I’m a firm believer in the idea that you can’t effectively judge anything on numbers alone. Looking only at the statistics of a watch completely ignores the finish, the quality, the experience of a great timepiece that forms the base of this hobby. Two new announcements in recent days help make that point brilliantly. Within the past few days, both Christopher Ward and Frederique Constant have announced plans for a new in-house moonphase movement. Beyond that, both of the upcoming watches are sized at 40mm (with the Frederique Constant just a hair larger at 40.5), both feature sapphire crystals, display backs, and automatic winding. By the numbers, then, the two should be nearly identical, but there are huge differences in C. Ward’s and Frederique Constant’s approach.
First, let’s take a look at the Frederique Constant Classics Moonphase Manufacture. The Classics Moonphase Manufacture, powered by the new FC-175 movement, represents the 19th in-house movement from FC, and is lightly modified from the in-house movement used in the earlier Frederique Constant Slimline Moonphase to incorporate a central seconds. Moonphase watches as a segment are generally refined, dressy, and remarkably restrained in design terms, and the Classics Moonphase Manufacture certainly follows the basic trend. Overall, in fact, the effect is a little Patek Calatrava-ish, sharing cues like dauphine hands and faceted applied hour markers along with overall dial spacing.
That’s not to say that Frederique Constant haven’t made a handsome watch here, in fact it’s a brilliantly executed design, especially in rose gold. The case, with its simple rounded sides and mid-length curved lugs, is pure old-school dress, while the addition of a central seconds and outer seconds track make things just a touch more functional and also serve to differentiate this piece from FC’s own Slimline Moonphase, which took a more minimal, slender approach to the same general concept. Putting the two side by side, the Classics Moonphase Manufacture is as the name suggests the more classical of the two, and is perhaps the better suited to the boardroom-to-ballroom versatility of a moonphase.
Dressy designs like this, as we’ve written here before, live and die by tiny details, and everything from the date subdial to the faceting on the indices to the small onion crown meshes together perfectly. The one more adventurous take on the design front, the inclusion of a hinged officer-style back over a sapphire display, works well here, and shows off the perlage and Côtes de Geneve beautifully when desired. Mechanically, the new FC-175 looks to be a fine addition to FC’s lineup with a 42-hour reserve and some wonderful finishing. Pricing for the Classics Moonphase Manufacture is expected to be around $4000.
On the other side, we have the Christopher Ward C9 Moonphase. The C9 Moonphase is the latest in C. Ward’s flagship C9 series, and another in-house complication solution by horological wunderkind Johannes Jahnke, the movement designer behind such previous efforts as the C900 Worldtimer, the C9 Jumping Hour and the C9 5-Day Automatic.The C9 Moonphase, however, represents a significant step forward for C. Ward, with Jahnke’s moonphase module (on top of a ETA 2836-2 base instead of their bespoke SH21, in a surprising move that probably has to do with reducing cost and overall movement thickness) promising both smooth movement as opposed to the more usual daily jump in most moonphase complications, as well as an accuracy of within 1 day for every 128 years of running.
Supporting these bold claims is an even bolder design, one that is sure to be a major talking-point for the watch. Between the FC and the C. Ward, the C9 Moonphase is definitely the more daring in terms of style and in my opinion can be both a blessing and a curse. Instead of the more usual route Frederique Constant have taken with a small moonphase dial at 6, C. Ward have made a point of making the moon the centerpiece of the dial, and at more that half the area of the dial (22 millimeters wide!) it certainly is, shining brilliantly in nickel plate above a star-field of midnight blue and a guillochéd section meant to evoke the rolling tides of the lunar cycle.
The handset is polished needles taken straight from the rest of the C9 line, and the indices are slim applied rectangles with applied Roman numerals at 12, 3, and 9. The date window sits below the level of the main dial at 6 o’clock, and is kept unobtrusive with a dial-color wheel. The overall effect here is multi-layered, with the moon, the guillotined “tide”, the main dial, and the date window all sitting at different levels. The case is a bit more traditional, with simple flat sides and gently tapered lugs although the pillbox crown is a bit larger than you might expect. There’s no doubt it’s a striking design, and in certain dial and strap combinations, especially the midnight blue-on-blue, I find it incredibly attractive. I can definitely see this one being a divisive piece, however. The C9 Moonphase also offers a 38 hour reserve and a tentative starting price of £1295, or just over $2k when it goes on preorder this November.