It may have passed you by, but this summer it was confirmed that a lunar calendar found in a Scottish field is the world's oldest discovered, having been created about 10,000 years ago. Archaeologists found 12 pits near Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire that appear to mimic the phases of the moon, allowing the lunar months to be tracked. This is bad news for those of us with Scottish friends, as they will no doubt add "timekeeping" to their interminable list of things the Scots invented, which includes capitalism, the television, unicorns, rainbows. OK, maybe not the last two, but they would claim them if they could.
Tracking the lunar phases has moved on a bit from sticks and pits in the ground, and moon-phase watches offer rather an elegant means of doing so. This year has seen the launch of some wonderful moon-phase watches but perhaps the most beautiful is the Patek Philippe 6002 Sky Moon Tourbillon (below right), which is the most complicated Patek wristwatch to date, and that's saying something.
The Sky Moon is already something of a legend, with the 5002 version, released in 2001, now an auction darling. For the 6002, there are 12 complications - yes, 12 - with the watchmaker making room by using the back of the watch as well as the front. Twelve complications might feel like gilding the lily - or rather spray painting it - but nevertheless one has to marvel at the complexity and sheer engineering genius that has gone into making this watch.
A quick run through some of the complications - there's a retrograde calendar, a perpetual calendar, a minute repeater with cathedral gongs, a tourbillon regulator, a chronometer, a leap-year cycle, a sky chart, mean solar time, sidereal time, moon progression and, of course, moon phase. This watch will amaze your friends, but it's also likely to bore them as you go through the list of functions. Sized at a classically pleasing 38mm, the hand-carved case is made of white gold and comes with a blue alligator leather strap. Limited to 25 pieces, prices for the Patek Philippe 6002 Sky Moon are available upon request, but just as the 5002 has gone down in legend, so can you expect epic prices.
Something a little more accessible is the Girard-Perregaux Vintage 1945 XXL Large Date Moon Phase Watch. Priced at HK$100,000 for the leather strap version (above) and HK$114,000 for the steel bracelet version, the Vintage 1945 XXL is a throwback watch in terms of styling, with its petite square case making it the ideal dress watch. The case is made of steel and measures 36.1mm by 35.25mm, with the black dial relatively uncluttered and featuring the moon-phase indicator at the six o'clock position. There is also a large date window at the 12 o'clock position. Inside this watch is an in-house GP03300-0085 mechanical self-winding movement which pumps out 46 hours of power.
Finally, we have the Montblanc Star Special Edition Carpe Diem Quantieme Complet (below left). A pretty awful name, truth be told, but a nice little watch nevertheless, with its classical styling and very bold moon-phase indicator. The case is sized at 42mm and the case material is stainless steel, which is perhaps why it has an extremely tempting price tag of HK$35,800. Inside is an in-house MB4810/912 movement that provides a respectable 42 hours of power. Aside from the moon phase, other indications include day and month windows and a fourth hand that functions as a date indicator.