In December 1968, Apollo 8 became the first crewed mission to circumnavigate the moon. Over the following three years, NASA landed a dozen astronauts on the lunar surface, including Buzz Aldrin, who famously wore an Omega Speedmaster during his historic moonwalk with Neil Armstrong in July 1969.
Originally developed for road and track, the Speedmaster was declared “Flight Qualified for all Manned Space Missions” in 1965, and Omega became the exclusive watch supplier to NASA.
Last year, to mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar circumnavigation, Omega released the Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon Apollo 8 ($9,750), the latest addition to its popular Dark Side of the Moon lineup. Made of black zirconium oxide ceramic, the model is distinguished by a cutaway dial that reveals the blackened movement with its bridges, and main plate decorated using a laser ablation technique to mimic the cratered lunar landscape. The dial side is a lighter shade than the back, referencing the two views seen by the astronauts.
A sapphire crystal case back is encircled with astronaut Jim Lovell’s words, “We’ll see you on the other side,” uttered to ground control before losing contact. The porthole showcases the Calibre 1861—dubbed 1869 in a nod to the first moon landing in 1969, which we expect to see Omega celebrate in a big way this year.
Omega’s space-age moon legacy is unique. Typically, watchmakers employ a moon phase complication to track the waxing and waning of the orb on the wrist. Given that our calendar is based on astronomical cycles, moon phases are closely connected to calendar functions, particularly perpetual calendars, which automatically adjust for months of varying lengths, including leap years, theoretically until the year 2100.
Last year, Patek Philippe merged its expertise in complex perpetual calendars and its highly coveted Nautilus sport watch, which was designed by the legendary Gerald Genta in 1974.
The first Nautilus Perpetual Calendar Ref. 5740/1G-001 ($119,070) is powered by the svelte Caliber 240 Q automatic movement equipped with a super-precise moon phase that is so accurate it deviates from the moon’s position by only one day every 122 years. The dial also displays month, day, date, leap year, and a 24-hour indicator.
Elegant and sporty at the same time, the 40mm white gold Nautilus measures only 8.42 millimeters thick, making it the thinnest perpetual calendar offered by Patek Philippe.
Another old-guard brand, Vacheron Constantin launched its retro-contemporary Fiftysix collection last year, with an eye toward collectors with urbane tastes and an affinity for vintage styling.
While the basic automatic establishes a new entry-level price for Vacheron, at $11,900 in steel, the range also includes a 40 mm Complete Calendar ($23,500 in steel and $36,800 in rose gold). Day of the week and month are displayed in two apertures, while the date is indicated around the periphery with a blue arrow hand. But the moon phase at 6 o’clock instantly catches the eye: With no stars or other ornamentation, the moon on a pure blue background is clean and modern, standing out on the retro, sector-style dial.
Like the Patek Philippe, it will theoretically stay on course with the moon’s phases for 122 years. By then, watchmakers may be setting their sights on Mars.