The watch dial is one of the most noticeable and important features of the watch. The dial is the flat surface beneath the surface. It is also the easiest and most effective way of telling the time. The dial is the part of the watch that gathers the most attention. Many style-conscious people prefer a watch that has an aesthetic dial.
Similar to the movement of the watch, the finishing of the dial is what makes it unique. It can be plated in brass or finished in several diverse ways before it is plated.
It can come in many different colors, textures and materials. Common dial examples include a brushed or matte finish, which is covered with a transparent lacquer for safety. Other dials contain valuable metals such as gold or silver, which can also have different finishing methods. Some dials are finished plainly and are just plated to avoid oxidation while others are finished with guilloche, which carves a pattern on the dial. Thus, there is a wide range of dials which are both plain and intricate.
The dial is the window to the watch’s soul so it is important to consider every minute detail of the dial. Here are some different types of watch dials and the materials they are made out of.
The crosshair design is a very prominent dial pattern which was featured on mid-century dress watches, particularly Breitling Transocean, Geneves and Omega DeVille.
This design is a plain one where a pair of horizontal and vertical lines meet each other in the centre of the dial, starting from 12 to 6 and then 3 to 9. Each crosshair watch will have minute differences in the breadth and width of the lines. While some crosshairs can reach the end of the dial, others can not.
2. Enamel Dials
Enamel dials are very desirable since they are quite rare and need proper skills to create them. This technique dates back to the 13th century BC but not much has changed since then.
At the simplest level, enamel is a soft glass which contains red lead, silica and soda, which will liquify and bond to metals if heated between 800 and 1200 degrees Celsius. In order to achieve different colours, different elements have to be combined together such as iron for gray, iodine for red and chromium for green.
3. Gilt Dials
The literal meaning of this technique is covered thinly with gold paint or gold leaf, which is exactly what a gilt dial is. All the various components of a watch dial are printed by gold paint. Some elements even include the watch and brand name, depth rating or hour markers.
One such example of a gilt dial is the Rolex Submarine, an iconic model that displays this method. Gilt dials are found in brands of all prices.
Guilloche dials simply have a repeating pattern engraved on them. Traditional methods use a hand-cranked rose engine, straight line engine or brocading machine, to engrave the dial with a wave pattern. While it was traditionally done by hand, most modern guilloche dials are now engraved by a machine.
Linen dial is a type of textured dial which features a pattern that looks similar to a linen like material. A mixture of small vertical and horizontal hatch marks create the design. One example that highlights this unique model is the Rolex Datejust.
As suggested by the name, meteorite dials are made of thin polished slices of actual meteorite. Since artisans use different meteorites from around the world, individually cutting and polishing each slice, no two dials will be exactly alike. Meteorite dials are most commonly found on triple calendar watches created by brands like Rolex, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Jacquet Droz.
Porcelain dials are made out of porcelain. However, only few watches have this type of dial since they are very difficult to make. Porcelain is typically white and contains clay. The Seiko Credor Eichi II is an example of a porcelain dial with brand name and hand painted hour markers on it.
A tapisserie dial is similar to a guilloche pattern as it consists of many small squares on the surface of the dial, separated by thin channels. The most popular tapisserie dial is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, which was designed by Mr Gerald Genta.
A machine called the pantograph traces the design from the larger mock-up and then engraves an exact copy onto the smaller watch dial. Each dial usually takes about 20-50 minutes to engrave according to its size and type of finishing.
9. Skeleton Dials
While it appears highly complex, skeleton dial is actually the simplest type of watch dial. It is created from transparent materials which reveal the movement beneath the watch. Previously, it used mineral glass but modern watches now commonly use sapphire crystal which has an anti-reflective coating.
One of the most popular skeleton dials is the Marie Antoinette Bregeut pocket watch which displays the ability of the watchmaker.
A teaked dial, like the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra, is simply a dial which is engraved with vertical stripes. The thickness, finish and color of each individual dial will vary from brand to brand.
Also known as a scientific dial, a sector dial has a contrasting circle near the centre with thick lines dividing a specific length of time into sectors. A sector dial is either an hour section dial like the Laurent Ferrier or the less popular minute sector dial.
This is a unique dial art form which consists of layers of materials such as valuable stones. They are made by specifically cutting into each individual element. Then they are arranged to form a pattern to be displayed on the dial.
To find cool looking watches with some of these dial types, click here:
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