It can be tough to strike a balance such that a dial design catches the eye but can also hold one's attention. Colors, textures and materials are some of the best ways for a watch dial to stand out, and after ho-hum dials of mostly plain white or black the watch industry has finally begun to branch out in recent years.
Many more watchmakers today are eschewing traditional rhetoric to brilliant effect. The popularity of funky retro watches is one way that color and creativity have entered the watch industry, and while some brands use vibrant highlights to enliven classic designs others have a knack for unusual textures, patterns and hues — executed in the right way, with a balance of visual interest and restraint, the result can be striking. Here are five great examples of watches with dials to die for.
Timex Q Falcon Eye
Captivating and unique dials aren't only in the realm of high-end independent watchmaking or the like. The affordable Timex Q is loud and proud about its quartz movement, which was cutting-edge technology when the watch it's based upon debuted. The Falcon Eye version has a "striated electric-blue" dial that plays with the light in fascinating ways while remaining highly legible. Its tall, three-dimensional applied dial elements, from the indices right down to the text pop from a two-tone case, and overflow with '70s pizzazz.
Mido Ocean Star Decompression Timer 1961
Developed in the early 1960s, the Mido Powerwind "Rainbow Diver" was simply a unique take on the dive watch with a colorful chart on its dial for timing decompression stops. Not only does it combine multiple colors, but the faded hues give it a look quite unlike that of any other watch. Now the dial has been reborn in the Ocean Star Decompression Timer 1961 with a more modern case and movement, resurrecting a watch that was all but unobtainable in its vintage form.
Movement: ETA C07.621 automatic
Ophion OPH 786 Vélos
There's a lot to appreciate in the Ophion OPH 786 Vélos, but you'd be forgiven for getting lost in its guilloché dial. The age-old technique of using a hand-operated rose engine lathe to produce this type of textured pattern is now only found on very high-end watches, whereas it's produced through stamping on more affordable watches. Ophion's dials, rather, are actually cut using CNC machines, which results in a similar effect as the traditional guilloché without the associated price tag. This particular iteration with a "salmon" hue looks pretty darn striking against its heat-blued hands and indices.
Movement: Soprod-base handwound
Grand Seiko Seasons Soko
Seiko's luxury offshoot Grand Seiko is known for putting special emphasis on dial executions. That means finely finished elements like hands and indices with mirror-polished facets applied with astounding precision — but it also means the dial itself is often the canvas for a nature-inspired texture. In the same vein as Grand Seiko's famous Snowflake, the Soko watches are powered by the brand's innovative Spring Drive technology and feature fascinating dial textures. Part of a US special-edition series themed on the seasons, the vertically brushed dials and highlight colors of the Soko are meant to reference bamboo.
Movement: Seiko Spring Drive 9R65 Automatic
Patek Philippe Calatrava 6007A
Patek Philippe more or less undisputedly represents the pinnacle of traditional watchmaking with levels of quality, design and refinement that are consistently nothing short of stunning. So it's unsurprising that the dial of this recent Calatrava has a supremely balanced design as well as subtly detailed elements and an elegant blue-gray color. Finely finished applied indices and a mix of textures make it as impressive as the horology inside.
Movement: Patek Philippe 324 S C Automatic