We take a look at the Union Glashütte Belisar Moon Phase, a chronograph with a number of complications.
Sometimes, you wonder who reads your articles, but there I was minding my own business when the good folks at the Swatch Group here in Germany shot me a note. You see, I had mentioned a newly released Union Glashütte Belisar Pilot’s watch (the Big Date) on one of my weekly installments of This Week in Watches. I had also stated that I knew little about the brand and had never held one. Well, the team saw this and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing their new Union Glashütte Belisar Moon Phase. I said yes despite the fact that moon phase watches aren’t really in my wheel house. Still, variety is a good thing, right?
A week or so later, I received the 4,800 Euro stainless steel and 18K gold Union Glashütte Belisar Moon Phase in the mail complete with a user’s manual – a good thing that we will touch in later – and adjustment tool. Upon opening it, I must admit that a couple things immediately struck me. First, the finishing looks really nice.
The dial, the case, and even the embossed brown leather strap present really well. The other thing that I noticed is that the Belisar Moon Phase is a large watch. At 44mm in diameter, over 53mm in length, 15.35mm in thickness, and 21mm lugs, the watch is definitely too large for my small wrists. Still, there are plenty of people who prefer and, in their eyes, require a watch of this size.
Before we get into the true heart of the Union Glashütte Belisar Moon Phase, we’ll spend some time discussing the dial and case. I mentioned I noticed the finishing right away and it’s apparent that this watch sits in one of the Swatch Group’s middle upper tiers. I am not sure if that makes sense, but I often think about how the Swatch Group goes to market with all of its different brands and differentiates them. Yes, I understand that there’s crossover in pricing, but then there’s also a different market segment depending on the brand. With Union Glashütte, it seems that they’re targeting those who enjoy German watches and the vintage pilot’s aesthetic. But, the brand does throw in some modern twists when looking through their catalog. But coming back to the dial on the Moon Phase, what I found is that it lacks the shininess that I often find on, say, a Longines. And that’s interesting because Longines actually offers a Moon Phase using the same base movement. When researching modern Moon Phase watches, Google even pointed me to an article that Robert-Jan penned about the watch from way back in 2014: the Longines Master Collection Moon Phase. Needless to say, it’s priced similarly (in steel) to the Union, but I like the German watch’s dial far more.
Perhaps it’s due to the eggshell white dial, the corresponding applied gold indices (3/6/9/12 are applied with gold darts marking the other hours), and the gold hands, but it comes across as very classy and elegant. The same can be said for the printed black font and the sub registers with their ridged surfaces. No, there’s nothing especially unique here – you pick up essences of everything from JLC to IWC – but it looks good. I especially like the fact that the 9:00 sub register, which shows running seconds and a 24-hour indicator, has a raised edge when compared to the sunken borders of the other two sub dials. Also, and I’m sure the the large amount of real estate helping, but the dial comes off as uncluttered despite a lot of information on hand to view.
One characteristic I noticed when writing up the brief on the Big Date was its case. Specifically, the case sides appear to have fitted strips of material that screw onto the main case to create a stepped look when viewing any watch within the Belisar collection from head on. The Union Glashütte Belisar Moon Phase has this attribute as well, but in this case, the strips are made of gold. What you end up with is a watch that has some semi-substantial gold additions, but these highlights are somehow not in your face. In fact, in some lighting, whether it’s the sides of the bezel, the yellow gold that Union comes off as so light that it almost blends into the steel main case.
Flipping the Union Glashütte Belisar Moon Phase over, you get a better view of how the gold fits into the case sides – or “flanks” as the brand’s site calls them. It’s a nice detail and something I’ve not really seen before.
The cal. UNG-25.01 automatic chronograph movement is at work within the Union Glashütte Belisar Moon Phase. After a bit of detective work, the primary difference I could find between this movement and a standard ETA 7751 is that Union modified it slightly to obtain a 60-hour power reserve instead of the normal 46. As you can see via the (8-screw) screw-down exhibition case back, the brand added its own finishing including a partially transparent rotor. But, you must be asking yourself, how does this movement work? Well, the answer, thankfully, is pretty easily.
As the UNG-25.01 within the Union Glashütte Belisar Moon Phase is ETA 7750-based, the chronograph functions operate per normal. Also, the watch can be hand wound and it hacks. Pulling the crown out 2 stops allows the wearer to set the time. Knowing whether the watch is in AM or PM is indicating by the 24-hour arrow-tipped hand within the 9:00 sub dial. Pulling the crown out one stop (or pushing it in one stop from time setting) then offers a couple of different functions. By turning the crown in one direction, the crescent-tipped central hand moves smoothly around the dial with barely-noticeable clicks as you move through the dates of the month. Moving it quickly around the dial is also the only way to advance the upper right aperture within the 12:00 subdial to arrive at the correct month. Once the month is right, one stops on the correct date. Turning the crown in the opposite direction allows the owner to set the moon phase, which is found within a window inside the 6:00 sub register. I looked up the current moon phase and we had just passed the “new moon” stage, so you can see the moon just beginning to wax from the left side of the window. Finally, the small pointed tool that came with the watch can be used to depress a button on the side of the case at 10:00 to set the correct day of the week. So, yes, it’s easy and once everything is set, you really only need to worry about months with less than 31 days. Apparently, the moon phase also goes out of alignment every couple years, but a check every so often on the internet about the current phase should keep things in order.
As I mentioned, the Union Glashütte Belisar Moon Phase is simply too large for my wrists. That’s not the watch’s fault – it’s genetics at work here. Still, though, there was something magical about setting the moon phase and the fact that everything worked so smoothly. Regarding pricing, you should know that all-stainless versions of this watch (there is one with gold hands and one with blued) cost 2,980 Euros. Whether it’s in steel or bi-color such as this model, that’s not inexpensive. But, Union Glashütte mentions in its history that they have always aimed to offer affordable German luxury versus brands such as Glashütte Original or even Lange. When looking at it that way, they’re certainly less expensive. If your wrist can handle 44mm and you fancy a well-finished German-made watch with complications, the Belisar Moon Phase is certainly worth a look.
For more information on the Union Glashütte Belisar Moon Phase, visit Union Glashütte’s official site.
Stainless Steel & 18K Yellow Gold
44mm diameter, 15.35mm thickness, 53mm lug to lug
White with Applied Indexes
Brown leather with Butterfly Clasp
UNG-25.01 (modified ETA 7751 with 60 hour power reserve instead of 46), automatic winding, hacking, hand winding possible
Time (HH:MM:SS), 12-hour chronograph, month, day, date, moon phase, 24-hour indicator
Tool for day changing included.
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