Since time immemorial, people have been captivated by the secrets of the moon.
Every mid-autumn festival, one is reminded of the Chinese folk myths of Chang’e, Wu Gang, and the Jade Rabbit, all of which have been sung by literati and scholars through the ages. It was not until July 21, 1969, when Armstrong first set foot on the surface of the moon and uttered the legendary words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” that the moon doesn’t seem that out of reach anymore when people gaze up at the night sky.
Through scientific observation, we know that the moon’s cycle is about 29.5 days. The moon phase function itself is not complicated, mainly employing a set of 59-teeth gears, together with the date gear, to display the 29.5-day cycle of the moon phase. The world’s oldest moon-phase instrument was the Antikythera mechanism invented by the Greeks between 150 and 100 BC, and the world’s first moon-phase watch was launched by Patek Philippe in 1925. Today, the moon phase watch has become one of the most popular complications in the watch industry.
Astronomy is often lauded as the literature of the skies. The moon phase function encapsulates a certain poetic and romantic flair. In the minuscule fan-shaped indication, the moon and the stars are captured in the space between. Lift your hand and you not only can appreciate the changing phases of the moon, but also become encased within the myths and legends that have been told for thousands of years. Between scientific rationality and romantic sensuality, the beauty of the moon phase is resplendent in fascinating imagination and is one of the most treasured introductory complications. Here are five watches we recommend that feature distinctive moon phase complications:
OMEGA Co-Axial Speedmaster Chronometer Moonphase Chronograph 44.25mm
When it comes to the moon and watches, for horologists, the OMEGA Speedmaster is probably the first watch that comes to mind. Back in 1964, NASA was looking for a watch that could withstand the rigors of space missions and chose many brands on the market for testing. The OMEGA Speedmaster stood out from the pack and became the standard equipment for the astronauts on the Apollo 11 moon mission in 1969.
In fact, the Speedmaster collection was first created for motor sports, with its chronograph, ceramic bezel, and Liquidmetal tachymeter scale, creating a supercar sporty look that is instantly recognizable. The moon phase display is located at 6 o’clock, forming a perfect symmetry with the two chronograph sub-dials. In the fan-shaped moon phase indication, the metal glass disc shows a high-resolution realistic image of the moon, and if you look closely enough, you might be able to spot the footprints left by the astronauts on it. The Caliber 9904 Co-Axial escapement movement is certified by METAS, and is accurate to within 0-5 seconds in a day, with accuracy and precision befitting of its name.
FRANCK MULLER Vanguard Lady Moonphase
The genius watchmaker Franck Muller‘s creations are like timeless poetic creations, with each watch exuding an extraordinary style and elegance. Even the slightly smaller Vanguard Lady 32mm has the same iconic tonneau-shaped case, while incorporating a curved design that perfectly fits the wrist and is set with dazzling diamonds, like a resplendent starry sky gleaming on the wrists.
The Guilloché technique is adopted to engrave the moon from the center to the periphery, spreading outward gradually like water ripples. The moon phase indication at 6 o’clock is illuminated by diamonds, almost as if the moon is held aloft by stars, highlighting the different faces of the moon phase function. The willow-shaped hour and minute hands further add to the charm. The case is available in stainless steel or rose gold.
BLANCPAIN Villeret Quantième Complet
Founded in 1735 in the Swiss town of Villeret in the Jura Valley, Blancpain is one of the most storied brands in the watchmaking industry. Each Blancpain watch carries with it a historical legacy and heritage. The Blancpain Villeret is known for its simple lines, timeless elegance, and the sophistication of its Manufacture Calibre 6654, which all but embodies the capabilities of this centuries-old watchmaker. The Villeret Quantième Complet is a full calendar watch with four functions: date, day, month, and moon phase.
The day of the week and the month are displayed in a simple indication at 12 o’clock. The date is displayed on a serpentine hand, which is one of Blancpain’s signature designs. When there is a fourth hand on the dial, the serpentine hand is used in order to clearly distinguish it from the other three hands. The moon phase function at 6 o’clock also offers Blancpain’s distinctive take on the complication. A playful smile and beautiful eyes, almost akin to an amusing emoji expression. The midnight blue dial is as elegant as the night, and is also Blancpain’s most popular brand color, a timeless style to be treasured for generations to come.
ZENITH Elite Moonphase
Mostly renowned for its El Primero high-frequency watches, Zenith has always prided itself on its high-tech, sleek, and masculine image. Whether it is the racing style of the Chronomaster Sport or the boldness of the Pilot Type 20, Zenith watches are a perfect companion for the adventurous and sunny type of guy. The 36mm diameter Elite Moonphase presents an alternative, albeit softer, side of this brand.
The dial of this watch features a machine-engraved Guilloché technique with a radial sunburst pattern. Although it is called a sunburst, it is hand-crafted on the silver dial with a delicate technique that makes it resemble the soft light of the moon without being overly ostentatious, giving it a healing power of warmth and tolerance. The sharp sword-shaped hands and the slender needle-shaped hour-markers also echo the theme of the moon’s rays. This is also true of the dark blue moon phase indication at 6 o’clock, where several stars accentuate the moon phase, hovering together in a blue radiant cloud. The small seconds hand at 9 o’clock adds a delightful finishing touch.
IWC Portofino Hand-Wound Moon Phase
Among the six major IWC collections, the Portofino collection, a homage to the Italian resort town of the same name, is the one that best expresses one’s attitude toward life. The classic round case, slender lugs, slender hands, the contrast between simple dial and complex functions, and the Caliber 59800 hand-wound movement with 8-day power reserve makes the watch exude a clean and elegant look. This deceptively clean look hides a complicated and intricate core that features a wide range of complications that stand out from the pack.
This understated sophistication makes it a fan favorite among true horologists and collectors. The date indication at 3 o’clock, the small seconds at 6 o’clock, the power reserve at 9 o’clock, and the moon phase at 12 o’clock are four distinctly different functions, each of which is located in the four corners of the dial without conflict, giving it a harmoniously symmetrical and uncompromising look that transforms a sophisticated interior into a tastefully relaxed and elegant Italian design. The display caseback reveals the fine finish of the IWC 59800 hand-wound movement, which can run for more than a week when fully wound, making it one of the rare ultra-long power moon phase timepieces available today.