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Moon Phase Watches: Under the Lunar Spell

Humans have always had a fascination with the Moon. The first moon phase watches appeared back in the 1500s. A few modern pieces will accurately display the Moon's phase for over 2 million years and mark the pinnacle of haute horlogerie.


5 Reasons to Buy a Moon Phase Watch

  • One of the most popular complications
  • Prices beginning under 1,100 USD
  • Top models often feature a perpetual calendar
  • Andreas Strehler: A record-breaking moon phase, accurate for 2 million years
  • Luxury timepieces from A. Lange & Söhne and Patek Philippe

A Moon Phase for Every Budget

It takes the Moon 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 3 seconds to complete one full cycle. During that time, it goes through four major phases: New Moon, Waxing Moon, Full Moon, and Waning Moon. A moon phase display makes it easy to keep track of the Moon's current stage in the cycle and is one of the most popular complications. However, it's actually not as complex as it might sound.

Numerous manufacturers produce moon phase watches, covering a wide price range. The most affordable models start at less than 1,100 USD, while more exclusive timepieces can cost upwards of 110,000 USD. Watches on the upper end of the price range often feature a unique moon phase mechanism and perpetual calendar. One prominent example is the Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna from A. Lange & Söhne. This model has an orbital moon phase display on the reverse side of its case. Thanks to its intricate mechanics, this display only requires manual correction every 1,058 years. More conventional moon phase displays tend to deviate by about eight hours per year, meaning they will be off by one full day after three years. Of course, all this technical mastery has its price: the Richard Lange Perpetual Calendar Terraluna costs around 178,000 USD in red or white gold.

The record for the world's most precise moon phase watch belongs to Andreas Strehler and his Sauterelle à lune perpétuelle. This timepiece's astounding moon phase display only deviates by one day every 2.06 million years. Strehler's Sauterelle à heure mondiale takes his extraordinary moon phase mechanism and adds a world time function that sits on the case back and displays the time in 24 time zones simultaneously. You can call the Sauterelle à heure mondiale your own for around 125,000 USD (excluding VAT). The Sauterelle à lune perpétuelle costs about 98,000 USD in red gold and 113,000 USD in platinum, also excluding VAT.


How much do moon phase watches cost?

Model Price (approx.) Other functions
Glycine Combat Classic Moonphase 1,100 USD Date
Oris Artelier Complication 1,600 USD Date, day, second time zone
Mido Baroncelli Moon Phase 1,800 USD Chronograph, calendar
Maurice Lacroix Les Classiques Moonphase 2,200 USD Pointer date
Frederique Constant Slimline Moonphase Manufacture 2,800 USD Pointer date
Longines Master Collection 3,000 USD 24-hour display and retrograde small seconds, date, and day displays
Patek Philippe ref. 5205 42,500 USD Annual calendar, 24-hour display
A. Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1 Moonphase "Lumen" 78,000 USD Oversize date, luminous displays

Prices for Affordable Models

Moon phase watches don't have to cost an arm and a leg, as demonstrated by Swiss manufacturers like Glycine, Maurice Lacroix, and Mido. Glycine's Combat Classic Moonphase is among the most affordable models and costs under 1,100 USD, even with gold plating. The automatic caliber GL280 powers this timepiece and provides it with its date display.

You can save even more by purchasing a moon phase watch with a quartz caliber. For example, the 41-mm Certina DS-8 Moon Phase goes for under 560 USD in mint condition. The version with a chronograph function for measuring periods of time sells for about 670 USD. At the very bottom of the price range, you'll find quartz watches from Casio, Jacques Lemans, or Henry that only cost around 170 USD.

Overview: Affordable Moon Phase Watches

  • Under 1,100 USD: Glycine Combat Classic Moonphase with an automatic caliber
  • Under 560 USD: Certina DS-8 Moon Phase with a quartz movement
  • Around 170 USD: Quartz watches from Casio or Jacques Lemans

Mid-Range Moon Phase Watches

Maurice Lacroix, Mido, Frederique Constant, and Longines all produce relatively inexpensive moon phase watches. Each of these brands is famous for crafting high-quality mechanical timepieces that offer fantastic value for money.

The Genevan brand Frederique Constant is synonymous with affordable luxury and classically elegant designs. Their Slimline Moonphase Manufacture model with a pointer date has a 42-mm stainless steel case and costs as little as 2,800 USD. At only 2,200 USD, pre-owned pieces are even more budget-friendly. The rose gold edition falls in a similar price range. Frederique Constant also produces the Slimline Perpetual Calendar Manufacture, one of the most affordable perpetual calendars in the industry. The gold-plated version changes hands for roughly 7,800 USD.

Swiss manufacturer Maurice Lacroix also produces economical moon phase watches. One example is the 40-mm Les Classiques Moonphase with a pointer date. This stainless steel timepiece comes on a leather strap or stainless steel bracelet. With a price tag of about 2,200 USD, new pieces are remarkably affordable.

A never-worn Oris Artelier Complication requires an investment of around 1,600 USD. If you're lucky, you might even find a pre-owned piece selling for less than 1,100 USD. This dress watch features a day-date display and a second time zone in addition to a moon phase display. Oris outfits this timepiece with the caliber 781, which is based on the Sellita SW 200-1.

An Overview of Mid-Range Moon Phase Watches

  • Under 1,700 USD: Oris Artelier Complication
  • Around 2,200 USD: Maurice Lacroix Les Classiques Moonphase
  • Around 2,800 USD: Frederique Constant Slimline Moonphase Manufacture

Mido and Longines Models with a Chronograph and Calendar

Both Longines and Mido belong to the Swatch Group and combine moon phase displays with chronographs and calendars. The Valjoux 7751 ticks away inside these timepieces. It has a dual 12-hour counter and moon phase display at 6 o'clock and a combined 24-hour display and small seconds at 9. The day and month displays are integrated into the 30-minute counter at 12. There's also an additional central hand that points to the date around the dial's edge.

The Mido Baroncelli Moon Phase comes in stainless steel or with a rose gold PVD coating. You also can choose between a leather strap or stainless steel bracelet. Plan to spend around 1,800 USD on this Mido moon phase watch in mint condition. The model with a PVD coating demands some 2,100 USD new.

Longines offers a comparable chronograph in their Master Collection. This classic watch boasts a moon phase display, calendar, and stopwatch function. At about 2,700 USD, a never-worn Longines model is a bit more expensive than its Mido counterpart. However, pre-owned pieces sell for only 1,900 USD.

Longines' catalog also contains a moon phase watch with four retrograde displays: a small seconds, a pointer date, a second time zone, and a day display. Each display has a pointer that returns to its starting position once it reaches the end of the scale. Longines equips this timepiece with the caliber L707, based on the ETA A07.L31. This movement has a 48-hour power reserve and ticks at 28,800 alternations per hour. You can call this watch your own for under 2,200 USD pre-owned and approximately 3,000 USD new.


High-End Moon Phase Watches

Timepieces from Patek Philippe and A. Lange & Söhne represent the crème de la crème of watchmaking. Patek Philippe has had a reputation for crafting exquisite timepieces for over 180 years. The company is more than familiar with the moon phase function and often combines it with an annual calendar in the watches of their Complications collection. Annual calendars only require manual correction once a year.

The Patek ref. 5205 also features a 24-hour display. This luxury watch's calendar function occupies three windows: There's the day at 10, date at 12, and month at 2 o'clock. Rose gold editions tend to cost around 42,500 USD, regardless of condition. The ref. 5396 also boasts an annual calendar and 24-hour display. Its date display sits at 6 o'clock, while the day and month are located on the dial's upper half. This timepiece requires an investment of about 41,000 USD new and 35,000 USD pre-owned. Finally, the ref. 5146 comes with an annual calendar but lacks a 24-hour display. It uses subdials for the month and day displays. The yellow gold version sells for between 25,000 and 34,000 USD.

The Lange 1 was A. Lange & Söhne's first wristwatch and has since come to define this German luxury watch manufacturer. Off-center displays and an outsize date characterize this timepiece. Over time, the Lange 1 has developed into a comprehensive collection of watches. Highlights include timepieces with a perpetual calendar, tourbillon, and/or moon phase. Of the moon phase watches, the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase "Lumen" sets itself apart with its translucent dial. It allows through just enough light to energize the watch's luminous elements, such as its outsize date and moon phase display. What's more, this particular Lange 1 was A. Lange & Söhne's first wristwatch to feature glow-in-the-dark components. Be sure to have around 78,000 USD on hand for a mint-condition model.

The Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase and Lange 1 Moon Phase both have more classic designs than the "Lumen." Furthermore, the 38.5 and 41-mm editions are much more affordable than their luminescent counterpart. All three of these moon phase watches share the same manual in-house caliber with a 72-hour power reserve. This movement's moon phase display has to be corrected by hand every 122.6 years . You can purchase a never-worn Lange 1 Moon Phase in white gold for roughly 35,000 USD. Pre-owned pieces change hands for some 31,000 USD. Prices for the rose gold edition range from 20,500 to 33,500 USD, depending on its condition. If you prefer platinum watches, take a look at the Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase. This model costs about 46,000 USD new and 43,000 USD pre-owned.

Moon Phase Watches from A. Lange & Söhne and Patek Philippe

  • Around 33,000 USD: A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Moon Phase
  • Around 42,000 USD: Patek Philippe ref. 5205
  • Around 78,000 USD: A. Lange & Söhne Grand Lange 1 Moon Phase "Lumen"

How do moon phase watches work?

Moon phase watches essentially function like any other mechanical watch. However, unlike conventional three-hand models, these timepieces feature a moon phase display, often in the form of a disc. The disc sits below a semicircular opening and has two moons, only one of which is visible at any given time. Watch manufacturers use two moons instead of one because a complete lunar cycle lasts 29.5 days. Since there is no gear with 29.5 teeth, they use a gear with 59 teeth . Each day, the watch movement moves this gear forward by one tooth, thus completing two whole cycles per full rotation. This process usually takes place around midnight and is often linked to the date display.

This is the simplest of all moon phase displays, and it has an annual deviation of eight hours. This means it will be a full day off after three years. This is a result of the fact that an actual lunar cycle is 44 minutes and 3 seconds longer than the 29.5-day system employed by these mechanisms.

The Moon's individual phases are determined by its orbit around the Earth and its position relative to our planet and the Sun. If the Sun is shining on the Earth-facing side, we see a Full Moon. If it's shining on the opposite side, the Moon seems to disappear. This is known as a New Moon. The Moon and Earth rotate at the same rate, which is why we only ever see one side of the Moon from Earth.