A Phantom Date is when a watch doesn’t have a cut-out on the dial for a date window, even though the movement is still equipped with a calendar complication. Some collectors call it a Ghost Date.
This happens when watch brands design a “no-date” timepiece but they do not use a no date watch movement, or they do not make modifications to the movement to remove the calendar components.
Phantom Dates can be found on all types of movements (i.e., automatic or quartz) that originally have a datewheel.
On a watch with a date, there are typically three crown positions:
0 – Hand-winding or nothing
1 – Pull out one click to set the date
2 – Pull out two clicks to set the time
A no-date dial with a Phantom Date will still have the date setting position, and you can even hear the date flipping when turning the crown. A proper no-date watch will only have two crown positions.
Does it mean it’s a fake?
Some watch brands sell no date watches with a Phantom Date and others do not. For the brands that do not have a Phantom Date (Rolex and Tudor for example), having a Phantom Datewheel clicking around is a big red flag. In other words, no your watch model and brand before jumping to conclusions in either direction.
Is it a problem?
It’s not a problem per se, but some watch collectors find it to be annoying to have a Phantom Date. It is not ideal because there are extra moving parts that aren’t being used for anything. Depending on the price of the watch, if you are getting a no date dial then you may want a proper no date movement. With that said, it’s not a big deal, and certainly not uncommon for a no date to have a Phantom Date – especially from microbrands or more affordable watches.
One potential (but also uncommon) issue with the Phantom Date could be if the watch user inadvertently pulling the crown into date setting position instead of time setting position, then advancing the datewheel between the danger zone of 9pm-4am. This could jam up the movement.
Also, if the watch company isn’t attention detailed, then they could just press the hands on in any position instead of lining them up at 12:00AM upon installation. If this happens, you may hear the datewheel flip at a random time such as 8:20PM or 2:50AM, depending on when they put the hands on.
Does your watch have a Phantom Date? Are you bothered by it? Please add it in the comments below…