watch dial types

Through the Looking Glass: The Different Types of Dials Out There

A surface where first impressions are made.

Date Published
May 19. 2022
Author
Gnomon Watches
Category
Shop Highlights

While a protective watch crystal allows the owner to gain exceptional legibility, the dial is what makes the owner attain pleasure in reading for a time. How so? Arguably for most, this is where the first impressions are made. And for those upholding the aesthetics of a timepiece, the dial may as well be the very decision-maker when it comes to purchasing. 

The beauty underneath the watch crystal is a surface on which many features of the watch exist. Therefore, whether you’re looking for a new watch to add to your collection or just want to know more about this specific and unique component, it’s worth knowing the different watch dial types available on the market. From simple patterns to the luxurious use of fine materials, let’s find out.

Distinguishing the Different Types of Dials

Here’s a short guide on the few unique dial types you can commonly find in the market. Don’t worry, you’ll have some examples to help you imagine how they exist in reality. Who knows? Maybe you’ll also consider getting one for yourself

Crosshair

First, the crosshair. This is one of the most popular dial watch types, especially for a dress timepiece. Examples come from the Omega DeVille, Breitling Transocean, and Geneves.

What exactly is the crosshair? The design is rather simple and straightforward. A pair of vertical and horizontal lines run to meet one another at the center, from 12 to 6 and 3 to 9. Each type of these watch will have minuscule differences from one another. These can include timepieces where some lines cross over and reach the edge while others do not.

Damasko DC72
Damasko DC72

Another example comes from the German brand Damasko with its DC72. Its crosshair element in white provides a stark contrast with the black background of the dial. Simple and elegant, indeed.

Gilt

A gilt refers to a surface covered thinly with gold paint or leaf. This particular type can be applied to all the features conventionally located on top of a dial including indices, numerals, and the hands. 

Aside from that, the signifier of the maker and other highlights of the watch can also be printed in gold. This may include the watch name, depth rating, brand, or hour markers all plated preciously. 

A well-known example is the Rolex Submariner where the hands, indices, and signature identities of the premium brand are painted in luxurious gold.

Enamel

The third watch dial type is enamel. Made from a soft glass containing silica, soda, and red lead liquified and bonded to metals when heated between 800 – 1200 degrees Celsius. 

Seiko Presage Enamel Pwr Rsv Ref. SARW035 / SPB045J1
Seiko Presage Enamel Pwr Rsv Ref. SARW035 / SPB045J1

This can be prominently seen in the Seiko Presage Enamel Power Reserve. The timeless dress watch is equipped with a splendid white enamel dial processed through the fire heat in the lands of the rising sun, Japan.

Read also: Into the Vibrant and Lively World of Colorful Watch Dials

Guilloche

A guilloche in its simplest terms on a dial means repetition. In the past, the technique involved using a straight-line engine, hand-cranked rose engine, or a brocading machine to etch the dial with a wave pattern.  While this technique is traditionally done by hand, the patterns of today are engraved using modern tools.

Hamilton Jazzmaster Viewmatic Auto Black - Bracelet Ref. H32515135
Hamilton Jazzmaster Viewmatic Auto Black – Bracelet Ref. H32515135

A beautiful example comes from the American brand Hamilton, the Jazzmaster Viewmatic Auto features a black guilloche inner dial complementing the outer ring in the same color but matte. Exceptional.

Marquetry

This is a particularly out-of-the-box watch dial type as it includes a layering of materials such as precious stones. This is attained by individually cutting up the matter used for layering. Next, these parts are carefully arranged to build a beautiful pattern on the dial. 

A renowned example of this type comes from the luxurious brand Patek Philippe, the Royal Tiger where a wood marquetry dial can be most prominently seen.

Meteorite

Another unique watch dial type is the meteorite. As the name suggests, these faces are ornamented with slices or specific parts of a meteorite that is already polished. As a result, you won’t ever attain a similar meteorite timepiece twice.

This watch dial type is most frequently featured on triple calendar watches such as from the prominent brands Jaeger Lecoultre, Rolex, and Jaquet Droz.

Tapisserie

The tapisserie watch dial type can be perceived similarly to the guilloche. The high number of small squares on the face of a timepiece are divided by very thin channels. 

Techniques used to engrave the tapisserie are also somewhat akin to the guilloche, a machine copies the design to then etch them into the dial. One of these tools can print a dial in 30 – 50 minutes. A prominent example is the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak which is a straightforward rendition with its small squares textured on top of the dial.

Skeleton

A skeleton watch dial type may seem complicated but it is probably one of the less fussy ones on this guide. The feature involves using transparent glass, mostly a sapphire crystal, to enable the visibility of the movement inside the watch. 

Orient Star Avant-Garde Skeleton Steel Ref. RK-AV0A02S
Orient Star Avant-Garde Skeleton Steel Ref. RK-AV0A02S

Some may choose to completely showcase the inner workings of the machinery while others prefer to omit several parts. The latter can be seen in the Avant-Garde Skeleton Steel from the rising Japanese brand, Orient Star. This semi-skeleton cut is most beautifully showcased in the ninth hour where the balance wheel is revealed.

Linen

A linen watch dial type does not really refer to the use of the durable and valuable cloth material placed atop its dial. But, it does try to replicate its quality, most particularly the texture consisting of fine horizontal and vertical hatch marks. 

A beautiful example includes the Rolex Datejust 36 with its linen-inspired face resulting in a lightweight feeling and resultant luxurious finish.

Teaked

A teaked watch dial type involves vertical hatches. The width and heaviness of these stripes may vary depending on each brand. A popular example includes the Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra.

The Citizen Eco-Drive White Ref. AQ1010-54A
The Citizen Eco-Drive White Ref. AQ1010-54A

Another high-class example comes from The Citizen Eco-Drive in White. The subtle teaked watch dial type provides a clean, dandy, and minimal experience for reading time. A sapphire crystal and ‘Zaratsu’ polishing applied to the sides of the bezel serve the added pleasure of reading for a time.

That finalizes the short introduction to the different dial types available. Is there a particular one that you fancy? A gentle reminder, this specific part of a timepiece holds a pretty significant value in itself. So, do try and maintain their cleanliness. Especially the glass where the material is prone to scratches and fogs.

Wish to learn more about the world of horology? Or find tips on taking care of your watch? Stay tuned to our Gnomon blog for a host of knowledge on all things revolving around the object of timekeeping.

Read also: Watch Case Back 101: An Appealing Beauty Beyond the Dial

Gnomon Watches first opened her doors for business online in early 2002, founded by bona fide horology suitors who share a profound passion for watchmaking and fine craftsmanship.

More Stories
5 Essential Tips to Buy A Watch Online with Ease