noun / kɒm.plɪˈkeɪ.ʃən
something that makes a situation more difficult, or the act of doing this
Thankfully, that word isn't quite as negative in the world of horology. In horology, a complication refers to any feature in a timepiece beyond the simple display of hours and minutes. We’re more than familiar with the common ones: chronographs (measurement of elapsed time) and calendars, being the most practical functions on a day to day basis.
The Uselessness of the Moonphase Indicator
The moonphase indicator on a timepiece is not a practical one. It displays the age of the moon, as it waxes and wanes - a highly important function if you’re a werewolf, not so much otherwise.
Why a moonphase indicator is so utterly useless:
The age of the moon hardly matters to anyone, anymore.
The phase of the moon can be easily learned by, well, looking up at a certain big shiny orb in the night sky.
Don’t get me wrong. I adore this complication.
Am I a lunartic?
The moon is a poetic subject. There are countless tales surrounding the moon. The moon is our closest celestial friend. Every once in a blue moon, we find ourselves looking up and admiring its beauty. That familiar yellowish glow, a sense of guardianship over an otherwise cold stage of darkness. Whatever your faith and culture, historical occurrences have been marked in some relation to the lunar rhythm. It is natural that our fascination brought it onto our clocks and watches.
The moonphase complication is probably the prettiest complication of them all. It’s artistic, and visually compelling. More often than not, you’ll never really know exactly how deep you are into a lunar cycle save for a new or full moon. Does it matter?
Elaborate thought and design have gone into the animation of this complication, also granting watchmakers the opportunity to demonstrate their artisanal prowess. From rotating discs, to sculpted radial hands, the complication now comes in a wide variety of forms.
A lunar cycle lasts 29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes, and 2.8 seconds. Most watches (with a 59 teeth moonphase wheel) run a 29.5 day lunar cycle which is highly accurate, considering the grand scheme of things. It will only be off by one full day every two years, seven and a half months, assuming the watch ticks uninterruptedly throughout which is obviously unrealistic.
Some watchmakers are not contented with a mechanism that requires one adjustment every 2 and a half years, and have chosen to challenge this ‘perfection’. The record for most precise phase of the moon indication ever built in a wristwatch belongs to Andreas Strehler’s Sauterelle à Lune Perpétuelle: good for approximately 2.045 million years. Eclipsing any other system prior.
Having no use for practicality, the moonphase complication was free to be explored both artistically and technically. Exhibiting excellence in both beauty and innovation unrivalled by any other complication.
Disclaimer: All moon puns intentional and the author is un-Apollo-getic.