Ebb And Flow: Christiaan Van Der Klaauw Real Moon Tides
The tide, dear Brutus, lies not in ourselves, but in our star . . . and moon, and we are under it.
While this play on Shakespeare is not nearly as elegant as the original quotation, it does reflect the truth, or part of the truth, concerning the cause of the tides that every coast-dweller will surely have noticed by now.
Historically, tides have spent periods being misunderstood, closely observed, and now marginally forgotten by the planet’s general population.
Likely due to the fact that many live in cities far removed from the visible effects of the sea tides, our culture has largely forgotten a supremely interesting phenomenon that occurs twice every single day here on planet earth (in most places). The tides once governed timekeeping for coastal peoples around the world, and they still are extremely important to billions who live near the sea.
The most incredible aspect of tides, to me, is how variable they actually are when you really get into the nitty-gritty details. Most people who understand tides will say there is a high tide and low tide twice a day (a semi-diurnal tide). That fact rings generally true in many locations around the world, but there are thousands of places where this is completely false based on a variety of factors. These regions may have tides that are diurnal (one high and one low daily) or mixed (a wide variance from two different high-low cycles).
Coastline geometry, relative latitude, lunar altitude (above the equator), relative moon and sun alignment, and seafloor morphology all contribute to some very interesting tidal cycles around the world.
There are even places where tides simply don’t happen if they are near a tidal node where the resonance of the wave (the oscillation of water back and forth over the earth’s surface) cancels itself out and the amplitude of the water remains near zero.
This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of spring and neap tides, which are based on a monthly cycle directly related to the lunar cycle. This causes a period of maximum high tides (spring) and a period of minimum high tides (neap) when the sun is adding or subtracting to the aggregate force on the oceans.
This is caused when the sun, earth, and moon are in line with each other (at full moon and new moon for the spring tides) and when they are at right angles to each other (at first quarter and third quarter for the neap tides).
Nothing is completely consistent, but that’s okay
Given all of these variables in the tides based on location and astronomical effects, how could you build a tide indicator that is at all accurate? Easy, you just use the M2 tidal constituent as your basis for calculation. And that is exactly what the Christiaan van der Klaauw Real Moon Tides uses for its tidal indicator.
I know: it’s about time I brought a watch into the picture.
But I first wanted to give you a good idea of how tides work so you can appreciate both the the simplicity and the complexity of with which they can be approximated. The Christiaan van der Klaauw brand is expert in astronomical timepieces and has built some incredible examples of three-dimensional moons and miniature solar systems.
In the Real Moon Tides, the brand’s watchmakers incorporated an indication of the phenomenon that is the most real-world expression of the moon’s effects towards life on earth: tides.
A reason that many have claimed the relative usefulness of the moon phase complication is its use in tracking tidal cycles as a side effect. In most locations on earth, the “principal lunar semi-diurnal” constituent (i.e., the main factor) in the tidal cycle controls the average diurnal tides.
This is known as the M2 tidal constituent and simply is one-half the time it takes for the moon to reach the same point in the sky the next day.
Since the earth and the moon’s orbit are in the same direction, this period is slightly longer than a day. The M2 is one-half of the value, timed at 12 hours, 25.2 minutes (so about 12 more seconds). This is the calculation used to create the rising and ebbing tides in the Real Moon Tides.
This also means that the tides will slowly shift backward with the high tides occurring later and later until a full lunar cycle completes and is back where it started.
How it works in mechanical form
The mechanism in the Real Moon Tides that accomplishes this is pretty darn awesome and happily is also relatively straightforward to understand. Thanks to the set M2 time period, a gear train off of the second wheel (where the minute hand is attached via a canon pinion) has been calculated to turn a cam once every 12 hours, 25 minutes, and 12 seconds.
At the end of the offshoot gear train is a cam, mounted to a gear, with a vertical finger that rides in a slot of the tides animation slider. The miniature waves are actually part of a box-shaped plate sliding vertically (in relation to the dial) and held in place by two screwed retaining plates on either side.
The center of the tides plate is open, revealing a radiating straight line engraving underneath. As the cam rotates and the finger rides in the slot of the tides plate, the plate slides toward 12 o’clock and back again from the center over the twelve-plus hour period. This creates the twice daily high and low tides common in places around the world. On the opposite side from the tides is the moon phase portion of the Real Moon Tides.
The Real Moon is tied to the going train as well, but has a much longer period of rotation. Since Christiaan van der Klaauw is the master of astronomical complications, the moon phase calculation on this timepiece is much more accurate than the typical two-and-a-half year base of the lower end models, and is even significantly more accurate than 122-year moon phases. In fact, this watch is more than 90 times as accurate, with a single day of deviation every 11,000 years!
That makes this watch the most accurate moon phase displayed by a three-dimensional moon. It also makes this watch the second most accurate moon phase watch in existence . . . for now. If you want to learn more about some other super-accurate moon phase watches, check out my rundown in The 8 Most Accurate Moon Phase Wristwatches Today.
Moon on its axis
The realistic moon of the Real Moon Tides rotates perpendicular to the movement gear train thanks to a central axle and a 90-degree meshed gear to change the axis of rotation. The moon itself is a half-black, half-silver sphere that is cratered and marked just like the actual moon.
It is surrounded by a matte black concave dish to emphasize the moon phase as it would be seen against the black of space.
As a stylistic variation, the tides plate is actually engraved and hand-enameled to look like a more illustrative set of waves rolling in. It actually reminds me of the paper waves puppet shows might use. It’s a cool change from the very realistic moon and the ultra-classic styling of the rest of the Real Moon Tides.
The numerals only go around the top half of the dial, with small bullet indications wrapping almost the entire rest of the way around the dial. A radiating guilloche pattern emanates from the center underneath the blued Breguet-style hands.
But what sets it apart is the center assembly, all at home in an almost symmetrically shaped plate that highlights the tides and the moon phase as being something wholly different from the rest of the watch.
Of course it is a part of it, but it stands above the function of the watch – to tell time – and creates an astronomical instrument on your wrist. It also happens to be an instrument that looks darn good no matter what your preferences are. It has a little bit for everyone and then some. You can see and control a realistic animation of the dial to see how the displays evolve at www.klaauw.com/cvdk-real-moon-tides.
Heck, even if none of that does it for you, it is an automatic watch powered by a double barrel movement boasting a very healthy 96 hours of power reserve.
The Real Moon Tides is a serious watch with an awesome complication. And it reminds people that we all come from the sea, and the sea calls to us.
Or is that just my cat in the other room? I’m sticking with the sea.
Yeah, it’s the sea calling.
But just in case you are on hold with the sea, let’s do a breakdown!
- Wowza Factor * 9.25 This watch not only features a miniature moon, but a tidal indication that is more than wow-worthy.
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 98.1 » 962.032 m/s2 A serious amount of G force that will definitely hold your butt in the seat long enough for the tide to come in.
- M.G.R. * 66 Super, duper accurate moon phase with three-dimensional moon AND a tides indication make the movement in the Real Moon Tides verifiably geeky.
- Added-Functionitis * Serious Second most accurate moon phase with a tides indication means this watch requires prescription-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for that cyclic swelling.
- Ouch Outline * 11.9 – Getting your foot ran over while wearing wicker shoes! It may be 1987 and your hair is huge, but getting a foot run over by a barge of a Cadillac would be excruciating. And, yet, I would gladly fall on that grenade to get this watch on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * 12 hours, 25 minutes, and a few odd seconds. One high and one low tide; that is all it would take to fall head over heels for this piece. At that point you might as well sign up for the gift registry!
- Awesome Total * 885.66 Divide the number of years until the moon phase will need adjusting (11,000) by the number of hours of a tidal cycle based on the M2 tidal constituent (12.42) and you get one awesomely nerdy total!
For more information, please visit www.klaauw.com/real-moon-tides.
Case: 42 mm, pink gold
Movement: self-winding Caliber CVDK7383 with CVDK Real Moon Tides module
Functions: hours, minutes; moon phase, tides
Price: 36,950 Swiss francs in steel, 53,450 Swiss francs in red gold