No complication is quite as romantic, elegant, and poetic as the moonphase. It’s also one of the oldest watch complications, with origins dating back to Ancient Greece. As the name suggests, the initial purpose of the this complication was to display the phases of the moon over the course of the month. However, the moonphase complication’s functionality remained rather simplistic for hundreds of years. Instead, it became an eye-catching stylistic element, with depictions of the moon evolving with changes in tastes and trends.
Today, watchmakers have struck a balance between the moonphase complication’s utility and design. Certain modern watchmakers are continually striving to create more and more accurate versions of the complication. Some even promise over 1000 years of accuracy. Other brands have honed their efforts on the use of innovative materials and techniques to make the complication itself appear increasingly lifelike. It’s pretty amazing how diverse the options can be when it comes to a single complication. Here, we’ve put together a few of our favorite models featuring the moonphase.
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition Le Petite Prince
“The Little Prince” is one of the bestselling books of all time. In 2013, IWC created two special edition models to celebrate the children’s classic. Both models were pilot’s watches, honoring the author Antoine de Saint-Exupery who was an avid adventurer and pilot. The more complex of the two was the Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition Le Petite Prince. The foundation of the model is the Mark XVII. However, it gets some major upgrades. Three of the four subdials display the perpetual calendar complication. In addition, there’s a year register situated between the seven and eight-o’clock positions. The fourth subdial, prominently located at the twelve-o’clock position, showcases the moonphase. Here, we see the little prince himself standing on the lunar surface.
Rolex Cellini Moonphase
Rolex first introduced the moonphase complication into their classic Cellini collection just a few years ago in 2017. Here, we see that balance of style and substance. The moonphase disc features enameling techniques as well as the incorporation of meteorite. It showcases the night sky in a rich, deep blue and the lunar cycle with both a new moon and full moon. In addition, the complication boasts accuracy for 122 years.
Baume & Mercier Clifton Moonphase
Baume & Mercier’s Clifton Moonphase is a complete calendar watch offering the day, date, month, and moonphase complications. It incorporates the same mid-century dress watch components as the other models in the brand’s popular Clifton collection, which give it a distinctly retro, 1950s feel. However, the model ups the ante with these technical features. Unlike some other modern interpretations of the moonphase, Baume & Mercier keeps the complication rather simple and straightforward. Each of the complete calendar features, including the moonphase, must be manually rest each month. In addition, we see this one depicted as a simple white sphere in a black half-moon window.
Cartier Drive de Cartier Moonphases
The same year Rolex released the Cellini Moonphase, Cartier added a moonphase option to its iconic Drive de Cartier collection. Like the Clifton, the moonphase edition of the Drive maintains the integrity of the collection. It features the unique cushion-shaped case that’s not quite tonneau yet not quite square or round. Here, the moonphase complication sits comfortably at the traditional six-o’clock position, keeping complete symmetry on the dial. Similar to Baume & Mercier, Cartier has opted for a more simplistic and traditional design. The Drive features a classic blue backdrop and gold moon and stars. However, this design choice is contrasted by the complication’s performance. It only requires adjustment every 125 years.
Patek Philippe Calatrava Moonphase
Patek Philippe is a brand known for its complications from the annual calendar to the moonphase. In contrast, their Calatrava collection is one of their most beloved for its sleek and minimalist design. While most models in the collection are time-only, the brand has upgraded some variations with its complications. One example is the ladies Calatrava. It features a striking grey dial with moonphase indicator and small seconds subdial located in the center of the display. Here, the moonphase compliments the dial and blue cabochon crown with a deep navy backdrop and blue-grey moon and stars.
Zenith Captain Moonphase
Zenith unveiled its Captain Moonphase at Baselworld in 2013. Like the Cellini, the model focuses on both form and function when it comes to the design of the moonphase. First, you can’t help but notice the striking styling of the complication. It features a rather traditional cover plate with two lobes. However, Zenith has applied a unique guilloche decoration. Under the lobed cover, there’s a blue disc displaying the night sky. As the disc rotates, it reveals a waxing moon and eventually a full moon. This particular moonphase complication needs resetting every two to three years.
OMEGA Speedmaster Moonphase Master Chronometer Chronograph
The Moonwatch itself wouldn’t be complete without a moonphase edition. OMEGA first introduced the moonphase to the Moonwatch in 2016 with the Speedmaster Moonphase Master Chronometer Chronograph. This also marked the first Speedmaster to receive the coveted METAS certification. In addition to the impressive technical features of this model, OMEGA pulled out all the stops on the design. The moonphase complication is incredibly detailed, down to a reproduction of Buzz Aldrin’s footprint on the lunar surface. To accomplish this amazing feat, they used a metallic crystal disc microstructured to obtain a high-resolution image of the moon.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Eight Days Perpetual
The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Eight Days Perpetual has a surprisingly minimalist appearance for such a complicated watch. It boasts a perpetual calendar, power reserve indicator, AM/PM indicator, and, of course, a moonphase. Jaeger-LeCoultre took care to arrange each of these complications thoughtfully on the dial. The result is uncluttered, crisp, and easy to read. The moonphase is contained within the day of the week subdial at the nine-o’clock position. Its design not only showcases the moon but also the earth and stars all on a blue backdrop.