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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 couple 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 one of the looked-at parts of a timepiece, some manufactures go the additional mile to brighten them — this isn’t all the time an apparent factor to do as a result of some forms of craftsmanship carry a hefty price ticket. Alternatively, some manufacturers strip away the dial solely, usually paradoxically rising the value, however that’s one other story. 

Having already coated costume watches, chronographs, calendars and dual-time problems on this fitfully recurring shopping for information, we’re having a look at embellished dials on this instalment. From methods to supplies, hand- versus machine-made and every part in between, embellished dials are plentiful however not all the time apparent, so shopping for one might be fairly difficult should you have no idea the place to start out. Hopefully, this shopping for information will assist streamline your thought and decision-making course of on your subsequent buy.


Narrowing down embellished dials based mostly on their materials is probably one of many best methods to filter a purchase order in response to your preferences. Whereas most watches use plated brass for dials, there’s 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 surprising and fascinating creations. 

A permanent traditional, enamel will all the time 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 supply 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 utterly, such dials proceed to dazzle and stay firmly perched on the higher echelons of watch choices. Those that admire the intricacies and exquisiteness of métiers d’artwork can be thrilled to find a world by no means thought to exist as unique supplies akin to wooden, paper, feathers and extra discover their method to the watchmaker’s bench and in unique releases (normally accompanied with eye-watering worth 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 in recent times, including modern flavour. 


There are cases the place sure dials are solely supplied in restricted portions or sure configurations as watch manufactures strive to make sure a stage of exclusivity for these varieties watches. Whether or not it’s for shortage causes (treasured metals or minerals), painstaking methods (enamelling or métiers d’artwork) or particular editions, do count on 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 stage, 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 totally different stage.

The seven items listed on the model’s web site function strong purpose dials with a number of types of ornament utilized in mixture, together with enamelling and varied engraving methods (tremblage, reduction) that amplify the extent of expertise A. Lange & Söhne is famend for. Mix that with the low manufacturing numbers and the easiest calibres the Saxon manufacture has to supply, and you may count on an extra premium on high of the common manufacturing fashions. Extremely embellished dials usually accompany the easiest 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. Need 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 count on, 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 lately launched 10-piece Zenith Defy Zero-G Sapphire and Nomos’s Tangente 38 For Medical doctors With out Borders are two examples of dial decorations on the acute finish of each spectrums. Getting your palms on the previous won’t 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 straightforward crimson 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 rivalry when shopping for embellished 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 palms whereas the opposite requires precision, uniformity and excellent engineering. 

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

Hermès artisans carry life to the lion within the 24-piece Arceau Wild Singapore with miniature portray and gold threads. Taking every 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 lot 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 methods. Do count on a price ticket to match such experience as properly. 

Machine-made dials then again bear manufacturing in managed environments. With automation and the help of state-of-the-art machines, manufacturing volumes might be adjusted accordingly to fulfill quotas. From stamping patterns and reducing the bottom plate, to punching index holes and shaving and sharpening, every step makes use of specialised equipment programmed in response to 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 enough. Nonetheless, to create the intricate patterns of the white birch bark by way of reduction patterning, a minimum of seven stampings are required, every achieved with nice care in order to not crack the dial plate. 

We want to add an additional be aware 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 mentioned of machine-made dials.

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

Closing Ideas

We consolidate our remaining ideas with a be aware on sturdiness and deal-breakers. One of many extra vital (although boring) concerns for embellished 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 palms, 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 extra backing however additional analysis in your half as the customer and eventual wearer is definitely worth the effort for peace of thoughts. Lastly, we speak about 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 appears like a slur! 

Aged dials that develop a patina by way of pure discolouration are extremely fascinating in classic watches as this provides extra worth to the watch. With the appearance of neo-vintage watches, fauxtina or purposeful ageing sees synthetic patina added to varied parts of a watch to imitate varied defects. The consequences might be both a hit and miss and can be all the way down to your private desire. Dial texts too could be 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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