Independent watchmaking can be a bit underappreciated, especially by those new to the hobby, but that’s a huge mistake. The independent segment of the market is probably the most passionate and pure, and while big box brands can certainly produce high-quality timepieces, there is just no replacement for the intimacy one can get with a watch made by a small independent brand. Case in point, this Sarpaneva Korona K3 Black Moon limited edition. Unlike most watches which are the product of teams of engineers, designers, and watchmakers, this watch was almost entirely built from start to finish with love by one man, Stepan Sarpaneva.
Stepan Sarpaneva was born the son of a jewelry designer—Pentti Sarpaneva—and was basically destined to be a watchmaker from day one. He graduated from the Finnish School of Watchmaking, then WOSTEP, and went on to work for notable watch brands like Piaget and Parmigiani. After cutting his teeth in Switzerland, Sarpaneva decided to branch out on his own in 2003 and started his own company in Helsinki, Finland, where he currently operates and where this specific watch was created.
This Sarpaneva creation is a Korona K3 Black Moon. It was introduced during a black moon ceremony in February of 2009. Now, “Black Moon” isn’t an official astrological term, and its meaning is up for debate, but the name sure is fun and ominous-sounding and definitely goes well with this dark and brooding watch. The watch is part of a series of various “Moon” versions that utilize Sarpaneva’s signature moonphase complication with its personified face. However, this example is a limited edition of just twenty pieces and is notably a Red Dot design award winner.
As its name suggests, the Black Moon is, well, black. Basically, every component on the watch is a shade of grey or black, and while that doesn’t do wonders for the watch’s legibility, the shades and finishing vary enough to make it readable and let’s be honest, no one buys an all-black watch for legibility anyway. They buy it because it’s a timelessly sexy look.
Measuring 44m in diameter by just 9.6mm thick, this is a large but svelte timepiece. That said, all oe Stepan’s creations have rather short lugs, allowing them to wear rather comfortably on smaller wrists regardless of the larger diameter. The case is stainless steel with a black DLC coating and the bezel and crown both have Sarpaneva’s solar-inspired coronal pattern found on his other timepieces. The DLC is matte and has an almost weathered look that gives the watch a very toolish and industrial aesthetic. This weathered all-black look is what most draws me to this watch, particularly because it bucks the trend of moonphase movements occupying fancy dress watch cases. Instead, the Black Moon looks more like a rugged field watch from the future.
The dial design seen here is common on Sarpaneva watches, and I think it’s an innovative implementation of the skeleton dial. The uniform pattern and rugged brushed finishing give off strong Star Wars vibes, and it also allows the moonphase to be the star of the show. Unlike most modern moonphase complications, this moon has a face whose expression is the focus of many watch nerd debates. Some say the moon is stern or angry, but I prefer focused. Either way, the expression of the face on the moon has become synonymous with Sarpaneva’s pieces. Its origins are rooted in the moonphases of yore being inspired by Brequet timepieces from over 200 years ago. Whatever the inspiration, I love it. There’s a storybook quality to the face that I really connect with, and I like that it makes you take the watch less seriously.
Moving to the center of the dial, you’ll find distinct hands with prominent arrow tips. The arrows are very dark and match the moon phase allowing them to stand out against the gunmetal gray skeletonized dial. You’ll also notice that there is very subtle branding at three o’clock with simple text reading “SARPANEVA.” This is the only branding on the watch with the caseback just stating “BLACK MOON” for the model and a “No.” indicating which of the 20 examples you are holding. The caseback is also where you’ll get the best view of the movement and where you can find an unobstructed moon man staring intently back at you.
Powering this menacing moonphase is a modified Soprod A10 automatic winding movement. This is a swiss caliber with a 42-hour power reserve, a quick set moonphase, and hacking seconds—despite the watch not having a seconds hand. The rotor is unconventional but harmonious with the rest of the watch in that it’s skeletonized and engine turned. There’s a white gold mass to motivate spinning, and of course, there is another moon man for good measure. The movement, like the dial, is conservatively but handsomely finished and is still very much worthy of a display caseback.
Versus The Competition
The Sarpaneva has a novel take on the moonphase, but what better watch to have a moonphase complication than the “Moonwatch.” This solid gold Omega Speedmaster is a part of the same family of watches that spent time on the Lunar surface. While the Black Moon is certainly going to appeal to those who want to go off the beaten path, it’s hard to deny the value presented in this automatic gold Speedmaster. This has to be considered if you’re shopping in the $13-$16k range for a moonphase.
However, if you’re less concerned with the complication and more about the aesthetics, let me direct your attention to another all-black timepiece. This Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT offers the same dark visual presence with a much more architectural and geometric case style. It’s also arguably more useful and is famously thin at just 6.9mm. This watch is a design enthusiast’s dream and, like the Black Moon, has a brooding and mysterious vibe that seems to be alluring for so many.
Sarpaneva says, “These watches are not created for everyone. They are exceptional timepieces intended for exceptional people.” I agree but with an amendment. This watch is an exceptional timepiece that should go to someone with an exceptionally high appreciation for watchmaking. Sarpaneva himself meticulously crafted this watch with love and passion, and I think anyone wearing this watch should be acutely aware of and appreciate that fact.
The ability to think out of the box and come up with totally original creations is what makes Sarpaneva’s watches so great. With this timepiece, Sarpaneva has taken what is normally a stuffy and sometimes intimidating complication and made it fun, dark, and downright cool. This just might be the most fun and approachable moonphase watch I’ve ever seen.