The world of watches is filled with innovations and there is always room for more. Watchmakers all around the planet thrive to come up with the next best thing in the watch industry, therefore, endless styles of dials, hands, markers, cases, bezels, straps, and primarily, movements have come to life.
The concept of timekeeping has been always admired and it is as substantial as it is abstract. Watchmakers have shaped the forms and come up with new ideas, without losing the main purpose of the watch – timekeeping. Today we are going to break down the watch dial types. Also known as the watch face, the watch dial is where the numerals and markers are aligned with the hands pointing at them. For editorial purposes, we have divided the watch dial types into several categories. Surf through them…
Watch Dial Concepts
Digital Watch Dials
Digital dials along with smartwatches are the final word in watchmaking. This relatively new invention is paving the way to a new concept of timekeeping, that might as well change the way we keep track of time for good.
See, people like technology, and they like having a little Iron Man Tool on their wrists (I included). Therefore a G-Shock or an Apple Watch are sometimes placed first due to their functionality.
It is a hate it or love it matter. And if by any chance you are a fan of classic watchmaking (I also included), better go look elsewhere. And almost forgot! Analog digital watches also exist. And they are having trouble positioning themselves in the right category. An analog digital watch is the best of both worlds.
As the name suggests, these types of watches feature the classic hands keeping track of time, and an additional LED screen to display other functions. Breitling Cockpit B50 is the perfect example.
Skeleton Watch Dials
Skeleton dial watches are made to impress. This watch dial type exposes the mechanism to the wearer in the best possible way. The concept is commonly found on watches with mechanical movements. Skeleton watches are no new in the watch industry.
The world’s first skeleton watch is believed to have been invented in the 1760s by Frenchman André-Charles Caron. However, the watchmaking industry would have to wait 200 years to make skeleton dials a trend. It is due to the Quartz Crisis that we can today enjoy skeleton watches as they are.
The Swiss watchmaking industry decided to use them as an exhibition of their craftsmanship heritage, an effort of showing the superiority and complexity of mechanical movements above the quartz movements. An extraordinary example is Jacob and Co Bugatti Chiron Tourbillon. A hyper watch paying tribute to a hypercar.
Analog Watch Dials
Now, this is where we will get more into true watchmaking and material workmanship. The analog watch dials are simple and true to their past. The classic concept is to this day superior and has seen development and new styles as well.
The watchmaking heritage is centuries old, and the first watchmakers used a sundial to keep track of time. And guess what? They needed a dial too. And it was made of a piece of stone (dial) that was equally divided (hour markers) with the shadow of the stone (created by the sun) pointing to the markers to keep track of the elapsed time.
The Romans were the first to divide the day into 12 hours for better timekeeping. Leaving aside the history of the past, we jump forward to take a closer look at the present watch dial styles, patterns, materials, and colors.
Watch Dial Styles
Marquetry is an ancient artwork technique that you will find being applied to high-end timepieces. Simply put, the style consists of using tiny pieces with different shades from natural materials that are put together to form a pattern or design.
Different reputable watch brands around the globe have used different materials to come up with state-of-the-art marquetry watch dials. For example, The Royal Tiger from Patek Philippe features a wood marquetry dial. On the other hand, Arceau Cavales and Slim d’ Hermès Les Zebres de Tanzanie from Hermes come with leather marquetry dials.
Also known as the engine turning technique, the Guilloché dial style consists of a repetitive pattern that is engraved into an existing texture, to come up with a beautiful dual-styled dial. This type of technique was used to be completed with artisan components, to pave the way today to mechanization.
It was first seen on Breguet watches, the creator of who (Abraham-Louis Breguet) also came up with the Breguet watch hands, the Tourbillon, and many other inventions that shaped the watchmaking for good.
I believe we can all agree when I say that this style belongs to the past. I mean, you don’t see crosshair watch dials anymore around. For the ones who don’t know, a crosshair dial watch is that type of watch that comes with a crosshair marking usually positioned on the center of the dial.
You will find that type of style adorning the dials of JLC Geophysic, Omega Seamaster, and Omega Constellation models among others.
Watch Dial Patterns
The tapisserie watch dial consists of a surface of small squares separated by thin cuts. The pattern might be familiar to many of you, courtesy of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.
Inspired by the Guilloché dial, the pattern was designed by Mr. Gerald Genta, who also worked for IWC, Omega, and Patek Philippe.
This dial pattern is easier in form and simpler when compared to other watch dials mentioned in this article.
It consists of vertical stripes which are engraved in the dial material to create a uniform pattern that is pleasant for the eye. You will find it being used on Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra models as well as the Orient Star Standard-Date.
Watch Dial Materials
Mother of Pearl Dials
Widely used by fine watchmakers due to its iridescence when viewed from different angles, a mother-of-pearl dial is a perfect solution for selling a watch. They’re simply hypnotizing!
The material is taken from the outer coating of pearl, mostly pearl oyster or freshwater pearl mussels. Due to the high level of expertise required to come up with the clean precious material, expect to find Mother of Pearl dials on high-end luxury watches. JLC, Omega, and Rolex are only some of the watch brands that have chosen to adorn people’s wrists with a piece of the ocean’s treasure.
Meteorite Dial Watches
As mentioned above, watchmakers thrive to come up with the next best thing in the watchmaking industry, and apparently, a watch with a dial made of meteorite sounds kinda innovative. Well, add here the cool factor along with the extraterrestrial touch, and you got an out-of-this-world watch for watch lovers to adorn their wrist with.
Ironically enough, watch enthusiast forums indicate that Omega, Rolex, JLC, and other watch brands of the same caliber are using the same material of the same meteorite that hit Africa in prehistoric ages, the Gibeon meteorite. However, to make you feel better, every meteorite dial is unique. The polishing process that creates the Widmanstätten pattern is different and changes from a watch to another. One thing is for sure. Watches with meteorite dials are not quite affordable.
Back then, watchmakers didn’t have the required tools to come up with raw metal dial discs as today, therefore salvation was found on enamel. The times have changed, and in an automated industry of watchmaking, enamel dials are costly and hard to make. The process entails baking multiple layers of glass atop copper or silver. That was the Grand feu technique. Other techniques involve painting enamel onto the metal or melting enamel inside of a wireframe.
Watch Dial Colors
While black and white watch dials are the most popular colors in the watchmaking industry, we decided to take a look at the more exotic watch dial colors that are seen less often on people’s wrists.
The out-of-this-world sunburst dials, for example, are created by spreading the metallic paint on the dial using a tiny plastic ball that when detonated, simultaneously sprays the paint out in the sunburst pattern. Due to the level of expertise, this process requires, sunburst dial watches are more difficult to be produced and therefore, they are more expensive.
Champagne Watch Dial
As the name suggests, champagne dial watches come in a metallic burst of soft golden tones, usually associated with the deluxe feel. Brass is usually used for the dial material, and it is one of the dial colors Rolex uses the most along with the default black and white. Another good use of champagne color in a watch dial can be seen on Seiko Presage SRPC99J1.
Green Watch Dial
The watch lovers community has experienced a green watch mania during the last years, with Rolex Hulk Submariner, H. Moser & Cie Endeavour, and Rado Hyperchrome models being seen on almost every watch showcase online and offline. The color represents freshness, peace, and prosperity. It is also the second most favorite color on the planet after blue, and there is no surprise why watchmakers and watch lovers love them so much.