Lunar time was one of the earliest forms of tracking the hours, derived from the ancient astrolabe that plotted the movement of the planets relative to the stars. Today’s modern moonphase watches are a mainly decorative tribute to that ancient tradition, with practical uses limited to the tracking of ocean tides, a concern of serious yachtsmen. Farmers also tracked it: the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumnal equinox is called Harvest Moon, since it allows farmers to work in the fields at night. Conventional colors for moonphase indicators are gold and blue. Most of the top five featured here are not traditional, and that’s why we love them.
De Bethune 25LT: This spherical moonphase indicator is the star of the show here, taking precedence over the display of the watch’s tourbillon function, which is visible only on the caseback. The case is titanium with a hand guilloched rose gold dial. It contains a hand wound movement.
Arnold & Son HM Perpetual Moon: This dramatic moonphase is one of the largest on the market, and is the focal point of this otherwise minimalist dial. The life-like silvered moon is contrasted with a black guilloché background. It contains the hand-wound mechanical caliber A&S1512, with a fully integrated moonphase function.
Maîtres du Temps Chapter 3 Reveal: This moonphase is hidden behind a secret panel at 12 o’clock, while another panel at 6 o’clock reveals a second time zone and day/night indicator, both displayed on Maîtres du Temps signature rollers. Hiding the functions keeps the dial refined and makes room for a date index and small seconds.
Patek Philippe Calatrava 7121: This classic ladies’ moonphase is admirably restrained, with colors limited to gold and cream, with a small seconds hand placed discreetly over the moonphase indicator. The bezel is set with 66 diamonds. It contains manual wound caliber.
Girard-Perregaux Traveller Moon Phase and Large Date: This eerily realistic depiction of the face of the moon is created from a mineral glass that is metalized to create shades from black to gray. The precise lunar cycle only needs adjustment one day in 122 years. It contains a manual wound movement.