As a driver, there are few parts of a car you look at more than the instrument cluster. Your attention there is divided among occasional glances at the speedometer and tach, and if you’re really fancy, navigation instructions.
But the dials on some cars are so pretty they deserve a more extended gaze. (So long as you’re parked.) Dial designs, after all, are a lot like wristwatches: while some manufacturers don’t put in the effort, the best designs are innovative and stylistically brilliant; many have, perhaps unsurprisingly, gone on to inspire watches of their own.
These are 15 of the best automotive instrument clusters of all time.
1999 Honda S2000
Purely motorsport-inspired, the long arch of color LED lights was the best way to show off the S2000’s 9,000-rpm redline.
1976 Aston Martin Lagonda
The Lagonda wasn’t the best-looking car on the road, but the rise in popularity of digital technology in the late ’70s meant the Aston could have a handsome, arcade game-like dashboard.
1993 Lancia Delta Integrale HF
The aeronautical inspiration is appropriate, seeing as how the Integrale rally car spent most of its life flying over jumps.
2007 Lamborghini Reventon
Cars, watches and planes share a deep, collaborative history. The F22-inspired Lamborghini Reventon scored one of the coolest sets of LCD gauges as a result.
1985 Nissan 300ZX
By the time the 300ZX came along, digital and LED gauges were nothing new — but the way the 300ZX’s tachometer subtly displayed power output as well as the current gear and engine speed was genius.
1973 BMW 2002 Turbo
In the case of the 2002 Turbo, simplicity is key. There’s something to be said about the timelessness of the design and the typeface used as well — BMW hardly changed the design over the next 30-plus years.
2012 Pagani Huayra
If the Bimmer gets on the list for minimalism, the Pagani earns its spot on extravagance. This design is so over-the-top Italian, you can almost taste the exuberance.
2017 McLaren 720S
The McLaren 720S cluster earns a spot for being purely performance-driven. It even features a pop-up headlight-like action when changing between drive modes.
2000 BMW E46 M3
Like the 2002, BMW’s E46 gauges are simple black-and-white — but at night, they give off a soft orange glow. In a pitch black cabin, it feels akin to flying a stealth fighter.
2012 Lexus LFA
The Lexus LFA’s V10 revved so freely and quickly than a conventional analog tach couldn’t keep up (so they claimed), forcing the designers to go LCD. It’s just a bonus that the needle looks like a Jedi putting on a light saber demonstration just past your steering wheel.
2016 Audi TT
As far as modern gauges go, Audi’s Virtual Cockpit ranks near the top. Audi’s tech, which transplants 3D navigation to the screen ahead of the steering wheel, debuted in the TT. It wasn’t the first car to get the technology, but Audi scores bonus points for design and execution.
1957 Ferrari 250 Testarossa
Watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre went into designing instrument clusters for high-end cars in 1921, then sold most of the company to S. Smith & Sons in 1927. Luckily, design quality never faltered; if it had, the 250 Testarossa might be less notable.
1967 Alfa Romeo Duetto
More evidence of how well a Jaeger instrument panel can (and should) dominate a dashboard.
2009 Spyker C8 Aileron
Is it any surprise that a Spyker landed on this list?
1973 Citroen DS 23 Pallas
Not only are the speedo and tach beautifully designed, but the matching warning light cluster is also impeccably curated. It’s also very honest about what might go wrong during a drive.