Freeman's
How does a Moonphase Complication Work

Department Specialist


Michael Larsen
Representative | West Coast

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Published: 9 June 2017

All About the Moonphase

Patek Philippe This Gondola Calendaro Ref. 5135G-010 Moonphase

Often included in high complication timepieces, moonphase indication is one of the earliest complexities achieved in the art of horology. This romantic complication has been produced in a broad range of materials and movements, but its base function remains the same; displaying the shape of the moon as observed from earth through monthly lunar phases.

Dependent on the movement it is powered by, a moonphase complication can hold precision anywhere from two to well over 1,000 years. These dynamic mechanisms often consist of two depictions of moons on a rotating disc, displayed through a ‘bosom’, or half-circle aperture, or a radial aperture where the entirety of the disc is displayed.

Freeman’s is previewing some excellent examples of moonphases for its upcoming Fine Timepieces sale. One such example includes an iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the brands best known for its artistry in moonphase complications, most recently introducing models with hyper-realistic depictions of the celestial skies.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Ref. 270.2.63

This particular model, Ref. 270.2.63, features the complication within a 26 millimeter gold case. The mechanical, hand wound movement, can be seen through an exhibition caseback— made all the easier with the reversible dial.

Another master at the moonphase complication is Patek Philippe. This Gondolo Calendario (Ref. 5135G-010) from 2007 features a warm contrast to the bosom aperture with its anthracite dial. The automatic movement is housed in a 51 millimeter tonneau-shaped case also featuring an exhibition caseback.

In recent years, Patek Philippe’s Gondolo collection as become even more elongated with 2017’s models boasting a case size of 32.4 by 46.9 millimeters. This Ref. 5135G-010 is wider, collectable and offers a more substantial view of both the annual calendar and moonphase complications.

Freeman’s is also offering a look further back into moonphase production. A classic example of mid-century horological technology and aesthetic is this Cartier EWC Triple Calendar from 1940. The shape of this timepiece is perhaps one Cartier is most known for in the watch industry and was introduced for the first time in 1917 with the still-thriving, Tank collection.

Vintage Cartier watch Cartier EWC Triple Calendar from 1940

This timepiece’s movement contains 15 jewels and powers a silvered dial with day and month apertures and another bosom-shaped moonphase aperture. A subsidiary seconds subdial rests at 6 o’clock and is encircled with outer-shaper indices and enameled hour markers.

Although the utility of a moonphase is no longer as necessary as it once was, the romanticism of the complication is what provides this mechanism with its longevity. From the 1940s all the way to 2017, timepieces with depictions of the night’s sky have been sought-after and with materials and craftsmanship evolving, it will be interesting to see what comes up for bid in the future.

Stop by Freeman’s through June 12 to preview more watches from the Fine Timepiece sale. 

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