I wouldn’t have been able to live 70 years ago when watches had no date feature. I have a profound need of knowing where in the month I am (for many reasons not to be divulged in this article,) and so having a date on a watch is almost a must-have for me. And having had the opportunity to handle many watches in the past few years, I can confidently tell you how to best add a date aperture on a dial. And by that I mean how to make a watch look good whilst having a date aperture. You see, many people complain that dates break the symmetry of a dial and therefore justifies not having a date at all.
But I disagree. Brands have come up with very specific ways to make a date look great and at home on many dial designs and this is what we’re going to discuss in this article.
Where to Put the Date on a Watch Dial
One can put a date in many places on a dial: at the 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock positions and even at the 4:30 as seen on many Seiko’s. While certain Jaeger Lecoultre and Vacheron Constantin can put the date at the 12, most brands put it either at the 3 or 6 o’clock positions. Doing so achieves two goals: first it’s easy to spot the date window at a glance; second, it integrates rather well with the design of the dial. Of course, there are a couple of tricks brands have come up with to make this look good. Because adding the date aperture in either location does not guarantee a seamless and balanced design.
If the date window is at 3 o’clock, it looks best if it has the same dimensions as the hour markers, otherwise the design looks off. If the watch has applied markers, then the date window would—ideally—have the same width as the markers. Actually, the same thinking can be applied to watches that have painted markers. If this doesn’t happen, then the date window will always look bigger and take too much visual real estate. Same goes when the date window is at 6 o’clock.
With that said, we tend to think that the date looks better at the 6 than the 3 o’clock position, creating more symmetry. I don’t have the knowledge of industrial design to explain this but I do agree.
Matching Colors of the Date Wheel
You know how we, watch people, always seem to have some sort of snobbery about something? One of mine is matching the color of the date disc to the color of the dial. It makes the date aperture blend in better with the design of the watch, but it doesn’t work with all watches. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand why brands would pair a white date disc with black, navy, or gray dials. However, what I’ve noticed over time is the fact that it’s a design choice: when it’s well done, like it is on all MONTA watches, it makes more sense because the date disc matches the hour markers’ design and color.
Matching the colors also helps, in certain cases, in making the date disappear to the point where it seems to not be there anymore. And if the date aperture is small then it’s hard to see it, or at the very least, it really shows that knowing the date is of much lesser importance than being able to read the time. So looking at the MONTA collections, I feel that the brand did want to put emphasis on the date aperture to make the watch functional. Again, it’s a deliberate design choice that highlights the purposefulness of their collections.
Framing the Date Window
Lastly, I would say go big or go home. If you go to the extent of adding a date aperture and doing a great job at placing it in the right spot on the dial, please frame it! I really don’t care for brands that seem to cut out a piece of the dial to make space for the date. It looks like an afterthought to me and never looks great. It generally is the sign of cheaper watches. And like anything else watch related, there is a better way to frame a date window, but that all depends on what kind of watch we are talking about.
Generally speaking, military and tool watches in general have date windows that have beveled edges or painted frames. Either solution is pleasing to look at and highlights the placement of the date on the dial. And if the hour markers are applied, then it’s even better to add an applied frame around the date aperture. MONTA does this very well as it matches the overall design of the dial and creates consistency.
I feel that the more I write about specific things about watches the more you get to know me and my particularities. I always say that watch collecting is a very personal experience and that it is subjective. We choose watches because of their history or their design or their price tag, or all of the above. Some of us need the watches to have certain features and others don’t. I have friends who hate dates on watches and some who love them. I’m of course part of the latter group. Where do you stand and what are your favorite date integrations?
Featured image: @mainspring.watch