralis collection something out of this world.

The 24-hour planetarium

 Astralis Mercury

Astralis’ planetarium at 6 o’clock contains four highly-polished rare meteorites – Dhofar 459, Itqiy, Sahara 99555 and Jiddat al Harasis 479 – respectively denoting the Moon, the Sun and the planets Mercury and Mars. Sahara 99555 is the oldest known rock in the entire Solar System, estimated at 4 billion 566 million years, earning it the nickname’ the Rosetta Stone’ of our Solar System The Sun is symbolised in the planetarium by a sliver of Itqiy, a beautiful meteorite whose origins remain mysterious. All four of these fragments of extra-terrestrial rocks are unique  and mounted on a finely-cut aventurine disk, evoking a starry sky making a one revolution per day.

Four unique timepieces

Astralis Moon

There are four unique Astralis timepieces, with the dark brown, silver, dark blue and diamond-speckled black dials.  The presentation case for each watch is a work of art in itself: A planetoidal sphere 21 cm in diameter created by sculptor Jean-Yves Kervevan, representing Mars, the Moon, Mercury and the Sun.

A combination of 3 complications

Astralis Sun

The 46.50mm water resistant watches have a combination of complications never before seen: In addition to the 24-hour planetarium there is an astral tourbillon and split-second, column-wheel chronograph. Signature Louis Moinet “Côtes du Jura” engraving embellishes the dial and “Gouttes de Rosée” hands accompany the split-second chronograph hand decorated with a shooting star, which activate by pushing the pusher carefully integrated into the crown.

A sapphire glass caseback allows the owner to view the exclusive movement LM27, based on a vintage Venus calibre. The chronograph column wheel and split-second ‘scorpion’ clamps provide ultra-smooth functionality and can be glimpsed through the display back along with a plate engraved with planets which, together with the gold chaton and blued screws, evoke a beautiful night sky. 

The watches come on hand-stitched Louisiana alligator leather with an 18k gold and black titanium folding clasp, and are presented in a planetoidal box handcrafted by artist Jean-Yves Kervévan.

Exclusive interview with Dr. Luc Labenne 

 Louis Moinet has an exclusive collaboration with Luc Labenne, the world's most celebrated meteorite hunter. In this interview, he explains how he found Astralis’ Martian meteorite in the desert.

Q: The distance between Mars and Earth is over 50 million kilometres. What is the path of a Martian meteorite before landing on Earth?
LL: A Martian meteorite is a fragment of Mars ejected after impact from another a meteorite impact. To assess the age of the Martian rock, we first talk about the “formation age” on Mars.  The impacts on the surface allows us to determine the “age of ejection” of the meteorite. The length of time between the rock leaving Mars and reaching Earth can vary from about 1 million years to 20 million years. The last bit of useful data is the “terrestrial age” of the meteorite ground, that is, the length of time it has been on Earth. These three dates allow us to obtain relatively precise information on the origin of the meteorite as well as the path it has taken before landing on Earth.

Q: How can we be sure that a meteorite has come from Mars?

LL: A first sample is taken and then sent to universities and scientists such as A. Irving (University of Washington, Departement of Earth and Space Sciences, Seattle, USA), an expert in Martian meteorites or R. Korotev (McDonnell Center for Space Sciences, Washington Univ., St. Louis, USA), an authority on lunar meteorites. When identifying a Martian meteorite, the first thing is to establish its composition. Analysis of gases contained in the bubbles of the minerals can be compared with the results of analyses gathered by probes from NASA’s pioneering Viking program to confirm the Martian origin of meteorites. This is the main thing we have to do. Identification is then confirmed by the oxygen isotopes of these analyses. Finally, the control of the «formation age» of the rock enables the final confirmation. In fact, Martian meteorites are relatively young, about a few hundred million years old compared to 4.5 billion years for non-planetary meteorites. To date, 63 Martian meteorites  have officially been found on Earth. Most have been dedicated to science or exhibited in museums.

Q: What is the importance of having Martian or lunar meteorites, from a scientific point of view?

LL: For the Moon, for example, we have samples from the Apollo missions, but these relate only to the visible face of the Moon – for communication reasons (no radio signals), the mission was not able to explore the hidden side. There is therefore interest in whether the lunar meteorites originated from the visible or hidden side. After analysis, the moon rocks I have found on Earth were a lot different to those brought back by the Apollo mission, and this has given us other information about the composition of the lunar soil.
In general, meteorites allow us a better understanding of the origins and formation of planets.

It’s the same importance for Martian meteorites, to find out about their formation, but also to figure out if Mars could ever have supported life and/or has traces of water. Currently, no sample of rock has been brought back from Mars. Future missions are still on the drawing board for complexity and financial reasons. Curiosity is performing analyses but not bringing samples back. Martian meteorites can therefore make up for this by providing these samples.

Until now, the Martian meteorites are essentially basalt (chunks of lava). Scientists hope to find sedimentary meteorites to obtain more information and perhaps prove the existence of life on Mars. This is also the reason why Curiosity landed in a crater: It’s a good place to find and analyse these sedimentary rocks.

Q: Is the composition of a Martian meteorite very different from a terrestrial rock?

LL: As previously stated, Martian meteorites found so far are mainly lava rocks so visually close to terrestrial basalt rocks. However, shock veins can be observed in meteorites, which do not exist in terrestrial rocks and this allows early identification in the field.

Q: But the main difference lies in the fact that the minerals in these rocks are partially melted due to the impact on Mars. Bubbles of gas specific to Mars are also present in these meteorites. The meteorites that you find – for whom are they intended? 

LL: Primarily for scientists, then private collectors and museums. For lunar and Martian meteorites, most are intended for science due to their limited number, priority is given to research.

Featured watch brands

Casio Edifice

Blog archive

RSS feeds

Watchuseek sponsors