When I wrote about alarm watches, I stressed their practicality. Mechanical alarms offer so much to the wearer, yet despite this usefulness, they are rarely seen in modern watches. This is not the case with moonphases. Walking into any jeweler will see you be inundated with moonphase complications from all sorts of brands, at all sorts of prices.
If you’re in the market for a watch with a moonphase complication then you couldn’t go wrong with picking any of these 5 choices.
5. Longines Master Collection Moonphase
Whilst some of the moonphases on this list cost about the same as a trip to the Moon, that doesn’t always have to be the case. The Longines Master Collection Moonphase is a charming watch that is available at a price that won’t leave you seeing stars. Die-hard watch enthusiasts often overlook Longines because they feel that a middle-tier Swatch Co. brand is beneath them. It’s true that Longines sometimes leans too heavy on reissuing their vintage models, but next to no-one offers affordable, reliable and stylish mechanical watches at a better price.
The Master Collection is the pinnacle of modern Longines and this Moonphase is one of my favorite models. Not only do you get classical looking moonphase complication, but you also get a chronograph, full calendar and 24 hour indicator as well, all for $3,325. It may not have the same level of finishing as some of the watches below, but sometimes it’s impossible to beat value for money.
4. Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Calendar Moonphase Meteorite
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Calendar Moonphase is nothing unique when it comes to design. A simple case, pointer date, two apertures for the day and month and another for the moonphase itself. What makes this variant of JLCs traditional calendar is the dial made out of a thin sliver of meteorite.
The meteorite used for the dial is called the Gibeon Meteorite which landed on the Western coast of Africa between three million to three thousands BC. It lay untouched until British Colonialists found pieces of it in the 1830 and promptly claimed it for Queen and Country. The high iron content of the Gibeon makes it perfect for watch dials as it creates beautiful patterns known as Widdmanstatten patterns. No two slices of the Gibeon are ever the same so even next to another Master Calendar Moonphase, your dial will be unique to you.
What I think makes this watch so special is the connection to the great reaches of space. For millions of years, the Moon has been peppered by asteroids with each crater, large and small, being visible down here on Earth and it seems fitting that a slice of these space boulders should be used in a watch that tracks the movement of our lunar friend.
3. Rolex Cellini Moonphase
Yes, Rolex do make watches that are not part of the Oyster collection!
The new Cellini moonphase, released earlier this year at Baselworld, is the first moonphase Rolex has made since the 1950s. Their past moonphase watches, the References 6062 and 8171, are some of the rarest and most desirable Rolex dress watches ever made and finding one has become next to impossible. This modern moonphase takes the basic elements of those earlier designs and adapts them to make a modern Rolex.
Inside the 39mm case, made from Rolex’s proprietary rose gold alloy Everrose, is the in-house Caliber 3195. The moonphase complication is accurate to one day every 122 years, and whilst that may seem impressive, wait till you see the watches below.
Rolex haven’t been known for their dress watches for several decades now, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve forgotten how to make them. The blue enameled moonphase disc at 6 o’clock practically jumps right off your wrist in contrast to the white lacquer main dial. It’s a traditional watch but with modern flair, like the unique take on the fluted bezel or the use of a meteorite slice for the moon indicator. It’s not as iconic a watch as a Datejust, but give it 122 years and the Cellini Moonphase may just surprise you.
2. Ochs und Junior Moon phase
Ochs und Junior are a small watch brand, as in the brand’s-main-telephone-number-is-a-direct-line-to-their-CEO small. But, as the saying goes, good things come in small packages.
The Ochs und Junior Moonphase doesn’t look like any other moonphase that you’re likely to see. It’s a modern take on what a moonphase could look like and forgoes the usual small aperture in favor of a large, sweeping almost-circle that encompasses the center of the dial, and around this almost-circle is a row of small apertures which act as a date indicator.
What makes this design even more impressive is that it is entirely customizable. Don’t like the all silver look? Then throw in some bright purple hands and a tangerine colored moon to brighten it up. It is a lot of fun to tinker with the online customizer, but the real focus here is the technical achievements of the watch.
With the addition of 5 more gears, the Ochs Und Junior Moon phase is accurate to one day every 3,478.27 years. That’s 28.5 times more accurate than the Rolex Cellini. It’s a staggering achievement in ‘complex simplicity’, especially considering how small the brand is and how much customization they offer. But even three millennia is nothing compared to the accuracy that some brands want to go to.
1. Andreas Strehler Sauterelle a lune Perpetuelle 2M
When it comes to accurate moonphases, there is nothing that comes close to the Andres Strehler 2M which is accurate to 2,060,000 years. It is the perfect moonphase. By the time the moonphase becomes out of sync with the real moon, the orbit of the Moon will have changed enough that we don’t know where it’s going to be.
What is staggering is that the Sauterelle a lune Perpetuelle 2M only uses 4 extras gears. Each of these extra gears have a number of teeth that add up to large prime numbers, which through complex fractions and mathematics (or magic) allow for the incredible accuracy to be achieved.
Of course, this obscene accuracy has its setbacks. Firstly there is the price, CHF 98,000 for a 2M in rose gold and CHF 113,000 for one in platinum. Then once you’ve bought the watch, you have to worry about keeping it wound and accurate during your lifetime, and the lifetime of all your descendants for the next 2 million years. But by then, your descendants would probably prefer to focus on battling the irradiated 7 foot cockroaches that stalk the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is Earth.