Today we take our focus on an automatic Moonphase watch with a huge display, offered by a relatively unknown company called Agelocer. We had the new Silver Moon Automatic in the house for about a week, and here is our hands-on review of the watch.
Another day another Kickstarter. But this one is different. What sparked our interest is the large moonphase display. And the partners involved in bringing this project to Kickstarter. Though not known to us, the players seem to be serious and have invested a lot of thought in the design and execution. The watch is well designed, and nicely finished. Even the Kickstarter page (link below) is very well done, with technical details in addition to the usual chest thumping, “we are the best” stuff. Quite impressive. Correspondence with Ken Yip, the brand founder was direct, responsive and fast.
Who are Agelocer?
We know little of the brand, but from our initial discussions with Ken, they are an international mechanical watch brand, headquartered in China, but with the design from an international team and a global parts supply chain. A quick look at their website reveals they have a number of product lines, and seem serious at the business of horology, with a commitment to provide quality products for modest prices. The brand claims to be one of the largest mechanical brands in China.
For this project Ken has chosen to work with the Swiss studio of BUG ME GmbH. The designers are Etienne Ruffieux and Marie Boutteçon are long-term partners of Agelocer and the main designers of Ref. 6406A1. The Swiss team worked in collaboration with China based movement designer Cony Lai.
Etienne is Swiss born, and studied architecture and product design. He has previously worked at Ebel, Zenith, Gucci Group, Parmigiani Fleurier, Reuge, Les Frères Rochat and other Swiss luxury brands.
Review: Agelocer Astronomer Series Aventurine Full Moon Silver Automatic
Ref. 6406A1 Silver Moon Auto Version: Kickstarter Early Bird Price: USD 659 (limitied), retail of USD 899. The Super Early Bird backer is fully subscribed for all 70 places.
The case, dial and hands
The immediate impression when one sees the Agelocer Silver Moon Automatic is the huge moon. Although it moves slowly such that its motion is not visually detected (it actually moves one small step once a day), the photo-realistic moon seems to glide across the expanse of the night sky.
The case is a good 40mm diameter, with a thickness of 11mm and made of 316L Stainless Steel. These dimensions make for a rather sleek case which wears as it measures. The three piece case design comprise of the rather standard round profile, with a sloped, polished bezel, a brushed straight grained case middle, and a polished back bezel. The lugs are also finished in a straight grain with the edge chamfer which is polished.
The massive moon is a photo realistic render which is 3D printed in a bright silver hue (another version with a gold hue moon is also available). It is set on an aventurine disc which moves once a day across an aperture on the dial, which is also in aventurine. This aperture is shaped to allow the moon as it traverses below to reveal its shape as one would perceive it in the sky. Waxing and waning across the night sky. Beautiful. The accuracy of the moon phase display is not stated in the Agelocer literature. The moon phase is corrected by the first pull position of the crown. The systems only allows for a correction in one day steps in the forward direction. A second pull adjusts the time.
Edit Apr 22: Ken of Agelocer replied that the moon phase display is conceptual, and makes one click every day for 31 days for one revolution. The display is only a very approximate show of which phase the moon is in, as it makes one cycle in 31 days instead of 27.322 days. This is a small, but very significant error. All moon phase displays have an inherent error, typically 1 day in 122 years, though the Strehler requires a correction of only 1 day in every 2 million years. But 5 days a month is quite a lot more than typical. As such, we must state categorically that we need to disqualify the Agelocer as a horological moon phase watch.
Hence the way the crown corrector adjusts is consistent to mounting the moon disc in place of the regular date wheel. This is a very simple system, though the date change system of the base movement would need modification to increase its torque to move a large disc instead of a date ring. This was also pointed out by one of the comments below.
The aventurine dial is reminiscence of the stars of the sky. The indices are in a silver hued appliqué. The hands are faceted, and also in the same silver hue. This is bright silvery look is achieved by platinum plating. The edge of the aperture is also framed with a similar silver hued metal, visually tying all the elements together.
The strap and buckle system also deserves a mention. The design is similar to the hole-less wrap around design of some Cartier watches. The strap fold back on the clasp of the deployant buckle and is adjustable in small increments to fit most wrist sizes. The strap is thick and rather stiff on both sides for a small part closest to the lugs, and then softens at the ends to allow bending back. The advantage of such a system is that it allows for small adjustments to fit almost any wrist so that the deployant buckle sits comfortably in the middle of the inside wrist. The negative of this system is that changing strap sizes is difficult and releasing the strap for a larger diameter shows up as ugly marks where the strap folds.
The movement is the Cal.A4610 automatic movement. Agelocer claims that they have been using the base movement for the last 5 years, and has proven reliable. The design is the work of Agelocer and independent Swiss watchmaking studios, and produced in Guangzhou, China. This is our first encounter with this movement.
The design looks like a three quarter plate architecture, with the mainspring barrel under a large bridge. The barrel supplies an autonomy of 80 hours. The layout looks quite traditional, and should be within the scope of capabilities of most qualified Swiss mechanical watchmakers to be able to service and repair.
Movement finishing is rather standard, and we think perhaps better than other watches in this price category. The finnisage boasts of some of the haute horlogerie elements like polished anglage, brushed circular satin finishing on the rotor, a circular Côtes de Genève on the main bridges, and perlage on other parts. The use of blued steel screws also enhance the contrast on the movement side and is a rather nice aesthetic touch. Of note the balance is held by a bridge instead of the usual cock. This provides a more stable and stiffer platform for the balance.
Though not stated, we believe the base movement is in brass, with rhodium plating. The overall finishing of the movement is satisfactory, and we have no complaints nor nits to pick. Especially when we take into consideration of its target price of the watch, but even when compared to watches retailing for several times more.
The competitive landscape
The competitive landscape of watches with large moonphase displays is not well populated. And it is this arena we must choose to compare the Agelocer Silver Moon Automatic watch to. Though if we widen the scope, and look at watches with a moonphase display, a quick survey will reveal hundreds of potential comparisons.
Edit April 22: we have to take back this comparison to A&S, as the Agelocer is not a moon phase watch as we know it, but only a conceptual display of the phases of the moon as it traverses the night sky. As such, it makes an entire moon cycle from new moon to new moon in 31 days.
Limited to large displays, perhaps the most obvious is the Arnold & Son HR Perpetual Moon. The moon on the Arnold & Son measures some 11.2mm while the Agelocer moon is only about 9mm. Conceptually, the implementation of the moon display is similar, though the A&S only shows the complete new moon to new moon cycle over only the top half of the dial, the Agelocer’s display offers a wider panorama, with the full cycle displayed over about 270 degrees of arc. This gives the impression that the moon is larger as it waxes and wanes, though in measurement, the moon itself is slightly smaller. The Arnold & Son retails at SGD 39,900 in a 18k gold case.
The Kickstarter (link above) has already started on March 30, and as of publishing date April 21, the campaign stands at SGD 73,827 pledged of SGD 3,987 goal. The Kickstarter campaign closes on Thu, April 29 2021 9:00 PM AWST.
From the Kickstarter site, the watch is now a GO, as it has already exceeded the exceeded the minimum, which is a curiously low amount just shy of SGD 4,000. This was achieved within 15 minutes of the Kickstarter going live.
We must say this is a very beautiful watch. The aesthetics are magnificent. The bright silvery moon, large as it is, gliding over the starry sky represented by the aventuring dial is somewhat magical. The watch sits very nicely on the wrist, and is comfortable. No doubt the buckle system is great for achieving the perfect fit.
The Agelocer Silver Moon Automatic is very appealing. And even at the current backer price of USD 659, represents a rather good value. Even at full retail of USD 899, the watch represents good value. Our only caution is that the company is relatively unknown (to us), as are their Swiss partners. However, our examination of the watch and of the investigations (non exhaustive, of course) on the company does not raise any flags, give us confidence that Agelocer is here for the long haul. And at this pricing level, there is hardly anything to lose.
Edit April 22: In view of the new information we received that the moon phase is not a reflection of what we see in the night sky, but rather a concept of a moon traversing the night sky. This weakens the value proposition argument somewhat, and disqualifies it from being classified a moon phase watch in our view. It reduces the Agelocer Silver Moon and its brethren to a simply a romantic idea. Nonetheless, our view of its aesthetics remain unchanged. Also, because of the low offer price, it still offers a rather interesting proposition. Caveat emptor!
The Agelocer Silver Full Moon Automatic was photographed in our studio. Hasselblad H3D-39 with HC 4/120 and HC 2.8/80 with H28 extension tube. Profoto strobes.
Case diameter: 40mm
Case finish: 316L stainless steel case, hand finished brushed on the sides, drilled lugs.
Pushers: Crown with four-leaf clover. The first gear adjusts the moon phase, the second gear adjusts the hour and minute.
Crown diameter: 6.5mm
Glass: Sapphire crystal with inner anti-reflective coating.
Movement: Agelcoer Cal.A4610 automatic movement, 27 jewels, 28,800 v.p.h, 80 hours power reserve, two-way chain mechanism.
Function: Hour, minute, moonphase
Water Resistance: 50m
Dials: Polished aventurine dial, 3D engraved moon.
Hands: Platinum-plated three-dimensional hands and scales.
Straps: Italian crocodile pattern leather strap.