In the world of watchmaking, a moon phase watch is one of those types of timepieces that always captures people’s imaginations. However, there’s also a sense that they’re incredibly expensive, which is technically true. But the world of moon phase displays isn’t exclusive to Omega Speedmasters, Rolexes, Jaeger-Lecoultre, and any other monolithic Swiss legacy brand you can think of. There are moon phase wristwatches out there that are both affordable and incredibly beautiful.
This is a topic that’s fascinated me for a long time so that’s why I’m happy to share this guide and info with the community as a helpful resource for anyone who is on an journey for an affordable moon phase watch.
The Best Moon Phase Watches
Below please find a list of the current affordable moon phase watches that we recommend. There are options here for most everyone’s budget.
Fossil Neutra Moon Phase
|Price Range:||$170 – $190|
|Case Size||42mm (diameter)|
|Movement:||Miyota Cal. 6P20 (Quartz)|
|Water Resistance:||50 meters|
Fossil watches doesn’t get the appreciation they deserve – the brand puts out user friendly designs, with solid build quality, and all for reasonable prices. Like the Fossil Neutra Moon Phase watch. Featuring a clean and tight design, the Fossil Neutra Moon Phase is the ideal timepiece for anyone who is looking for the perfect intersection of classic impact with modern design and all for an affordable price.
By bringing in the moon phase window as well as the day and date display subdials, the dial has a lot of breathing room which emphasizes an almonds minimalist approach to the dial without feeling too sparse and empty. Syringe hands and timeless baton markers also emphasize an overall sense of feeling fresh but also being timeless. If you picked up this Fossil moon phase watch today, you could still easily wear it decades from now and it’ll still be in style.
Zeppelin Hindenburg Moon Phase
|Price Range:||$240 – $350|
|Case Size:||40mm (diameter) x 44mm (lug to lug)|
|Movement:||Swiss Ronda 706B (Quartz)|
|Water Resistance:||30 meters|
As a watch brand, Zeppelin Watches isn’t a household name here in the US, but just because people aren’t talking about them doesn’t mean they’re not worth your attention if you’re on the lookout for an affordable moon phase watch. The watch brand is based in Germany and they source parts and materials from France, Italy, and China. Sourcing parts from other countries and overseeing QC and assembly in their home country of Germany allows them to put more resources into their designs.
One such design is the Hindenburg Moon Phase, a 40mm quartz movement moon phase watch that’s designed with a classic vintage sensibility while also leaning slightly industrial with the bronze pops on the hands and on the moon phase disk itself. The Hindenburg Moon Phase would be an ideal moon phase watch for someone who wasn’t necessarily looking for an “everyday” wearer but more of an old-world, vintage elegant dress watch with eye-catching but not jarring personality.
Tissot Carson Premium Gent Moon Phase
|Price Range:||$275 – $350|
|Case Size:||40mm (diameter) x 42mm (lug to lug)|
|Movement:||ETA F05.841 (Quartz)|
|Water Resistance:||50 meters|
If you’re looking for one of the best intersections between Swiss horology, affordability, and longevity, you’re looking for a Tissot. For us, if we’re talking about moon phase watches, the Tissot Carson Premium Gent must be included in the discussion.
The 40mm diameter of the stainless steel case creates just enough wrist presence without overwhelming your wrist – plus with an incredible thickness of only 7.6mm, the Tissot Carson Moon Phase will wear very comfortably. What truly sets the Tissot Carson Moon Phase apart from the rest of the timepieces on this list is it’s almost art-deco inspired roman numeral markings. Featuring a slight elongation and a serif-style tapers on the ends, the font style of these Tissot moon phase watches evokes high design, luxury fashion, and restrained design sensibilities. The blue dial version comes on a leather strap while the silver dial version comes on a stainless steel bracelet.
Citizen Calendrier (BU0050-02L)
|Price Range:||$250 – $575|
|Case Size:||44mm (diameter)|
|Movement:||8730 Eco-Drive (Solar Quartz)|
|Water Resistance:||100 meters|
I find the Citizen Calendrier to be incredibly refreshing among the roster of moon phase watch designs. Featuring an almost automotive inspired subdial layout in addition to a multi-layer and distinct design, this Citizen moon phase is very much in a class all its own. Take specific note of the moon phase window, which I found to be a very simple, function-forward take on the moon phase complication. There’s no celestial leanings in the design – no cartoony moon – just a simple black circle and a white circle with the relationship between the two creating the different moon phases.
At 44mm with a 23mm lug width, you’ll find that this timepiece also wears on the larger side. As such, if you have smaller wrists like me (6.75 inches in diameter), it may be tough to make the look work. However if you’re interested in the design but are on the fence about the sizing, try it on in a brick and mortar before making your decision.
Certina DS-8 Chronograph Moon Phase
|Price Range:||$700- $800|
|Case Size:||42mm (diameter) x 50mm (lug to lug)|
|Movement:||ETA G10.962 (Quartz)|
|Water Resistance:||100 meters|
Certina Watches tends to remain as a blind spot for watch collectors here in the US. This is simply because they technically aren’t easily available stateside, which means they don’t get any marketing and no one learns about them. But at most points in everyone’s horological journey they’ll encounter the watch brand’s name online and either shrug it off to keep scrolling for a brand they recognize or they’ll fall into the research pit on Certina. I suggest to everyone that you should fall into the research pit because you’re most likely missing out.
For example here’s the Certina DS-8 Chronograph Moon Phase, a timepiece that brings a modern but bold take on the moon phase complication. Featuring a mixture of Arabic numerals and baton markers, the DS-8 Chronograph Moon Phase forgoes design for design’s sake and instead allows function to lead the aesthetics.
This model is also COSC chronometer certified, meaning that it’s been tested by a Swiss testing authority and certified as meeting rigorous accuracy and reliability standards.
Glycine Combat Moon Phase
|Price Range:||$600 – $620|
|Case Size:||40mm (diameter) x 46mm (lug to lug)|
|Movement:||GL280 (Modified Sellita SW280-1 – Mechanical)|
|Water Resistance:||100 meters|
I’m not sure if anyone’s noticed (but I’m positive most of you have) but up until this point we’d only been dealing with quartz moon phase watches. Well here’s the first automatic movement moon phase watch on our list: the Glycine Combat Moon Phase. Known primarily for the Combat Sub as well as the Glycine Airman, the Glycine Moon Phase watch is usually a pleasant surprise to everyone that stumbles upon it.
Powered by a modified Sellita SW280-1 (branded as a GL280 Glycine caliber), this moon phase watch is an interesting combination of what you’d typically expect from a traditional moon phase complication but with the added twist of being in a military inspired field watch design format. This take is honestly totally on point for Glycine since the military design space is where they operate. At 40mm in diameter with a very respectable 12mm in thickness, the Glycine Combat Moon Phase watch would be a fantastic option for someone’s everyday wearer.
Orient Star Classic Moon Phase
|Price Range:||$750 – $950|
|Case Size:||41mm (diameter) x 49mm (lug to lug)|
|Movement:||Orient F7M62 (Mechanical)|
Now we’re getting into the wonderful world of Orient Star, unlike their more well known counterpart (Orient Watches), Orient Star quality is in a league all of its own. If you’re unfamiliar with Orient Star I would equate the quality and technological ingenuity to be on par with that of Seiko Presage. Orient Star pieces are better quality, feature tighter fit and finish, and they tend to feature interesting complications, like these Moon Phase watches from the Orient Star Classic line.
Offered in a white (RK- AY0102S) and black (RK-AM0004B) dial, these timepieces artfully combine the elegance of roman numerals, elongated feuille (leaf) style hands, an elegant open-heart dial, and the charming moon phase complication. The amount of detail and work that’s designed into the dial could have felt visually overwhelming but there’s a level of design balance taking place that truly allows this Orient Star Classic Moon Phase to be something much more than the sum of its parts.
The in-house Orient F7M62 mechanical moon phase automatic movement featured in this watch is an upgraded version of the first mechanical moon phase the watch brand released in 2017. The majority of the improvements centered around power reserve (now with 50 hours of power reserve) and accuracy (+15 / – 5 seconds per day).
Orient Star Contemporary Moon Phase
|Price Range:||$750 – $950|
|Case Size:||41mm (diameter) x 48.5mm (lug to lug)|
|Movement:||Orient F7M63 (Mechanical)|
Like the idea of an Orient Star moon phase watch but feel like the OS Classic series just isn’t right for you? It’s worth checking out the Orient Star Contemporary Moon Phase. The differences between the Classic and Contemporary series are quite stark. Many of the flourishes, curves, and interplays between Roman numerals and Arabic numerals are omitted in the OS Contemporary design.
Instead, economy of design balance is exercised with the usage of clean lines where applicable. Plus, the Orient Star Contemporary Moon Phase watch is slightly thinner and the lug to lug is slightly shorter as well. Both of these sizing reductions will allow the automatic watch to feel and function more as an everyday wearer as opposed to the “special occasion” dress watch aesthetic that the Classic Moon Phase features.
The Orient F7M63 mechanical moon phase movement here is nearly identical to the F7M62 but it seems like some slight modifications have been made for the movement to compatible with the Orient Star Contemporary case.
Frederique Constant Classics Business Timer
|Price Range:||$1195 – $1295|
|Case Dimensions:||40mm x 49mm x 10mm|
Swiss brand Frederique Constant is a relative new comer in the horological world having released their first watches in 1992. But the budding luxury watch brand has made a name for themselves with their approach towards accessible luxury, believing that high horological timepieces should be sensibly priced and easily available to more people to enjoy.
Like, for example, moon phase watches. Among the different product lines where Frederique Constant offers moon phase dials, the Classics Business Timer represents the best value. Offered in two dial versions, one moon phase dial features a printed dial with a harder lean towards vintage “I-just-found-this-in-my-grand-father’s-train-trunk” vibe. The other dial features applied markers and a much more restrained design that’s still certainly classic but a bit more timeless in design.
The value on this moon phase timepieces comes from the fact that it’s quartz – as such, Frederique Constant is able to include many other complications in addition to a high standard of fit and finish. Additional complications include a day wheel, a date wheel, and a week of the year counter (that’s the 1-51 readout around the edge of the dial). The tradeoff here is that there is technically no running seconds hand.
Longines Master Collection Moon Phase
|Price Range:||$2150 – $2525|
|Case Dimensions:||40mm x 46mm x 10mm|
|Movement:||L899 (Branded ETA A13.L91 – Mechanical)|
With nearly 200 years of horological tradition empowering their brand, anyone that’s remotely interested in affordable luxury watch brands needs to look into Longines. In particular their Master Collection features only mechanical movements while the designs combine effortless style, legendary quality, and a sense of timelessness that will fit into anyone’s collection.
The Longines Master Collection features a series of Moon Phase watches in three dial colors: black, silver, and blue. These Longines Moon Phases are powered by the automatic Longines L899, which is a branded ETA A31.L91 movement that features a very nice 72 hour power reserve. The case features no sharp angles and utilizes sweeping lines to create a sense of elegance for the watch.
This case design becomes an excellent canvas for the dial which features simply baton markers and very delicately shaped leaf hands. Counter balanced against the logo at 12 o’clock, the moon phase and date selector become a visual anchor point for your eye. The raised chapter ring also creates a sense of visually drawing your eye in towards the dial of the watch.
It’s my personal opinion that the Longines Master Collection Moon Phase watch has the potential to be both an occasional (nice watch) but also an everyday wearer. The use of the baton markers and the case shape are scenario-flexible especially when you consider strap changes.
Understanding How To Read A Moon Phase Watch
The moon phase feature of a watch is viewable through an additional window (or opening) on the dial (or face) of the timepiece. Through this additional window one can view a rotating wheel that is aligned to the trajectory of the sun and the moon to each other, displaying how much of the moon is illuminated by the adjacent sun (it’s moon phase).
As the wheel rotates on the watch, more or less of the moon will be visible. The visibility of the moon through this window is what conforms to the phase (or illuminated) portion of the moon, dictating which moon phase is currently active.
What Are The Different Moon Phases?
Below I’ve created some illustrations that display how to read and interpret the placement of the moon phase indicator on the dial in relation to the 8 phases of the moon.
The first phase of the moon. The “New Moon” is characterized by the moon and the sun sharing the same celestial longitude position with each other. This means that the part of the moon that’s facing the sun isn’t facing earth, so there is no portion of the moon being reflected to earth. During the “New Moon” the moon is either not visible or barely silhouetted as will be shown as displayed above.
Waxing Crescent Moon
The second phase of the moon. As the sun and moon continue their rotation around each othe, the moon shifts out of the “New Moon” and gradually eases into the “Waxing Crescent Moon” phase. “Waxing Crescent Moon” is characterized by just breaking reflection of the sun against the moon.
First Quarter Moon
The third phase of the moon. As the moon continues its orbit around the each and as the earth continues its orbit around the sun, the moon shifts into the “First Quarter” moon phase, which is characterized by approximately half of the moon being visible as a result of the illumination from the sun.
Waxing Gibbous Moon
The fourth phase of the moon. “Waxing Gibbous” is simply the continuation of these celestial giants in relation to each other and the Earth. In this moon phase, more of the moon has been illuminated and approximately 3 quarters of the moon are visible.
The fifth phase of the moon. Quite possibly the most well-known moon phase, the “Full Moon” is when the portion of the moon that is most illuminated by the sun is fully facing earth, making the moon in its entirely visible.
Waning Gibbous Moon
The sixth phase of the moon. The trajectory continues as the sun and moon continue their respective orbits. In the “Waning Gibbous” moon phase, the portion of the moon that is being reflected towards earth begins to diminish (or wane – hence the name).
Third Quarter Moon
The seventh phase of the moon. “Third Quarter” moon is the inverse of the “First Quarter” moon where the left-most portion on the moon is now most visible.
Waning Crescent Moon
The eighth and final phase of the moon. “Waning Crescent” moon is the inverse of “Waxing Crescent” where the iconic crescent shaped moon is breaching its reflection from the left-most portion of the moon.
From this point, the moon phases reset with the onset of the “New Moon.”
Commonly Asked Questions About Moon Phase Watches
What Is A Moon Phase Watch?
A moon phase watch is a timepiece that displays the different positions and phases of the moon in relation to the sun; this is the basis of the 29.5 day lunar cycle. Depending on where the sun and moon are in relation to each other dictates how much of the sun is reflected on the moon, which is what denotes the “phase” of the moon.
Are Moon Phase Watches Accurate?
Some moon phase watches are more accurate than others. What controls the accuracy of a moon phase watch is the fact that a full lunar calendar is 29.5 days, which isn’t a round number. The reason accuracy here is depending on a round number of days for the lunar cycle is because the number of teeth on the gears of the moon phase complication must match the days of the cycle. That presents an issue because gear teeth generally can’t accommodate non-round numbers (or in this case, half days).
As such, the gear teeth are force-rounded to a non-decimal number and in most cases that is 59 gear teeth, but this is where intended accuracy is an issue. By forcing a rounded number onto the lunar cycle, we’re essentially baking error into the accuracy since each gear movement isn’t exactly aligned with the movement of the sun and the moon. That means that slowly and slowly a 59 gear tooth moon phase will lose accuracy, needing to be readjusted approx. ever 2.5 to 3 years.
To combat this, there is a more elaborate version of the 59 gear tooth moon phase watch which features 135 teeth, meaning that readjustment will only be necessary approximately every 122 years.
How To Set A Moon Phase Watch?
You need to consult an online moon phase reference (such as https://www.moongiant.com/) and then utilize that in order to have a target for your moon phase complication.
- Step 1: Just to be safe, gently pull out the crown to the hand moving position (usually it’s the last position of the pulled crown) and set your watch to 6:30 – this is just a precaution to ensure that no gear movement of your moon phase disk damages the timepiece.
- Step 2: Advancing the moon phase (either by a side button/pusher (mechanical watches) or by a specified crown position (quartz watches) by one click generally equates to one day. With that in mind, use the online moon phase reference I mentioned above to determine when the last full moon was.
- Step 3: Advance the moon phase indicator until the watch is showing a full moon (this is when the moon icon on your watch is totally visibly and not obstructed at all.
- Step 4: Take the number of days that have passed since the full moon (as referenced in Step 2) and advance the moon phase forward by that many days. So if it’s been 10 days since the last full moon, advance the disk forward by 10 days. When done, you may set the hands of your watch back to the corrent time. At this point, you’ve successfully set your moon phase watch.
For some extra reference please refer to this Tissot video on how to set your moon phase. Some aspects of this video are only applicable to quartz watches but the method is still applicable.
Feel like there’s an affordable moon phase watch missing from the list? Comment below with your picks and I’ll check them out for the next edit here!
Kaz has been collecting watches since 2015, but he’s been fascinated by product design, the Collector’s psychology, and brand marketing his whole life. While sharing the same strong fondness for all things horologically-affordable as Mike (his TBWS partner in crime), Kaz’s collection niche is also focused on vintage Soviet watches as well as watches that feature a unique, but well-designed quirk or visual hook.