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Patek Philippe Moonphase

Horology_Ancienne
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Vintage Patek references up until the 3970/3940 boasted a very rich enamel moonphase with handcrafted accompanying gold stars and moon disc. For reference, slide 2 of this post shows a 2499 moonphase and slide 1 is of a 3970 moonphase. The enamel moonphase of the 2499 is a very rich navy blue that has a wonderful and radiating texture. The blue is engraved and filled with the gold stars and moons so they don’t sit on top of the disc. It’s one of the best moonphase discs I have ever seen in my life.

The 3970 standardises the moonphase creation process. No longer was the disc engraved or the stars shaped in by hand. This is evident in the giant leap in tolerances of star shapes and lines. It has become significantly more uniform from the 3970 onwards. Enamel is no longer used and the blue shade for the background is very dark compared to the rich tones of the enamelled predecessors. The moon and stars of both the 3970 and the 2499 are mirror polished, which indeed was the case for all Patek references with moonphase pre 5970.

The stars on the 3970 differ dramatically from the 2499 with very poignant thick black borders sitting on top of the moonphase disc. The borders hold the mirror polished gold stars within a recessed area just below it. This became the leading style for the stars until the later production stages of the 5970. This means icons such as the 5004, 5020 and the likes all followed the 3970 configuration. The 5970 served as a transitional reference for moonphase production. Earlier models had the same configuration as the 3970. Later on the stars lost their strong prominent border and were finished, along with the moon, in a frosted fashion, adding an exciting layer of depth. I’m inclined to say the transition happened with the introduction of the 5970j though I am not yet prepared to write off the existence of a 5970r with the frosted configuration. For modern/post vintage moonphase discs, it is cut from a wafer of corundum crystal. Gold is condensed onto the moonphase disc via a vacuum process through a photographic mask to deliver their shapes.

Every Patek wristwatch with moonphase pre 2499 had a similar enamelled moon disc to the 2499. This includes 97975, 96, 130 (not a typo), 1526, 1518, 1527, 1591, 2438 and 2497. Post 2499 introduction had a handful of references follow suit such as the 3449, 3448 and 3450. The style of the moon disc from the 3970/3940 followed every reference until the later stages of the 5970 for perpetual chronos. It is worth noting that most white metal calendars pre early 2000s like the 2499, 3448, 3940, 3970, 3974, 5004, and 5020 had a yellow gold moonphase for a white metal cases. This changed around the late 90s/early 00s. Following the 5970 every reference followed suit of the new frosted moonphase style with small exceptions.

Annual calendars went through a transitional period with the 5146. Early models featured the black border for the stars as seen in the 3970. Later in the 5146’s production it changed to the frosted configuration. This change was cemented with the arrival of the 5205 in 2010 which all came with the frosted moonphase interpretation. With perpetual only wristwatches, we also see a transitional phase from 3970 style to late 5970 style moon phases with the 5140 introduced in 2006. Just as with the 5146, earlier variants carried on the 3970/3940 tradition most noticeable in the strong black borders of the stars. Later down the line the moonphase configuration was switched to that of the borderless star frosted style.

In Patek’s current catalogue every wristwatch with moonphase follows the frosted configuration with the exception for the 6002. The 6002 marks the first return of enamel to a Patek moonphase in almost 30 years. “The circumference of the moon is elaborated in relief and enclosed with enamel”. But where things get cool, and I mean really cool, is the moon. To artistically depict the moon’s cratered surface, white, grey and black enamel are used in graduations. It is the best moon I have ever seen and one that is the product of painstakingly patient craftsmanship.

The 5575 and 5102/6102 also represent an interesting evolution of the PP moonphase. However, as they are isolated to very few references, I thought it would be better to focus on them individually at a later date. 

All pictures and watches are mine bar the 6002g. 


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2499j 4th series Tiffany


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3970j 1st series


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2497j 2nd series


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2499j 4th series Tiffany


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2499j 1st series


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5970j champagne Roman 12 - my unique commission


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2499j 4th series Tiffany


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2499j 4th series Tiffany


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5004p Sapphire - my unique commission


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2497j 2nd series


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5020g


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5320g


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5396r


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5970p EC unique commission


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5205r


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2499j 1st series


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6002g Picture from Patek Philippe


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3970j 1st series


This message has been edited by FabR on 2021-09-05 17:05:05

Comments:
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GLau September 5th, 2021-16:17
Many thanks H_A for this very interesting post on moon phases ! By reading it and seeing your photos, I am literally “over the moon” 🌝! Had no idea that there is such mystery behind this function. Do you have any comments on the 5575 moon vs the 6002’s ? Also, please share more information about your commissioned 5004.
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Horology_Ancienne September 7th, 2021-10:07
Really pleased you enjoyed this post! I let the 5575 and 6102 out as they are quite special moonphase designs that deserve a more in-depth exploration. Essentially the 5575 and 5102/6102 are quite isolated cases. The 5575 is a very special moonphase with its photorealistic depiction but it do... 
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FabR September 5th, 2021-17:03
Thanks my friend for such a beautifully-written and informative post -- besides of course the pleasure of seeing these unique pieces you have commissioned, this is simply the best article I have read on this specific theme! If I had to give ONE reason why I love Patek, it is their unique attention to details....The level of sophistication they have reached in representing the moonphase on these references, and how it evolved over time, is simply breathtaking! If someone wond... 
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Horology_Ancienne September 7th, 2021-10:09
Wow! Thank you for such a beautiful comment and indeed for the Editors Picks promotion It was quite a gruelling affair writing this post as there were so many transitional references. So many exceptions to the rule. But I’m glad you found this a helpful article on the topic. Despite the difficulties, I really enjoyed this project
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FabR September 7th, 2021-12:28
My pleasure— thank you again for this beautiful article😉🙏 
mdg September 5th, 2021-18:01
All amazing... ...but the 2499j first series really stands out for me because of the orientation of the date numerals. I wish they did that on all of their calendar watches. Plus, it looks like the stars were hand-painted...very beautiful.
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Horology_Ancienne September 7th, 2021-10:17
What’s even better is that they engraved the enamel to fill in the stars! They really really pop against the dial. Truly something special. I would love for them to make a return. At least on the special moonphase watches. Nice to see enamel did grace the 6002 moon!
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MTR September 5th, 2021-18:28
Many thanks for this very interesting, thoughtful written post full of information and impressive pictures. One question to the first picture (2499j 4th series Tiffany): are there some scratches on the stars or is this just due the light? All the best Thomas
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Horology_Ancienne September 6th, 2021-02:24
Thank you very much. Yes indeed there are some light scratches on the 2499. As well as imperfections in stars on both the 4th and 1st series. I’m yet to find a vintage watch that doesn’t have scratches on indexes, hands or the moonphase haha 
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amanico September 5th, 2021-21:29
An awesome read, and a feast for the eyes, the brain and the heart. Thank you so much for such an epic article. 
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