If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase “moon phase,” you’re not alone. The waxing and waning of the moon is a natural phenomenon that has served as foundations to calendars since early Men noticed its pattern. 29.53 days- the time it takes for a complete cycle from new Moon to full Moon and back to new Moon again. Moon phases serve as a powerful reminder of the passage of time as huge celestial bodies move around us through the pushing and pulling of gravity.
Given its inextricable ties with the concept of time, horologists have long attempted to replicate this beautiful phenomenon into a tool the size of our palms. Thanks to its relatively predictable cycles, creating gears that can accurately track it is possible. With time came scientific advancements that led to the dissipation of the functional use of moonphases to track time and guide behaviours. Tracking the moonphase are more an art than science these days and this feature has been pushed to more expensive watches, where more functions are usually required to justify their high prices.
However, we think that there is a beauty in being reminded of the moonphases. The significance of time is highlighted more when we notice its passage through the gradual shifting of a captivating celestial body compared to numbers on a calendar. The same gravity that holds us to the ground holds this giant celestial body to Earth.
More are getting well-acquainted with the term as moonphase displays become a popular yet unique feature of modern wristwatches, both in luxury and affordable brands on both sides of the market. By definition, a moon phase is the lighted area of the moon that is visible as it travels around the earth during its lunar cycle. On your watch, a moon phase indicator displays this orbit with a rotating disc that shows the illuminated slice of the moon at any given time.
Moon phases are one of the oldest complications (features that don’t involve telling time - added to watches, but in this day and age, they are more stylistic than functional. While we may do most of our daily bidding while the sun is out, the moon can give us more information about the month as a whole, think birthdays, due dates, or holidays. Adding a starry feature to your watch might bring you a little bit closer to the cosmos, and the variety of styles of moon phases is striking - as varied as timepieces in general. So whether you’re looking for the gold standard or a neat add-on, here are our picks for the most interesting moon phase watches out there, starting from the most affordable to a few more expensive timepieces.
1. Casio Men's AQW101-1AV
Price: $28 (Link to website)
Even if you didn’t see the name, you might be able to guess that this watch is a Casio, given its classic design. Another thing you could guess after seeing its price is that this falls under the category of “non-classic” moon phase watches, and is not up to the same calibre as other mechanisms. This watch is inexpensive by most standards, given its resin material and mineral case.
On this digital display, the moon phase is in the form of data related to the tides, making this a hit for anyone whose work involves the sea, such as fishermen. For this reason, it’s also water-resistant to 200 meters depth, and can accurately measure the outside temperature. This watch is a great introduction to moon phase displays for practical purposes.
2. Sekoni Original Tidal Moonphase Series
Price: $205 (Link Tidal Moonphase page)
With over $50,000 raised through crowdfunding back in 2019, the Tidal Moonphase watch is a moonphase timepiece that seeks to inspire a better appreciation of time. With quality and reliability in mind, we sought to create an impeccable moonphase timepiece in this price range, something that is difficult to find.
Powered by a Swiss movement with a powerful battery lifespan of 5 years, the Tidal Moonphase has a warranty that will last equally long. This means that you can be sure of its reliability, especially since the case is made of surgical-grade 316L stainless steel and glass made of scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. How do we do create a timepiece that is better than most in this price range and comparable with ones that are much higher priced? We simply take in less margins than other brands and spend less on marketing. It's not rocket science, just a business decision made because we believe that there should be more quality affordable watches that don't break down after a year or two.
Learn more about Tidal Moonphase for Men here and for Women here.
3. Bulova 96C26 Moonphase
Price $245 (Link to non-affiliated Amazon page)
This thin, lightweight timepiece with a rectangular face could easily function as an everyday wear for both men and women. The brand is American made and functions as a simple, elegant statement while still employing classic moon phase mechanics, which are displayed exactly in the bottom centre of the rectangular face. The material itself is stainless steel with a Japanese quartz movement, and the hands are uniquely white with a blue outline, giving the design a little flair. It’s hard to go wrong with this style and price point.
4. Certina DS- 8 Chronograph Moonphase
Price: $700 (Link to website)
Back to classic, chronograph moon phase watches we have this sleek design from Certina, a Swiss brand popular in its home country but rarely outside of it, given steep competition. The movement is Swiss quartz, along with a clear sapphire crystal case. This watch has a clean simple face with few bells and whistles, and the moon phase display easily fits in with the other two subdials, a golden moon against a starry blue night sky. A brown alligator leather strap adds to the unassuming look of this watch, which is a great midrange piece.
5. Citizen Men’s AV3006-50H
Price: $820 (Link to website)
A great perk of this model is that as an Eco-Drive watch, it’s solar-powered and never needs a battery replacement. The window material is sapphire crystal, which boasts being roughly three times as hard as mineral crystals and over 20 times harder than acrylic crystals. Its movement, or inner mechanism, is made from Japanese quartz, while the dial is made from a unique grey steel. Its stainless steel 5-link bracelet has contrasting rose gold accents and screws all the way through the links for maximum security.
The subdials on the watch are either blue or grey, including the moon phase display. However, the phases themselves are orange against a blue backdrop, which brings about an attractive three-dimensional effect. This is a sturdy design that can bring added elegance to an active lifestyle
6. Junghans German Made Moonphase
Watch Price: $1,900 (Link to blog about this watch)
This watch is the perfect embodiment of the term minimalism, which is reflective of a common assumption of German engineering, as Junghans is a German brand. The combination of no subdials and no numerals at all, only line markers for the time, give a blank slate for the equally minimalistic moon phase to sit upon, and all tied together with a smooth brown genuine leather strap. In a sustainable fashion, this watch is powered by the movement of your arm, and thus never needs battery replacements as long as you are in motion. For a high-end watch that flies under the radar and few would notice as a more high-tech moon phase mechanism, this is your best bet.
7. Baume & Mercier BMMOA10055
Price: $3,240 (Link to website)
After the Rolex, this price might seem like a steal. This piece is certainly unique in many ways, starting with the Arabic rather than Roman numerals for displaying the time. Another Swiss brand, this design is both sturdy and refined, giving up neither resolve nor beauty. The strap is genuine black leather, tailored and padded to ensure a perfect fit. No other subdials compete with the moon phase display on this watch, which is an interesting departure from others on this list. The white face and rose coloured numbers allow the black background and golden moon to pop, and definitely allow this to stand out among the crowd.
8. Omega Speedmaster Moonphase Master Co-Axial
Price $13,700 (Link to website)
And now for something completely different. For the ultimate horology aficionado we have this blue dream, which is one of the few watches that can say it was a part of all six lunar landings. Given its historical meaning, no luxury was spared in its design, including:
- Certified Master Chronometer approved by METAS
- Blue ceramic tachymetric bezel
- Scratch‐resistant sapphire crystal with anti‐reflective treatment
- 18K SednaTM gold indexes and hands
While the price point puts this out of the realm of many buyers, it certainly reflects how special this piece is. The moon phase display is magnificent, its illustration bearing hyperrealistic lunar craters and shadows rather than just a simple circular outline. This watch is absolutely fit for an astronaut.
9. Hermès Arceau L'Heure De La Lune
Price: $25,500 (Link to Hodinkee blog about this watch)
And lastly, a watch that’s not flying under anyone’s radar. Coming in at just under the price of the Rolex, this Hermes design could be found in a fashion show or art gallery with its avant-garde presentation. Two realistic moons are covered in turn by mother of pearl dials signifying time and date respectively, against an inky black, starry background. Taking a page from Rolex’s book, some versions of the dial background are made from meteorite, adding to the space-age feel. The case is 18-carat white gold, and the matt black leather strap adds to its universal appeal. This striking piece will certainly not go unnoticed.
It’s easy to see that not all moon phase watches are created equal, but that certain features are timeless. Whether shopping for a once in a lifetime gift or a simple wardrobe staple, the timepieces run the entire gamut. Each one gives you a glimpse at the stars in its own special way, and the best one for you will depend on your individual
10. Rolex Cellini Moonphase
Price: $26,750 (Link to website)
Did you think we were going to get through the list without a Rolex? For a brand known to be at the height of impeccable watch design, this unique piece that strays from the norm does not disappoint, and it should come as no surprise that it is the most expensive on the list. Its features include:
- White lacquer dial with a blue enamelled disc displaying moon phase
- Full moon and the new moon depicted by a meteorite applique and silver ring
- Everose pink gold, created and patented by Rolex itself
- Self-winding movement
- Alligator leather strap
Every detail on this watch is exquisite, and there’s no question that it is in a class all its own.
Putting together this list of watches was no easy feat- not because we had to select 10 great moonphase watches, but because we had to leave out so many others. Whilst not exhaustive, this list shows a number of moonphase watches that you should pay attention as you carry on your journey in the world of watches. There is a wide range of prices, from the $26 Casio AQW101-1AV to the $26,750 Rolex Cellini Moonphase. One thing I have learned is that despite the price differences, one can find as much joy, beauty, and value in the $26 timepiece as compared to the $26,750 timepiece if they are able to grasp the significance of time that the designers of these pieces try to communicate. With that, go forth and find the one piece that speaks to your style and design preferences- the world of horology is an intriguing and fascinating one that I am confident you will not regret learning more about.
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