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To the Moon - The Faces of Phases

To the Moon The Faces of Phases

Moonphases are governed by choices. Choice of a more or less accurate movement. choice of Its Appearance. Choice between a simple, a symbolic or a realistic representation

Showing the moon as it really is is a matter for the movement. With varying accuracy, dedicated sets of wheels transform elapsed seconds into lunation, the duration between two new moons and that lasts 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.9 seconds.

Once gears, cogs and pinions are in place and moving at the adequate speed, there remains the matter of displaying. In that domain, watchmakers keep showing incredible ingenuity. They're always over the moon when it comes to creating new designs for our satellite.

For a long time, the moon remained a simple disc. Visible under an opening on the dial, it bears a circle, which is overshadowed by the shape of that window. It produces the entire spectrum of shapes the moon actually takes on, from the new moon (nothing to see) to the full moon (a full disc) and everything in between (crescents of varying thickness). On top of that functional aspect, brands add their own layer of design, their thing, their own moons. The most famous may very well be Breguet's, whose golden face comes straight from the founder's designs. 

Those are often taken from ancient engravings, paintings or even clocks, with more or less happy faces. Their renderings range from plain printing to elaborate engravings. Some aim at an actual resemblance, especially in the more astronomically accurate timepieces such as Ulysse Nardin's Blast Moonstruck. Its moon is but a small button, but the level of care that went into finishing it is on par with its elaborate movement.

The Faces Of Phases

Ulysse Nardin Blast Moonstruck © David Chokron/WorldTempus

The moon's most striking change in recent history has been its upgrade to the third dimension. Instead of a mere disc, it has moved on to actual spheres. The resulting constraints are high as they require more space where it is in short supply : in the movement's thickness. So deciding on these celestial globes' size is a first step. They range from small with trailblazer DeBethune to a record 12 mm in diameter with Arnold&Son.

The Faces Of Phases

Arnold&Son Luna Magna Platinum Météorite © David Chokron/Worldtempus

Then there is the material to consider. The moon is a dead piece of rock, born from the super-collision between a proto-planet roughly the size of Mars and a young Earth, some 4 billion years ago. It's gray, pale and not very handsome. So how can a designer represent it ? One way is the realistic way, by painting its seas and craters in shades of gray The other way is interpreting its appearance, for example by using precious materials.

The Faces Of Phases

De Bethune DB25 Perpetual Calendar 40 mm © David Chokron/Worldtempus

The moon takes pride of place in Jacob&Co.'s Astronomia as a large, spherical, 288-facet white diamond. Arnold&Son makes it half-marble, half-mother-of-pearl and even half-meteorite, half-opal. Bovet's is a half-sphere painted with SuperLumiNova. That brand clearly realized before everyone else that a moon must be especially beautiful at night...Selene has always been an inspiration for poets, a puzzle for scientists and a beacon for dreamers. And it's also a powerful stimulant for watchmakers' imagination. 

The Faces Of Phases

Jacob&Co. Astronomia flawless © David Chokron/Worldtempus

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