08/12/2022
 6 minutes

Rolex, IWC, & More: Top 5 Moon Phase Watches Under 40 mm

By Barbara Korp
Mondphasenuhren-2-1
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Many people consider the moon phase one of the most fascinating complications in the world of watchmaking. However, those of us with slender wrists often shy away from moon phase watches in fear they will be too big. But fear not! We’ve selected our top 5 moon phase watches under 40 mm. Get ready to discover plenty of watchmaking genius in scaled-down dimensions.  

Are you also drawn in by the moon phase complication? It’s not surprising if so. After all, the moon has long fascinated mankind with its changing shape and luminescent white hue. It also directly impacts our lives on the regular, especially if you live near a tidal area. Plus, the celestial body has been worshiped as a deity by numerous cultures around the world! 

From quite early on, watchmakers were also moved to depict the cycle of the moon on timepieces. This proved a particular challenge because while the lunar cycle is regular, at 29.53 days, it is an odd interval. Some solved this conundrum by displaying the phases of the moon twice on a single disc. Thus, two cycles of the moon were displayed over 59 days and there was a corresponding gear wheel with 59 teeth in the movement that moved one step forward each day. The remaining 0.03 days were then manually corrected every three years.  

Although the moon phase is considered a minor complication, it still requires a fair amount of space in the movement and on the dial. Thus, it frequently features on larger watches, including many of the timepieces presented in our previous article “Sun, Moon, and Stars – Watches with Moon Phase Displays.” 

But what if you want something a bit more modest? This could come down to your having a slimmer wrist, fancying a classically elegant model, or perhaps wanting a more unisex option. In any case, does wanting a smaller watch mean you have to do without a moon phase? 

Nope! As a watch enthusiast with wrists on the smaller side, I am pleased to report that there are numerous beautiful smaller models (up to 40 mm) with a moon phase out there. So, without further ado, here’s my top 5 picks for modestly-sized moon phase watches. 

A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moonphase ref. 384.026
A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Moonphase ref. 384.026

Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Classic Moon Stainless Steel  

I’ll start with one of my personal favorites when it comes to elegant women’s watches: the Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Classic Moon. This timepiece is part of the Rendez-Vous collection, which pays homage to haute horlogerie and feminine aesthetic in equal measure. After all, women were really the first group of people to regularly wear wristwatches. Despite its rather small diameter of 34 mm, this watch has serious wrist presence.  

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Classic Moon will really appeal to those who love the high art of watchmaking and stunning jewelry. The diamonds adorning the dial and bezel are the twinkling stars of this model. In fact, they nearly make me forget how much I actually dislike diamonds on timepieces. The dial is engine turned by hand, leaving finely engraved markings that make it shine, particularly when in direct light.   

The silver moon, in turn, rises from a cloud at the 6 o’clock position, giving off a cool vibe together with the stainless steel case and blued hands. It’s not unlike the atmosphere on a moonlit night – ethereal and sending a little shiver down your spine. If you are looking to pay tribute to the sheer beauty of the moon and femininity, you will find both in abundance with this watch. 

Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Classic Moon
Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Classic Moon

Blancpain Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune 

Blancpain stands for tradition like no other watch brand. Did you know that the watchmaker is one of the few in the industry that has never made a single quartz watch? The most classically styled line from this brand is the Villeret, named after the location where the brand was founded. The Villeret collection also features a moon phase watch, namely the Blancpain Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune. With a diameter of 29.2 mm, this model is both the smallest in the line and in this article. Nevertheless, Blancpain manages to squeeze in a complete calendar alongside the moon phase. 

Despite the inclusion of these two complications, the dial of the Blancpain Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune is clear and tidy. It isn’t overly flashy with diamonds or other eye-catching decor. No, the focus remains solely on the moon phase display at 6 o’clock. A small, silver moon rises and sets against a deep blue background. It is simple, elegant, and perfectly understated. If you like smaller timepieces and need a watch for any occasion, look no further. 

Blancpain Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune
Blancpain Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune

IWC Portofino Automatic Moon Phase 37  

IWC also has moon phase watches on offer in their classic collection, the Portofino. These include elegant models whose designs harken back to the brand’s pocket watch days. The moon rises at the 12 o’clock position on the silver-plated sunburst dial, which reflects light beautifully. If you rotate the IWC Portofino Automatic Moon Phase ever so slightly in direct light, you will see the reflections run around the dial in a circle. With a subtly contrasting inner circle and diamond indices, the dial is orderly and simple, giving off a calm aura.  

The timeless design of the IWC Portofino Automatic Moon Phase pairs well with jeans and a T-shirt, as well as more elegant attire. In terms of pricing, it is also the most affordable of our five options. It’s even cheaper if you split the cost with a loved one. At 37 mm, this makes a perfect unisex watch that will suit most women and many men. Plus, what’s better than sharing your passion with someone you love? 

IWC Portofino Automatic Moon Phase 37
IWC Portofino Automatic Moon Phase 37

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Moon Phase  

Founded in 1839, Swiss watch manufacturer Patek Philippe has become synonymous with haute horlogerie. The independently-run company is not only famous for its coveted Nautilus, but also for mastering every complication in the book. The Patek Philippe Annual Calendar is an iconic model that has been one of the brand’s most successful since 1996. This version also features a moon phase – what more could you ask for?  

With its white gold case and classic design, the Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Moon Phase exudes clear lines and simple elegance. As Patek Philippe famously put it in their “Generations” ad campaign, “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” This moon phase watch from one of the industry greats definitely has what it takes to adorn your wrist, as well as those of generations to come.  

Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Moon Phase
Patek Philippe Annual Calendar Moon Phase

An added bonus? Its versatile size and aesthetic means it can easily be passed down to either a son or a daughter. Not only will you be passing on a piece of fine watchmaking, but also a fascination for the lunar cycle.   

Rolex Cellini Moonphase 

The last moon phase watch on this list is my absolute favorite. While the Rolex Cellini line is often overshadowed by other models like the Submariner or Daytona, it is one of the oldest collections from the brand. It dates all the way back to 1928 and pays homage to Renaissance-era goldsmith and author Benvenuto Cellini. This series has featured a watch with a moon phase since 2017.  

The Rolex Cellini Moonphase radiates an incomparable sense of authority and calm thanks to its stripped-down dial. Measuring in at 39 mm, it suits just about any wrist. A blue enameled moon phase disc is located at the 6 o’clock position, which contrasts beautifully against the white lacquered dial. A unique feature of this watch is that the entire moon phase disc, complete with a full moon and new moon, remains visible throughout the lunar cycle. The current moon phase is revealed with the help of an indicator.  

But that’s not the only thing that makes this timepiece so special. The technology is also very impressive: This watch will accurately display the current moon phase for the next 122 years. At that point, but not before, the complication will require adjustment. To top it off, the full moon is made of actual meteorite rock, making each watch completely one of a kind. For those who love nature, technology, and great design in equal measure, the Rolex Cellini Moonphase cannot be beat. 

The Rolex Cellini Moonphase
The Rolex Cellini Moonphase

About the Author

Barbara Korp

The moment I learned that watches were a lot more than just simple jewelry, I was hooked; I become enamored with the elegance of timekeeping. But there was one small hitch: most models were just too big for me to wear! That didn't discourage me, however. In fact, I developed quite a niche interest.

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