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HomeFashionWatch Shopping for Information: All About Dials

Watch Shopping for Information: All About Dials

Richard Lange Tourbillon “Pour Le Mérite”
Picture: A. Lange & Söhne

Watch dials are available a dizzying array of colors, supplies, and ornamental thrives. Although they’re a number of micrometres skinny (roughly between 0.4mm to 0.8mm), dials are basically the face of the watch (that’s the reason the layman usually regards them as watch faces) and invariably, manufacturers.

Since dials are probably the most looked-at parts of a timepiece, some manufactures go the additional mile to brighten them — this isn’t at all times an apparent factor to do as a result of some forms of craftsmanship carry a hefty price ticket. However, some manufacturers strip away the dial completely, usually paradoxically rising the worth, however that’s one other story. 

Having already coated gown watches, chronographs, calendars and dual-time issues on this fitfully recurring shopping for information, we’re having a look at adorned dials on this instalment. From strategies to supplies, hand- versus machine-made and all the pieces in between, adorned dials are plentiful however not at all times apparent, so shopping for one will be fairly difficult if you happen to have no idea the place to begin. Hopefully, this shopping for information will assist streamline your thought and decision-making course of to your subsequent buy.


Narrowing down adorned dials based mostly on their materials is probably one of many best methods to filter a purchase order in keeping with your preferences. Whereas most watches use plated brass for dials, there may be a particularly wide selection of dial supplies out there available in the market as watch manufacturers and manufactures ramp up their creativity to face out from the competitors. Technological developments, inventive improvements and conventional artistry come collectively to lead to some sudden and attention-grabbing creations. 

An everlasting traditional, enamel will at all times have a particular place within the hearts of discerning connoisseurs as a result of centuries-old gatekeepers of enamelling akin to Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and Breguet proceed to provide stellar items whereas new-school manufacturers akin to Glasgow-based anOrdain are starting to curiosity collectors with their radical method to enamelling. 

patek philippe ref 5750 advanced research
Picture: Patek Philippe

Whereas the aesthetics of treasured steel akin to gold or platinum and gem-set dials differ fully, such dials proceed to dazzle and stay firmly perched on the higher echelons of watch choices. Those that recognize the intricacies and exquisiteness of métiers d’artwork might be thrilled to find a world by no means thought to exist as unique supplies akin to wooden, paper, feathers and extra discover their strategy to the watchmaker’s bench and in unique releases (normally accompanied with eye-watering value tags). Unconventional supplies akin to bronze, silver and even scrap steel stand out for being unorthodox whereas futuristic choices akin to ceramic, carbon and sapphire have been on the rise lately, including up to date flavour. 


There are situations the place sure dials are solely provided in restricted portions or sure configurations as watch manufactures attempt to make sure a degree of exclusivity for these varieties watches. Whether or not it’s for shortage causes (treasured metals or minerals), painstaking strategies (enamelling or métiers d’artwork) or particular editions, do anticipate additional outlay when contemplating such watches, as beforehand talked about. 

A. Lange & Söhne Cabaret Tourbillon Handwerkskunst
A. Lange & Söhne Cabaret Tourbillon Handwerkskunst. Picture: A. Lange & Söhne

The ultra-exclusive A. Lange & Söhne Handwerkskunst fashions are examples of utmost shortage, the place the extent of expertise required restricted manufacturing to fifteen, 20, or 30 items, relying on the mannequin, because the launch of the gathering in 2011. The Glashutte manufacture doesn’t produce many watches even on the most simple degree, and it has a popularity for going to nice lengths to excellent each particular person element (whether or not seen or not) of all its watches. The Handwerkskunst fashions are on a wholly completely different degree.

The seven items listed on the model’s web site function stable objective dials with a number of types of ornament utilized in mixture, together with enamelling and numerous engraving strategies (tremblage, reduction) that amplify the extent of expertise A. Lange & Söhne is famend for. Mix that with the low manufacturing numbers and the perfect calibres the Saxon manufacture has to supply, and you may anticipate an extra premium on high of the common manufacturing fashions. Extremely adorned dials usually accompany the perfect in mechanical or proprietary actions. 

An instance of reserving particular dials for sure configurations is Rolex. As you play with their on-line configuration operate, you’ll discover sure dial choices are accessible when the suitable requisite case materials is chosen. Desire a streaky Widmanstätten sample meteorite dial with a coronet? They’re out there solely in treasured steel variants of the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona and GMT-Grasp II. Choosing the Rolesor Date-Simply grants you entry to dials with diamond indices or mother-of-pearl dials accompanied by diamond indices, that are unavailable in Oystersteel. Diamond-set dials, as you’d anticipate, are reserved for the heavyweights such because the Day-Date, Yacht-Grasp, gold Girl-Datejust and Pearlmaster. 

Zenith Defy Zero G Sapphire
Picture: Zenith

The particular editions of Zenith’s just lately launched 10-piece Zenith Defy Zero-G Sapphire and Nomos’s Tangente 38 For Docs With out Borders are two examples of dial decorations on the intense finish of each spectrums. Getting your fingers on the previous is not going to solely earn you an unforgettable parabolic zero-gravity flight with Novespace but additionally an opportunity to marvel on the meteorite, aventurine glass and Grand Feu enamel dial whereas the latter is immediately recognisable because of the easy purple 12 numeral and “50 Ans De Médecins Sans Frontières” textual content printed on the backside of the dial. 

The hand vs machine debate

One other level of competition when shopping for adorned dials is deciding between handmade and machine-made dials. The excellence is clear: one depends on the talent, dexterity and steadiness of the watchmaker’s fingers whereas the opposite requires precision, uniformity and very good engineering. 

Hermes Arceau Wild Singapore
Hermes Arceau Wild Singapore. Picture: Hermès

Hermès artisans convey life to the lion within the 24-piece Arceau Wild Singapore with miniature portray and gold threads. Taking per week to finish a single dial, a number of layers of micro-painting are first utilized on a gold dial and dried in a sizzling kiln. A whole bunch of divots are then created on the dial earlier than threads thrice finer than a single human hair are embroidered and have their ends fused with gold after. Manufacturing volumes are a lot decrease particularly with extremely advanced dial and tedious strategies. Do anticipate a price ticket to match such experience as properly. 

Machine-made dials however endure manufacturing in managed environments. With automation and the help of state-of-the-art machines, manufacturing volumes will be adjusted accordingly to satisfy quotas. From stamping patterns and slicing the bottom plate, to punching index holes and shaving and sharpening, every step makes use of specialised equipment programmed in keeping with the wants of the manufacture. Stringent high quality checks are employed alongside the best way to make sure the dials meet sure requirements. The printed tapisserie dial of the Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 is an instance of a machine-made dial.

Tissot PRX Powermatic 80
Picture: Tissot

And at last, we want to draw your consideration to a 3rd class that straddles handmade and machine-made dials — machine-assisted dials. These dials require the talent and expertise of a watchmaker and are made with specialised machines. Guilloché or engine turning is without doubt one of the most conventional strategies of dial ornament. With the assistance of a rose machine, mesmerising patterns akin to Clou de Paris, flinqué or basketweaves are created.

The Grand Seiko SLGH005 “White Birch” dial is meticulously created by manually stamping a steel mould towards the dial plate. Beneath regular circumstances, a single stamp is ample. Nevertheless, to create the intricate patterns of the white birch bark via reduction patterning, not less than seven stampings are required, every completed with nice care in order to not crack the dial plate. 

We want to add an additional notice when contemplating these three classes, and that’s your tolerance in the direction of imperfections. Within the occasion of handmade dials, irregularities are celebrated whereas that can’t be stated of machine-made dials.

If one had been to match all 24 completed dials of the Arceau Wild Singapore, no two dials will prove the identical — irregularities are what make every bit distinctive and are termed because the soul of the watchmaker. However, machine-made dials are anticipated to prove uniform. Burrs, discoloration, or botches are frowned upon as one would anticipate crisp edges and outlined textures from machine-made dials. 

Remaining Ideas

We consolidate our closing ideas with a notice on sturdiness and deal-breakers. One of many extra necessary (although boring) concerns for adorned dials is sturdiness. As talked about within the opening, watch dials are skinny, coming in at a mean of 0.4mm thick relying on motion thickness and clearance between the fingers, dials, indices and watch crystal. Dial damages, whereas comparatively unusual, do occur to extra fragile or brittle supplies akin to enamel or porcelain particularly within the occasion of drops.

Blancpain NoRad
Picture: Blancpain

Dials are normally bolstered with further backing however additional analysis in your half as the client and eventual wearer is definitely worth the effort for peace of thoughts. Lastly, we discuss two potential deal-breakers when contemplating dial decorations — fauxtina (fake patina) and dial texts. Each are equally controversial and have been on the receiving finish of backlash in boards or feedback sections, with some justified. That is unsurprising as a result of fauxtina even feels like a slur! 

Aged dials that develop a patina via pure discolouration are extremely fascinating in classic watches as this provides extra worth to the watch. With the arrival of neo-vintage watches, fauxtina or purposeful ageing sees synthetic patina added to varied parts of a watch to imitate numerous defects. The results will be both a hit and miss and might be right down to your private desire. Dial texts too generally is a actual annoyance when unimportant inscriptions are made on the dial, particularly superbly crafted ones. Much less is extra and we are going to depart it at that.

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