The moon wasn’t always female. Well actually, the moon was never female, because technically it has no gender — it is an inanimate chunk of rock — but you know what I mean. People think of the moon as being feminine. It’s interesting to note that in most ancient cultures, the moon was seen as a male entity or associated with male deities. This is true in the Inuit traditions, some Mesoamerican traditions, Hittite and Mesopotamian traditions and very distinctly in Old Norse folklore, where the Prose Edda and Poetic Edda both refer to the moon as being explicitly male. Only in East Asian and Mediterranean mythological traditions (the ones that actually made it through the millennia) is the moon personified as a woman.
Interesting? No? Don’t care? Okay, I guess that’s fair. Anyway I find it quite interesting, if only because I had a conversation with Montblanc CEO Jérôme Lambert last year about how certain complications are seen as resolutely masculine or feminine. The minute repeater is of course seen as feminine, the chronograph as masculine, the moonphase display as feminine. I think this is kinda sexist and baseless, but that’s probably an argument for another time. At the end of the conversation, Mr Lambert said he saw my point, but I ultimately lost out because I was supposed to spend that half an hour speaking with him about the new Bohème watch and instead spent a good percentage of that time being stridently feminist. Yeah I know, way to go, me.
The Montblanc Bohème Moongarden, which we saw at this year’s edition of Watches & Wonders, is a rarely seen complication that steps neatly out of the feminine moonphase watch category. There is an indication of the phases of the moon — obviously, the other complication wouldn’t really have a lot of relevance without it — but the main point of focus is the indication of the lunar months by their traditional vernacular names.
The waxing and waning of each moon cycle has always provided us with a tangible sense of the passing of time in the way that the rising and setting of the sun does not. The whole purpose of some of the most ancient calendar systems (I’ve done a lot of research on this, which is time I’ll never get back, to be honest) is to unite the solar and lunar chronological dicta. This is no easy task, since they are based on completely different units of time.
Inasmuch as each moon cycle corresponded roughly to the agricultural divisions of the year — you get about three moon cycles per season — each moon was bestowed with a name that indicated the time of the year they fell in.
Names such as Ice Moon (January) and Harvest Moon (October) are pretty self explanatory, but terms such as Oak Moon (December, named for the hardiness and strength of the oak) and Dyan Moon (June, taken from the medieval English word for “divine” or “pinnacle”) are a little harder to parse. Just so you know, trying to research the origins of these names involves ploughing through a bunch of new-age blogs festooned with Celtic imagery and peppered with delightfully alliterative phrases such as “magick and mystery” or “legend and lunacy”. Not even kidding with the spelling of “magick” either.
Thankfully the Montblanc Bohème Moongarden has a handy little reference chart engraved on the back of the watch to let you know which moon belongs to which month.
Now, if you know anything about the lunar cycle, you’ll know that each complete lunar cycle falls short of one Gregorian month, which means occasionally you’ll get more than 12 full moons a year, and you can have two full moons in one month. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the so-called blue moon, and its appearance is not regular (though it is predictable). For this reason, it isn’t part of the moon cycle display in the Montblanc Bohème Moongarden, but you’ll know when it happens — the moonphase display indicates a full moon at the beginning of the month, and that’s your blue-moon month.
The saying “once in a blue moon” is used to refer to something that happens very infrequently, like how often we think about how people in the past used to experience and calculate time. The Montblanc Bohème Moongarden brings that awareness back into our everyday lives, and I think that’s pretty cool.