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Track The Lunar Cycle With An Affordable Moonphase Watch

Posted on March 10 2021

Best Affordable Moonphase Watches

I have a confession to make.

I don't care about the moon's cycle.

I don't care if it's waxing, waning or gibbous. Tides don't interest me and I'm not a werewolf. I'm pretty sure that the moon doesn't affect my sleep pattern and I don't go on a crime spree once a month.

So why would I need to check my watch each day to confirm the moon's position?

The answer is that I don't need to. Neither do you.

But you don't use the chronograph feature on a watch either, do you? Or the second timezone? If you're like me it's an achievement when you remember to set the correct date.

Just because I don't need a moon-phase watch doesn't mean that I don't want one. Because I do.

I really do.

What is the Point of a Moonphase watch?


There's no reliable research that shows that the moon affects human behaviour. Politicians and the Police have suggested that it may cause higher levels of crime. But they're short on evidence.

Fertility and menstruation? No evidence either.

Stock market returns? I'm definitely not convinced the moon plays a part.

So why do we spend hours online lusting after affordable moonphase watches?

Because our lunacy doesn't need to check the lunar cycle. We love watches for their workmanship. For their design and because of the stories behind them.

Moonphase watches have their own aesthetic, their own stories and some crazy watchmaking skills.

Did you know that Patek Philippe made a watch that can keep track of the moon's cycle for 122 years? Only then does it need adjusting to factor in the difference between our calendar and the moon's rotation.

And guess what? That wasn't good enough.

Andreas Strehler created a Moonphase watch that will be correct for two million years!

The 7 Best Affordable Moonphase Watches


This madness is why I got sucked it into the world of Moonphase watches. It's a story of engineering excellence and watchmaking skill.

But I can't afford a Patek Philippe.

Instead, I've been looking for the best affordable alternatives.

Once again, I've taken into the account the brand, build quality, design and value for money.

I've also made an effort to pick out distinctive watches. Models that give you the moonphase complication in unique designs. Here are my favourites.

Glycine Combat Classic Moonphase GL0116

This watch is first on my list for a couple of simple reasons. It's a Swiss-made mechanical watch, it's very affordable and it's a field watch.

Let's take those reasons one at a time. Firstly, it is a Swiss-made piece. Glycine is a Swiss heritage brand and their watches carry the important wording at the foot of the dial. Swiss Made.

When you're shopping on a budget this matters.

Tied in with that is the price. This is also a mechanical watch. It's an automatic that uses Glycine's GL280 calibre. That's based on a Swiss-made Sellita movement. This watch is great value for money.

The rest of the specs are equally impressive for the price. It has a sapphire crystal and 100M of water resistance.

But there is another reason that this watch is at the top of the list.

It's from Glycine's Combat Range. The brand is known for rugged tool watches, with their Airman model being an iconic pilots watch. That is the company's appeal. They make tough watches. Their diver, the Combat Sub being an obvious example.

So a moonphase complication isn't a feature that I'd expect from them. But they've managed to seamlessly incorporate it into the Combat Classic model.

They've taken a fun, but superfluous feature, and worked it into a tool watch design. The result is great. The lunar cycle window and wheel are subtly placed on an understated watch.

It still works as a field watch too. But it's more versatile. It could also be a dress watch.

If you're after an affordable Swiss moonphase watch, this is your first stop.

Glycine Combat Classic Moonphase GL0116

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Automatic movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 


Dufa Gropius Moonphase Watch

Dufa is a modern watch brand that produces beautiful Bauhaus inspired timepieces.

The brand is a revival of the original German company but uses the same inspiration. They fuse traditional Bauhaus design with up to date watchmaking technology.

This moonphase model is a great example of the brand's ethos. It's named after Walter Gropius - the founder of the Bauhaus school.

The Gropius is a handsome 38mm watch that uses a quartz movement. This delivers the moonphase complication at a very affordable price.

The colour scheme is attractive, using pale colours to achieve a pastel effect. As a Bauhaus design, it is minimalist, with a clean, uncluttered dial.

It is an ideal modern Bauhaus watch.

The case is modestly sized in both width and depth. The 18mm strap reinforcing the slender and graceful aesthetic. It doesn’t have the Swiss automatic movement of the Glycine - but it's half the price.

If you want a Bauhaus-style moonphase watch, that's a small niche. But this Dufa ticks those boxes.

Dufa Gropius Moonphase DF-9032-01

  • 38mm Diameter
  • 9.2mm Thick
  • 18mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Japanese Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

 


Junghans Meister Calendar 027/4200.01

The Junghans Meister Calendar stretches the concept of an affordable watch. But it makes a great comparison to the Dufa.

This is a genuine German Bauhaus watch, produced by one of the big names in the field. Junghans still have their Max Bill watches at the core of their line-up. Watches designed by Bill, a student at the Bauhaus school.

The Junghans is a more refined design that simplifies the style. There are indices instead of numbers, silver instead of blue and the case is thinner.

Where the Dufa reduces costs with a quartz movement, the Junghans ramps them up with their own automatic. This watch is made in Germany and the quality is outstanding.

Having said that Bauhaus moonphase watches are a niche - this is what you get at the higher end.

It's a beautiful piece that wins through the very careful use of colours. There is also a strong focus on the moonphase window. It's central to the design - both literally and figuratively.

The date and month windows are unusually positioned, but they're not jarring. They work well and maintain symmetry on the upper dial.

This is a watch for the collector. It's more than an affordable and fun piece like some of the others.

Junghans Meister Calendar 027/4200.01

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 12mm Thick
  • 21mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic movement
  • Plexiglass Crystal
  • 30M Water Resistance

Certina DS-8 Moonphase
The Certina is another Swiss-made piece.

It's more affordable than the Glycine and has a softer, more dressy style. It's the first watch to consider if you want a Swiss-made watch but your budget is tight.

You're no doubt familiar with Certina. If not, the basics that you need to know are:

  • Swiss-based
  • Owned by Swatch Group
  • Use Swiss-made ETA movements

They're a heritage brand that targets the entry-level market. I put them in the same category as Tissot, Hamilton and Mido.

The DS-8 Moonphase is typical of the brand. It's neat and clear. The moonphase feature is at the forefront of the design. The rest of the watch is unpretentious. A tidy dress watch, that probably wouldn't catch the eye without the lunar dial.

I like it. There is a successful marriage of styles. It's less ornate than many moonphase watches and the simplicity appeals to me. It's not a moonphase watch and 'other stuff'.

It's a moonphase watch and nothing else.

The other parts. The hands, date and indices? They're all plain and take a backseat to the lunar wheel.

The watch itself is a comfortable size. The case is 41mm and it has a 20mm bracelet. The sizing is ideal for a modern dress watch.

If you want a moonphase, but without the flair, try the Certina.

Certina DS-8 C033.457.11.051.00

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 10mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 


Stuhrling Celestia Moonphase Watch

US brand Stuhrling do something special.

They allow you to get a moonphase watch for a hundred bucks.

If you're not sure if you like the lunar cycle complication. Buy this and find out.

Admittedly, it's not as stylish as the Certina. And it isn't a Bauhaus beauty like the Junghans. Neither does it have the Swiss-made automatic movement of the Glycine.

But on their site, at the time of writing, it's $100.

For that, you get a decent looking watch with a Swiss quartz movement and a real leather strap.

The design is good. The bold 12 at the top is the only hour marker and the minute ring shows numbers at 10-minute intervals. The moonphase dial is prominent and contrasts nicely with the black dial.

The hands are a simple Dauphine shape and the crown is a larger onion-type. There are several colours available, but I do prefer black.

You'll struggle to find a more affordable Moonpase watch than this.

Stuhrling Celestia 897.02

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 9.5mm Thick
  • 19mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz movement
  • Mineral Crystal
  • 50M Water Resistance

 


Ingersoll The Jazz Moonphase Watch

Ingersoll is the brand that gave us the dollar watch. They made their name producing the world's most affordable watches. They're not in that same market now, but they remain accessible.

The brand has built collections around its own history and back catalogue. The first watch I picked up since the 2016 relaunch is the Reliance. This very affordable pared-down dress watch is one of their recent successes.

They also release some questionable watches. Skeleton designs that don't appeal to me.

But some of those designs can be successful too. I was unsure about The Jazz. It looks like it may be too ostentatious for Liberace. It’s very flamboyant.

It takes the Skeleton concept that I don't like and adds more flair and more intricacy. That should make it even worse. But bizarrely it doesn't.

It’s not quite at the point of being impenetrable, but it’s close. That's the appeal. You don’t look at this watch once, see all that it offers, and then move on. You're compelled to keep looking. To make sense of it all.

And somewhere on that dial is a moonphase complication.

They've kept the colours simple. And a delightful use of curves gives the impression that everything on the watch is intertwined. With this being a mechanical watch, it is. You can see how each element moves in conjunction with those around it.

It's a sharp contrast to the more utilitarian designs I usually highlight. But in this instance, it works. If you enjoy this busy style, then you’ll be hard pushed to find a better watch at this price-point.

Ingersoll The Jazz I07701

  • 42mm Diameter
  • 15.5mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Automatic Movement
  • Mineral Crystal

 


Ball Engineer II Moonphase watch

I've saved this stunning watch until last.

It's an exceptional piece from Ball, the US brand known for its association with the railroads. Their watches tend to capitalise on this historic relationship. Ball collections include the Railroad Engineer, Firemen, Trainmaster and Conductor models.

This watch is from the Engineer line. And it's a beautiful piece. Like the Glycine, it takes a tool watch design and adds a Moonphase complication.

So we have a 41mm watch, with Ball's own automatic movement. The dial is clear and legible and the hands have GTLS illumination. Small gas-filled tubes that provide constant light for up to 25 years.

As part of the Engineer collection, the watch benefits from Ball's Amortiser anti-shock system. And as a Railroad watch, it's also anti-magnetic.

It's a very functional tool watch.

But then we have the Moonphase. It could over-complicate things and compromise the design. But Ball has cleverly opted for a small lunar wheel. The result is great.

Like the Junghans, there is a higher price tag for all this innovation. But like the German-made piece, this watch is gorgeous. It combines history, functionality and style.

Ball Engineer II NM2282C-SJ-BE

  • 41mm Diameter
  • 14mm Thick
  • Stainless Steel
  • Ball RR1801 Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 


Conclusion


Having a wheel on your watch that tracks the moon's cycle is pretty cool. Practical or necessary? Probably not.

But we're not watch fans because they're practical or necessary. There's more to a watch than the time, date or lunar cycle.

We like the history and the design. We also like the workmanship and the innovation that has gone into the piece.

And this is the appeal of the Moonphase watch. It's an ingenious feature that mirrors the moons lunar cycle. To do that it has to account for the differences between the lunar month and our calendar. That's not easy to achieve.

Who cares if we don't need it.

The moon dial on a watch is attractive. The workmanship is brilliant. And if we can get all that on a budget?

Count me in.


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