Of the many attributes that give each watch its unique charms, the dial is usually a sidenote at best. This is strange if you think about it, because the dial is the part of the watch you are likely to spend the most time looking at. Watchmakers, of course, put as much thought and attention into the details of dials as every other aspect of a watch (which is a lot) so we thought it appropriate to spend a few minutes highlighting some of our favourite examples. Here are six that deserve your attention.
Also known as a “sunburst” dial, this style is defined by ultra-thin, almost imperceptible lines emanating from the dial’s centre. Like their namesake sun rays, these lines add a subtle texture and appear to change depending on the light.
Tudor Royal, $4,520
Like the sunray dial, there’s no mystery to how the smoky (or smoked) dial gets its name, thanks to its obvious resemblance to smoke rising from a fire. These dials, however, are more unusual, and their subtle gradient (which can be green, brown, or classic smoky grey) usually fades from light in the centre to dark around the edges.
TAG Heuer Autavia 42, $4,800
While it’s worth noting that this is a dial material rather than a style per se, an enamel dial’s material and its unique look are inseparable, making it as much an aesthetic choice as a material one. Enamel is made by coating a metal disc in powdered glass, then heating it to extreme temperatures in a kiln. Like most of the finishing techniques in the watchmaking world, enameling is a highly specialized craft, and when done well the warmth and sheen that results is truly stunning.
Seiko Presage SPB115, $1,495
One of the most tried and trusted old-school watch finishing techniques, the guilloche effect, is created by engraving thin lines on a watch dial using a specialized engine turning machine. These can take several forms, from waves to sunbursts to complex woven motifs, all of which add texture and sophistication to your watch’s dial.
Pasha de Cartier, $21,900
Côtes de Genève (or Geneva Stripes) are thick, wave-like lines most commonly found engraved on watch movements. According to popular legend, they were added as a way to collect any dust particles trapped inside the watch (thus keeping them from affecting moving parts), but these days they are mostly added for decorative effect. In recent years these iconic stripes have migrated from the movement to the dial, creating not just a visually interesting surface, but one that pays homage to the craft of watchmaking in a unique way.
Mido Multifort Chronometer 1, $1,675
Not so much a style of dial as the absence of one, a skeleton dial is precisely excised to reveal the movement beneath. Despite all of the cool materials, engraving techniques and decorative motifs you can have on your watch dial, sometimes nothing compares to the incredible machinery that makes it tick.
Vacheron Constantin Overseas Perpetual Calendar Ultra Thin Skeleton, Price on Request