moonphase watch history

A Guide to the History of Moonphase Watch Complication

Looking back at the history of the most mesmerizing watch complication

Date Published
June 25, 2023
Gnomon Watches
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Moonphase watches’ history dates back to ancient civilizations. This fascinating watch complication has captivated watch enthusiasts for centuries – not only that the watch tells time but also displays the ever-changing phases of the moon. 

In other words, these timepieces not only serve a practical purpose but also offer wearers a mesmerizing glimpse into the celestial dance of the Moon. With their captivating displays of lunar phases, moonphase watches have become cherished treasures, captivating the hearts of watch enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.

Join us on a journey as we delve into the rich history of moonphase watches and explore their significance in the world of watchmaking.

The History of Moonphase Watches

Long before the era of precise timekeeping, ancient cultures developed a profound fascination with the Moon’s cyclical nature. Early civilizations, such as the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Chinese, observed the Moon’s phases and incorporated them into lunar calendars.  

These early timekeeping devices were rudimentary, consisting of simple mechanisms that depicted the waxing and waning of the moon on various dials and sundials. The true birth of moonphase watches, as we recognize them today, can be attributed to the innovative work of 17th-century watchmakers. 

One notable figure is the accomplished horologist and mathematician Nicolaus Kratzer, who created a highly accurate moonphase mechanism for the renowned astronomer Nicholas Copernicus. 

Kratzer’s invention paved the way for the development of more sophisticated and precise moonphase complications in timepieces.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, advancements in watchmaking technology allowed for the creation of more intricate and aesthetically pleasing moonphase watches. Luxury brands such as Breguet, Patek Philippe, and Vacheron Constantin began incorporating moonphase complications into their timepieces. 

It is also often accompanied by other astronomical complications such as perpetual calendars and celestial maps.

Read also: 5 Mesmerizing Astronomical Watches: The True Art of Horology

These moonphase watches served not only as accurate timekeepers but also as status symbols for the aristocracy and elite. The exquisite craftsmanship and attention to detail bestowed upon these timepieces further elevated their desirability and allure.

Moving forward, the early 20th century witnessed a renaissance of moonphase watches as watchmakers embraced the Art Deco movement, incorporating bold designs and new materials. 

Brands like Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced avant-garde moonphase watches that combined functionality with artistic expression, attracting a new generation of watch enthusiasts.

However, the advent of quartz technology in the 1970s revolutionized the watch industry, leading to the proliferation of accurate, affordable, and battery-powered timepieces. 

Moonphase watches faced significant challenges during this era. The intricate nature of moonphase complications proved difficult to achieve with quartz movements, limiting their availability and appeal.

Despite this setback, a resurgence of interest in traditional mechanical watches emerged in the late 20th century, leading to a renewed appreciation for moonphase watches. Luxury watchmakers began integrating moonphase complications into their mechanical movements, reviving the art and craftsmanship associated with these exquisite timepieces.

In the present day, moonphase watches continue to enchant watch aficionados and collectors worldwide. Luxury brands such as A. Lange & Söhne, Blancpain, and Patek Philippe offer an array of moonphase models, ranging from classic and elegant designs to modern interpretations.

Topping it off, the advancement of technology also allows watch brands to make moonphase watches at a more affordable price. That’s when moonphase watches become more accessible to everyone.

Technological advancements have allowed for greater accuracy in moonphase complications. Some timepieces now feature highly precise moonphase mechanisms that require adjustment only once every few decades.

Additionally, advancements in luminescent materials have made it possible to create watches that depict the moon’s glow realistically.

Read also: Facts about Who Makes Citizen Watches and Its History

Impressive Moonphase Watches from Various Brands

There is a list of moonphase watches you can have in your collection even with affordable price tags. We have compiled some from various brands that showcase the artistry, craftsmanship, and technical innovation within the realm of horology.

Glycine Combat Classic 40 “MoonPhase” Blue Ref. GL0385

First on the list is the Glycine Combat Classic 40 “MoonPhase” Blue which flaunts a blue dial to further enhance the astronomical vibe. It has a minimalist view through which you can have hour markers, handsets, a date window, and a moonphase display.

Glycine Combat Classic 40 “MoonPhase” Blue Ref. GL0385
Glycine Combat Classic 40 “MoonPhase” Blue Ref. GL0385

Pairing the sunburst blue dial is a 22mm brown leather strap worn with a steel tang buckle to give a classy touch. Ensuring the overall accuracy of the watch is GL280 Swiss automatic movement with a 4Hz beat rate of 28,800 BPH and a power reserve of 38 hours.

Price: $598.00 USD

Mido Baroncelli Smiling Moon Gent White Ref. M027.407.11.010.01

When it comes to Mido watch collections, you can always expect something aesthetic and appealing. The Mido Baroncelli Smiling Moon Gent White is an affordable moonphase watch that should be under your radar.

Mido Baroncelli Smiling Moon Gent White Ref. M027.407.11.010.01
Mido Baroncelli Smiling Moon Gent White Ref. M027.407.11.010.01

It comes in a white dial to show purity and minimalism as well as enhance the elegance of the watch. Aside from the handsets and hour markers, the moonphase display takes the center of attention. 

The phase is displayed in a unique design via a wide smile on the dial. It helps to relay the 29.5-day lunar cycle by exhibiting the current moonphase in an aperture on the dial, with the disc advancing once per day.

Price: $995.00 USD

Omega Speedmaster Moonphase Co-Axial Master Chronometer Chronograph – Blue Side of the Moon

The next is from the legendary brand for the first timepiece brought to the Moon. The Speedmaster Moonphase Co-Axial Master Chronometer in Blue Side of the Moon from Omega highlights a ceramic bezel in deep blue color along with a polished ceramic gold (filled with 18 carats of Sedna gold) tachymeter scale.

The blue also roams over to its crown, leather strap, and its dial. A contrast is beautifully defined in the 18kt gold hour and minute hands, numerals, and white stitches on its strap. Reminiscent of the night sky when filled with its sparkling stars.

Steinhart Marine Moon Phase Blue

Presented under the dress watch line, the Steinhart Marine Moon Phase Blue is introduced with a classic design. It has a wearable size of 42mm in diameter and 12.1mm in height, neither too big nor is it likely to be too small. 

Protecting the dial is a domed sapphire crystal with two anti-reflective coatings that allows you to admire the simple beauty of the dial in a clear view.

Steinhart Marine Moon Phase Blue
Steinhart Marine Moon Phase Blue

Moving on to the dial where the mesmerizing complication is placed on it, the sunburst blue dial features a moonphase display at the 6 o’clock position. The watch hands come in a classic spade hour-hand that harmonizes very well with the large minute track – which further elevates the watch’s elegance.

Price: $640.00 USD

Ball Watch Co. Trainmaster Moon Phase Blue – Bracelet

Last but not least is the Ball Watch Co. Trainmaster Moon Phase Blue, an appealing dial that showcases a moonphase display at the center of the dial. Powering this moonphase complication is the Ball RR1801 automatic movement, which is based on an ETA movement. 

Ball Watch Co. Trainmaster Moon Phase Blue - Bracelet
Ball Watch Co. Trainmaster Moon Phase Blue – Bracelet

Ball puts an emphasis on accuracy under adverse conditions. So while they are from the dress collection they are made to be tough withstanding. Another unique aspect of the watch is the use of tritium gas tubes that allows for the constant emission of light in dark environments. 

Price: $1,848.00 USD


From their ancient beginnings to their contemporary iterations, moonphase watches have stood the test of time as both functional timepieces and exquisite works of art. This unique complication has transcended mere timekeeping devices and has become a symbol of craftsmanship, precision, and elegance.

As we look to the future, it is clear that moonphase watches will continue to captivate and inspire. Advancements in materials, technology, and design will undoubtedly push the boundaries of what is possible in terms of accuracy, aesthetics, and functionality. 

Read also: How Watches are Made: Key Steps into Crafting Timepieces

Gnomon Watches first opened her doors for business online in early 2002, founded by bona fide horology suitors who share a profound passion for watchmaking and fine craftsmanship.

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