The lunar cycle is one of the oldest calendar systems in human history. It was the only way early civilisations could define the passage of time across a year. Farmers used lunar calendars to know when to plant and when to harvest, and to predict when the rains would come.
It remains a core complication in mechanical watches today, often associated with women’s models due to the Moon’s frequent depiction as a female. Most moonphase designs these days feature a double Moon display on a counter with a semi-circular cutout showing the waxing and waning of the Moon across the sky.
Most moonphase complications are accurate to a day in 122 years, thanks to the gearing used to indicate the 29.53 synodic month. Easy adjustors let you change up the display quickly, usually with correctors that are set into the case.
Within Patek Philippe’s collection of watches for women, there are two moonphase models, similar but distinct in design and style. The Ref. 7121J in yellow gold with a silvery grained dial and Breguet numerals bear the semblance of a Calatrava. It has straight lugs that remind one of the early versions of wristwatches with wire lugs, a single row of diamonds on the bezel and a feminine tone-on-tone moonphase display.
Its sibling, the Ref. 4968, in rose or white gold, offers a more definitive case design with curved lugs and numerals in ruthenium-black gold (for the white gold model) or rose gold. The entire dial is set in mother-of-pearl, with a disc for the small seconds and moonphase display set on white.
Around the white mother-of-pearl dial, a Nautilus-style spiral (or Fibonacci, for those more mathematically inclined) spreads from the centre to the edge of the dial and blends into the bezel, which has a double row of diamonds set in the same style, from smaller to larger gems.
The Annual Calendar Appears
In 1996, Patek Philippe introduced its first annual calendar complication. The Manufacture had long been renowned for its perpetual calendars, but the annual calendar was a brand new idea, one that expanded Patek Philippe’s audience to a much larger crowd. The difference between the two complications? Just that only once a year in February, you need to make the adjustment to the first of March.
The movement that drove the watch was the Calibre 315 S QA. It bore a date aperture at 6 o’clock, with two counters for the day and month as well as a 24-hour display just above the date display. Applied Roman numerals with luminous material were hour markers, another unconventional choice for a classic Patek model. It was also notable in that it required 41 more components to assemble the movement compared with a perpetual calendar from the brand.
The watch was stunning and very compact considering the amount of information it packed on the dial. But after the model was discontinued, Patek Philippe switched to its staple Calibre 324 as a base for later models and replaced the 24-hour display with a moonphase indicator instead, giving it a more classic appearance.
The compact Calibre 324 S QA LU (small seconds, annual calendar and moon phase) meant that it was ideal for use in various watch models, including for example the Ref. 5726 Nautilus Annual Calendar and Ref. 5146. The Ref. 4947 followed these other models. With a silvery dial with vertical and horizontal satin-finish, gold applied numerals, a date aperture at six, along with a moonphase display and day and month counters at 10 and 2, the timepiece is incredibly easy to read, and deceptively complicated.
Correctors are embedded into the case on the sides, and to elevate the watch, a single row of diamonds on the bezel and along the case middle extending to the edge of the lugs, give the Ref. 4947 a bit of flourish.
But it’s in the Ref. 4948 that Patek Philippe goes all out to wow. The watch is set with 347 diamonds, with a row on the case, on the lugs and alongside the case middle, fully covered. The calendar correctors are seamlessly adapted to fit along with the gem-set case, as if they were designed together. The crown bears another 14 diamonds and the prong buckle a further 27. A white Balinese mother-of-pearl dial, an iridescent glow, adds to the allure of this watch.
If the movements of Patek Philippe attest to its watchmaking ingenuity, and its men’s timepieces to its finesse, then the women’s models represent its ability to balance glamour and watchmaking prowess into a perfect blend. Whether you prefer the Ref. 4947 or Ref. 4948 personally, you could wear either to the boardroom or a black tie gala, and neither would be out of place. They simply draw attention to your refined taste in fine women’s watchmaking.
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Related read: Rhapsody in a Patek Philippe Ref. 5370P-011 Blue