The Moon Phase Watch – Celestial Art11:55 am
The science of horology was born out of the need to study the movement of celestial objects – the sun, the moon and the constellations. Early horologists used the sundial which was later replaced by a mechanical clock with gears and hands. The measurement of time also made it important to track the lunar cycle as the sundial could only measure days and seasons. The moon’s cycle which was approximately 29 and a half days was the first measure for the months of a year. The moon phase watch complication was first seen in the dials of complicated pocket watch models of the late 19th century and the early 20th century. It is a beautiful and artistic display of the phases of the moon on the watch dial. The current phase of the moon visible in the sky, is displayed on the watch dial with great precision and accuracy.
How the Moon Phase watch works
Behind the dial of a moon phase watch is a disc with two identical moons on it. Similar to the celestial phenomenon, the disc rotates on a complete cycle every 29 and a half days with the transitional waxing and waning face of the moon displayed by the curved edges of the dial aperture. Some watch designs feature stars and constellations on the disc. A true lunar cycle actually lasts 29 days, 12 hours and 44 minutes, or 29.53 days. The 0.03 days per lunar cycle if not measured, will lead to the entire moon phase watch cycle off by one full day every two years, seven and a half months. The challenge of overcoming the variation between the moon phase watch’s measured lunar cycle and the actual moon phases is part of the watchmaker’s craftsmanship. A sophisticated mechanism incorporating a 135-tooth gear drives the moon disc which ensures that the moon phase watch complication will only be off by a day once every 122 years.
Use of the Moon Phase complication
In the past the moon phase watch complication was extremely useful as it helped to predict the ebb and flow of tides for navigation, time of a religious ceremony and crop harvest. Timepieces that feature the moon phase watch complication immediately stand out in their appearance and design. Whereas other complications are about utility, the moon phase watch complication is more about amusement to the wearer. It introduces an element of art in the otherwise angular and mechanical watch dial. The moon rotation on the watch dial is reminiscent of the actual celestial body orbiting around the earth, while the watch gears and parts represent the universe. The moon phase watch complication connects the watchmaker with time and space.
Here we profile some legendary Swiss luxury watches with the moon phase watch complication and other superior features.
A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Annual Calendar – Ref.330.026E
Founded in 1845 at Glashütte, A. Lange & Söhne is one of the finest watchmakers in the world. Their timepieces are of the highest quality workmanship and are bought only by serious watch connoisseurs. One of the most iconic timepieces from A. Lange & Söhne, the Saxonia Annual Calendar has a beautiful 39mm dial with a large date window, day, month, seconds subdials and an artistic moon phase dial aperture. The polished 18K white gold case with fine satin finished case edges, a silver main dial with slightly recessed subdials, applied polished white gold index markers, and blue steel hands give the watch a subtle and traditional look. The movement main plate has a Coates de Geneve finishing while the balance cock is hand engraved. The solid 18K gold rotor with platinum edge is part of the A. Lange & Sohne Caliber L085.1 and is fully visible through the see-through caseback. The power reserve is 46 hours on full charge. The brown alligator leather strap adds to the timeless style of the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Annual Calendar moon phase watch.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Calendar – Ref.Q1552520
Since 1833 the Jaeger-LeCoultre watch company has been creating horological masterpieces for watch connoisseurs around the world. Featured here is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Calendar with an artistic moon phase complication. The beautiful sunray finish silver dial with applied polished rose gold coloured index and Arabic numeral hour markers, is fitted in a 39mm polished 18K rose gold case. The calendar features day and month windows beneath the 12 o’clock position, and an unconventional date indicator by a large centre hand. This hand has a red half moon tip which points to the current date, a feature that gives the Master Calendar an iconic appearance. The moon phase watch aperture is located on the subdial at 6 o’clock along with the small seconds hand. A Jaeger LeCoultre Caliber 866 powers the timepiece and has an approximate power reserve of 43 hours. Scratch resistant sapphire crystal in the front and back of the timepiece give a clear view of the movement. The brown crocodile leather strap is perfectly matched with the 18K rose gold Jaeger-LeCoultre moon phase watch.
Carl F Bucherer Manero – Ref.00.10909.07.15.01
For over 125 years, Carl F. Bucherer has created Swiss luxury timepieces with innovation and traditional workmanship. The Carl F. Bucherer Manero is one of the finest moon phase watches from the independent Swiss watch maker that combines technical perfection and beauty. The beautiful silver dial has a day and month window with an inner dial for date with separate indicator hand. The moon phase watch aperture is above the 6’o’clock position. With a unique and elegant design in rose gold and stainless steel with a brown Louisiana alligator skin strap, the watch is powered by an automatic Caliber CFB 1966 movement with a power reserve of 42 hours.
Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch – Ref.3576.50.00
A interesting edition of the iconic Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch – the first watch worn on the moon, this Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch has a sturdy 42mm stainless steel case with the highly legible black dial with silver toned indexes and luminous hour markers. The moon phase on the dial reminds us of the outer space missions of the iconic timepiece and its role in their success. The dial has four subdials positioned in a manner that lends clarity to each – the 30 minute display counter at 3’o’clock and the 12 hour display counter at 6’o’clock, at the 9’o’clock position is the 60 seconds subdial and the moon phase and date window are placed at 12’o’clock. A tachymeter scale is etched on the black bezel for speed measurements. Sapphire crystal protects the front and makes the rhodium plated movement, a mechanical hand winding calibre 1866 chronograph, clearly visible.
By Pranav Karol
Features Writer, The Watch Guide
A watch enthusiast who is very passionate about performance watches. A keen observer of the horological world and its latest developments.