“Oh Jerry, don’t let’s ask for the moon. We have the stars.” Bette Davis may have uttered one of the most memorable lines in romantic cinema, but the sentiment’s a little out of date. These days, for watch lovers at least, there’s no need to choose between them. Some of the most refined timepieces are celestial tributes – masterpieces of contemporary design and high-jewellery craftsmanship.
The moon-phase complication, an elegant feature that shows the moon as it waxes and wanes over its 29.5-day cycle, takes a leading role. No one really needs a moon phase, but, according to Lionel Favre, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s product-design director, women seem to really respond to the feature. “The moon is perceived as a poetic element,” he says. “I do not know if the moon-phase complication is the most romantic. Rather, I would describe it as a complication that allows us to escape our daily life; to project ourselves into the stars.”
It has certainly been a year of heavenly inspiration for the brand, which has launched not only the Dazzling Rendez-Vous Night & Day in white or rose gold (showing a simple day/night indicator), but also the white-gold Dazzling Rendez-Vous Moon, with its two rings of diamonds encircling the dial. Rendez-Vous Celestial was inspired by the night skies of the northern hemisphere, and features handpainting on a mother-of-pearl base, with coloured sapphires on the bezel. More dramatic still, the Rendez-Vous Moon and Moon Serenity both incorporate a satin-brushed star chart, as well as a traditional moon-phase complication.
Discreet and refined expressions of the moon phase are emerging right across the mechanical watch market. Blancpain recently released additions to its Villeret Quantième Phases de Lune range, with sophisticated details including a feminine-faced moon with a playful “beauty spot” at the corner of its mouth. Montblanc is using clean lines and guilloché-adorned dials in the Bohème Day & Night and in its Star Legacy Moonphase & Date design, inspired by the company’s late-19th- and early-20th-century pocket watches. Meanwhile, building on a style first seen in the late 1980s, IWC Schaffhausen has expanded its celestial collection with the Da Vinci Automatic Moon Phase Edition “150 Years”. The white lacquered dial with blue hands is cocooned in more than 200 diamonds – enough to light up anyone’s face.
At first glance, the motifs feel similar in Vacheron Constantin’s Traditionnelle Moon Phase, which has been made for its exclusive Harrods collection. With a hand-guilloché dial inspired by the Maltese cross, baton markers and Dauphine hands, this beautifully crafted limited-edition piece is aesthetically flawless.
“Moon phase is a beautiful function that opens a wide space for creative approaches but also brings a notion of dreams,” says Laurent Dordet, CEO at Hermès Horloger, which added a thoroughly original twist to the meaning of moon phase when it launched its Arceau l’Heure de la Lune this year. “The watch is now far from essential for getting the time, which means that watchmakers have to bring a new sense to this very personal object – whether it appeals to the wearer through its design or through the emotions behind the functions. And who has never dreamed of visiting the moon and stars?” Within l’Heure de la Lune’s case, two moons represent the views from both the northern and southern hemispheres, and the time and date subdials arc around the dial to reveal each stage of the moons’ progression.
Ostensibly, this autumn’s Arceau Petite Lune takes a more conventional line with an impish moon – designed by the Franco-German artist Edouard Baribeaud for his Midsummer Night’s Dream-inspired scarf for Hermès – peeping out between 10 and 11 o’clock. The watch’s unique profile, defined by its asymmetrical lugs, fits snugly on the wrist, and the sloping numerals slide around a dial that is saturated with sparkling elements: a night sky overflowing with stars.
There are now more stars than can be counted among Harry Winston’s Avenue collection, all featuring moon-phase counters that anchor their geometric shapes. Meanwhile, Chaumet lights things up with the stellar Etoiles Etoiles, along with the unusual Soleil de Feu and Soleil de Minuit, “inspired by the sun’s blazing motion and changing hues”. The dials burst with colour above grand feu enamelling and the limited-edition flying tourbillon is exquisitely crafted. CEO Jean-Marc Mansvelt explains: “The jewels are mounted en trembleuse to echo the movements of the sun and complete the solar metaphor with a light flying tourbillon.”
One of the most arresting depictions of celestial harmony is Van Cleef & Arpels’ Lady Arpels Planétarium. Mercury (pink mother-of-pearl), Venus (green enamel) and earth (turquoise) rotate around a rose-gold sun; a diamond moon completes its sparkling orbit in 29-and‑a‑half days; and a white-gold shooting star indicates the time on the deep-blue aventurine dial. Bovet’s Récital 23 Moon Phase also offers an aventurine dial option. Here, the moon-phase indicator is a three‑dimensional dome engraved to portray the lunar surface – yet another original take on the immutable moon and its influence on the earth.