Coloured Dials! The World Between Black & White.

Timepieces with colored dials have always caught my eye, already from my very early years in the world of watches actually. So this article will only be about dials and what colour does to the looks of a watch, without going into the technical details of the timepieces mentioned. I’ll go from past collections to current models of just a few brands to give you an idea about ‘the other watch’ when you’re willing to look beyond the traditional black & white.

Coloured dials can be found at quite a few brands. But the way these dials are handled within a collection, varies from brand to brand. Salmon is without any doubt the most used colour for dials, if we forget about black for a moment. It is actually the colour that was often used to give a re-issued watch, the vintage appeal of a discoloured dial from the early years.

Cartier’s Santos Dumont, launched in 1996, in a Limited Edition of 90 pieces for the 90th Anniversary of the model

Cartier for instance did various limited editions like that, as the Diabolo, the platinum Santos Dumont from 1996 and the white gold Driver and the Tortue chronograph both from 1999. Vacheron Constantin for instance, had their platinum Historique Chrono with salmon dial. In 1930, Jaeger-LeCoultre had around some very bright coloured Reverso models in their first collections and the brand is currently re-releasing these beauties, as the ‘Tribute to 1931’ series in super flat and enlarged cases. The series started off in 2012 with the Reverso Rouge ‘Tribute to 1931’. And in the meantime the blue dial version and the chocolate have been released.


JLC Reverso Rouge ‘Tribute to 1931’ released as a Boutique Special in 2012

Franck Muller is another prime example. The time that pretty young watchmaker started his first steel (mainstream) collection in 1991, with the Casablanca watch with salmon dial, the time piece that was a huge success for the brand and that was part of the reason for the British jeweller Theo Fennell, to start a line of especially created Franck Muller watches, only to be sold in their London Boutique at Fulham Road.

Steel Casablanca model from around 1997
Franck Muller dials from various collections


The Franck Muller collection has since that time, often had different coloured dials, especially for their ‘curvex’ models.
Modern watches without any link to collections from the early years, have of course also been released and usually as a limited edition. Piaget, for instance, had an older collection of some great pieces with Lapis Lazuli dials available, like this small men’s dress watch in white gold.

Vintage Piaget men’s watch with Lapis Lazuli dial

And in 2000, Piaget had their only steel watch ever! The cool ‘Upstream’ with a grey or white dial were produced in very limited runs, plus on top of these collections, there was also a 500-piece limited edition with salmon dial, a watch that’s almost never seen at auctions or dealers.

One of the larger brands, Audemars Piguet, is still driving on their legendary and extensive Royal Oak collection, and created especially for the collection’s 20th anniversary, a model that was released in 1000 pieces with a gorgeous salmon dial.

Audemars Piguet ‘Royal Oak’ released for their 150th Anniversary

But unfortunately, the white date ring spoils the dial a little. For a limited edition, 1000 pieces produced is not a small amount but I challenge you to locate one. The watch is very sought after and even so for the RO Chronograph in platinum with Salmon dial.

Then the last and important brand that I have not mentioned yet………ROLEX!

While most of us may know Rolex better as the more black dial oriented brand, due to their successful ‘Submariner’, ‘Explorer’ and ‘Sea Dweller’ collections, it is often the ‘Day Date’ that drives collectors crazy because of their stella dials in mainly bright green, red and blue. Unfortunately, many market dials appeared and to obtain a Rolex with a real stella dial, one needs to know the brand and the seller very well.

Rolex used that trend wisely and re-released three ‘Day Date’ models with alligator strap and 18K folding buckle in 2013. Stunning looking watches in my opinion.

2013 Rolex Day Date Collection

Light blue, grey, silver and gold are more common in the Day Date collection and probably make a better match with the usually more mature wearer. However, since the last years, the model has become pretty popular among younger collectors too.

Rolex Day Date 2001

Despite the fact that the trend for larger cases has not changed that much, Rolex released these ‘Day Date’ models again in the, in my opinion, very comfortable 36mm. The ‘Day Date’ has, since its introduction in 1956, only been available in 18K or platinum, making these coloured dials not within reach of everybody. The Basel 2014 collection however changed that and Rolex had a new and unexpected surprise and presented among others, a new very affordable ‘Oyster’ model, in a 36mm case with ‘Oyster bracelet’, a smooth bezel and soft colours. The Oyster White Grape-, Oyster Red Grape- and Oyster Steel Sunday finish.

2014 Rolex Oyster Collection

These three colours are available and reached the dealers this Summer, all in steel cases and all with steel bracelets, like we’re used to from Rolex.

Coloured dials give a very different look to a watch and one might think that they’re not easy to wear with different outfits. The contrary is actually true. In most cases these colours are so well chosen, that they compliment almost any suit shirt combination very well. When dressed very formally, in a dark suit and white shirt for instance, a coloured dial signals something extra about your style and personality. The wrist shots may illustrate my words a bit.

What we have seen at the SIHH/BaselWorld this year, is probably not the last and personally I expect to seeing more colour in 2015, from the various brands. But this is only my personal vision and wishful thinking, since I have absolutely no pre-information.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top