7 of the best moonphase watches under US$15KZach Blass
Watchmaking is, of course, a profession born from chronometry. But, the core obsession within chronometry is making mechanical watchmaking as accurate and precise as possible. Due to the inherent beauty of astronomy, and the science within it, a natural evolution in watchmaking was to relay astronomical information on the dial of a watch – the most common of which is the moonphase. And, with any complication for that matter, there remains to this day an horological arms race to boast the most beautiful and precise (over the longest period of time) moonphase on a wristwatch. Sure, most people are not really bothered with the current status of the phase of the moon. But, the aesthetic value-add, as well as the complication-add, has long enticed watch buyers in seeking one out for themselves. With any complication, the greater the number of them and their level of complexity will inevitably raise the price of the watch. So, I have assembled a list of seven of the best moonphase watches under US$15,000.
Junghans Meister Kalender
Fortunately the entry point for a quality moonphase watch is, perhaps, less steep than you may expect. The Junghans Meister Kalendar is a great example of an entry-level moonphase watch. Made in Germany, the aesthetic is sensible, strategic, and attractive with a subtly smoked blue sunburst dial. Cased in stainless steel, 40.4mm in diameter and 12mm thick, the watch meets the criteria for being comfortably modern sized – by no means classic in dimensions but absolutely not too large. The 38-hour automatic calibre J800.3 also includes day, date, and month complications, so you definitely get a fair bit of bang for your buck here.
Price: €1,990 (incl. VAT)
Longines Master Collection 34mm/40mm/42mm
The Longines Master Collection is another great example of a high-quality, entry-level moonphase watch, and what I appreciate the most about the collection, logistically speaking, is that it is available in 34mm, 40mm, and 42mm sizes. But, while there is a trio of size options, there is no comprise on specs. Each size costs the same, uses the same 72-hour L899 automatic calibre, and the 42mm is only 0.1mm thicker than the 11.1mm thick 34mm and 40mm steel cases. The blued hands heighten the elegance of its aesthetic, and really compliment the barleycorn-patterned silver dial that also includes a date complication as well.
Baume & Mercier Clifton 10654
A near-perfect watch in my eyes, the Baume & Mercier Clifton 10654 was a stunning entry in the midst of the green dial craze with a smoked green-lacquered dial that well balances a day-date complication alongside its moonphase indication. My only personal gripe is the 42mm size of its 50m water-resistant stainless steel case, which many would not be put off by. That being said, the equally compelling selling point of this Clifton Moon Phase is its five-day automatic calibre that offers 120 hours of power reserve.
Cartier Drive de Cartier Moon Phases Watch
Up until this point, all of the watches have utilised the more traditional circular-shaped case. So, for a quick change of pace, the Cartier Drive de Cartier takes a more cushioned-case approach to a moonphase watch. You have all of the hallmark signature Cartier design cues at play, with broad Roman numerals, blued hands, and a guilloched central medallion. The profile of this 41mm case is relatively slender at 12mm in thickness, and it has a friendly lug-to-lug length of 47mm across the wrist. Inside the Cartier Drive de Cartier Moon Phases watch uses their in-house automatic calibre 1904-LU MC that has a decent 48 hours of power reserve, but a moonphase indication accurate enough to only need adjustment once every 125 years.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moon 36mm/39mm
I should be impartial on a list such as this, but, if you care, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Ultra Thin Moon is probably my favourite watch on this list. Sure, it does not have a ground-breaking aesthetic. But, it is a masterclass in traditional execution. In particular, the blue sunburst dial is as stunning as it gets within the colour segment, and the clean layout with dauphine hands is superb in my book. While colour availability varies by size within the Jaeger-LeCoultre Ultra Thin Moon collection, the watch can be purchased in a more classic 36mm size or a classic-adjacent for the times 39mm size. As its name suggests, the 39mm version is slender, considering the complication, at 10mm in thickness (9.4mm thick for the 36mm version) and its lug-to-lug is only 45.5mm across the wrist – so very wrist-friendly. Both watches are powered by a wonderfully decorated and slim in-house automatic 925 calibre that offers a near-weekend proof 70 hours of power reserve.
Price: US$10,900 (36mm), US$11,100 (39mm)
Breitling Premier B25 Datora 42 Copper
Inspired by their complete calendar watches of the 1940s, the Breitling B25 Datora 42 Copper made a splash upon its announcement two years ago – notably in the weeks just before Watches & Wonders began. Those clued into the watch community are probably not shocked as to why. Described as “copper”, the dial really looks like the collector-coveted salmon colour, and its parallels (albeit at a much lower price) to the famed Patek Philippe 5270P definitely did not hurt as well. The only common detraction that is noted about its 42mm steel case is its rather beefy 15.35mm thickness, but at its larger size it does have the advantage of a 100m depth rating. This complete calendar chronograph is powered by Breitling’s B25 automatic calibre developed with Concept, and offers day, date, month, moon phase, and chronograph complications with a 48-hour power reserve.
Omega Speedmaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer Moon Phase Chronograph 44.25mm
If we are going to close the list out now, best to do so with a bang right? The Speedmaster is known for having gone to the moon, but it is not typically known for being a watch with a moonphase. The Omega Speedmaster Co-Axial Master Chronometer Moon Phase Chronograph 44.25mm gorgeously leans into an outer space theme with a blue ceramic case, and, an aventurine dial that mimics a vision of starry outer space. Even the moonphase disc is made of aventurine, and the moon on the moonphase disc, like the hands and applied indices, is fashioned in Omega’s rosy Sedna gold. I appreciate how the two chronograph registers each neatly pack in two indications, the 9′ register displaying both the running seconds and date and the 3′ register indicating both the elapsed hours and minutes. Inside you have the in-house automatic Co-Axial Master Chronometer and METAS-certified calibre 9904 with 60 hours of power reserve. The only caveat to the watch, it is on the larger side at 44.25mm in diameter and 17.1mm thick. So, not the easiest to slide under a shirt cuff. But c’mon, aesthetically speaking it is a a stunning blue beaut. Don’t you agree?