Most of the time, the words printed on watch dials tell a story: who made it, what kind of watch it is, where it was made, and its core specifications. Some brands want you to know so much about their watches that they write a novel on the dial. Rolex is famous for doing so on many of their collections; they want to make sure that everyone knows they make some of the most accurate watches on the planet. Sometimes brands add so many words to the point that they become distracting. While this says a lot about brands that put too much text, what does the absence of words on a dial say? Furthermore, what kind of words should be printed to tell a truthful story about the watches we wear everyday?
Let’s discuss this by looking at the most common words we can find on dials.
Words that Indicate Where the Watch is Made
At the bottom of the dial around or below the six o’clock marker, we often see words such as “Swiss Made,” “Japan Made,” “Assembled in the USA,” and/or the reference to the caliber within. (Something that Seiko has done for many decades but which has become a new trend as of late coming from the micro/independent market.) Seeing the words “Swiss Made” guarantees a quality timepiece as it indicates that at least 60% of the value of the watch has been produced in Switzerland. Somewhat similarly, “Japan Made” indicates the watch was made in Japan, in this case, 100% of it as it is the case with Seiko. Recently, brands have started to indicate where the watch was assembled to ascertain the high quality of their products. Only countries which have the reputation for making quality and genuine watches indicate as such (that’s why, unfortunately, there are no watches that show “Made in China” on the dial.)
This is interesting: we live in a globalized world where watch parts are made in one of several places. Contrary to what many believe, not all “Swiss Made” watches are entirely made in Switzerland. However, whenever they are allowed to, brands add these words to the dial because it indicates that a watch is of higher quality (or at least it looks like it does.) Although I lament the absence of it, I wish brands would write “Made in China” on the dial because we now know many timepieces are made there. It shouldn’t be shameful to do so, quite the contrary. So, when a brand goes as far as indicating “Designed in Los Angeles” they should also add “Made and Assembled in China.”
Words that Indicate Who Designed the Watch
Under the twelve o’clock marker, we generally find the brand name and logo or, more rarely, only the logo. Just like any product we buy, it’s nice to know who designed and sold a watch to us. This creates brand recognition and it becomes a good conversation starter. Some brand names and logos are so well-known that they are instantly recognizable. Others aren’t, or at least not yet. Designing an attractive logo is a strong part of how the brand presents itself, just like choosing the right name also indicates who the founders are. MONTA is a good example of a brand that managed to pick a name that says a lot about the founders (MONTA is short for “Montagne” which means “Mountain” in French,) and its logo nicely complements the name of the brand and its philosophy.
Although it isn’t always the case, brands typically add the model name above or below the pinion. This is another essential piece of information that is useful to have printed on the dial so it’s easier to identify what brand and model a person is wearing (you know, when you are watch-spotting). Choosing the right model name says a lot about the brand. The more innovative and specific it is, the more a brand comes across as being thoughtful and detail-oriented. The more vague or similar it sounds to another popular model, the less original the brand comes across. I know of many brand owners who struggled to find the right brand name.
Words that Indicate Core Specifications
Lastly, there are words that indicate the core specification or genre of a watch. Going back to Rolex, the words “Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified” clearly indicates that the movement is precise and well built. After all, it has been officially certified! Moreover, brands typically indicate the depth rating of a watch—as long as it's noteworthy or 100 meters. They also might indicate how fast the movement beats or what type of chronograph movement is used by indicating, for example, that it has a 1/10th of a second totalizer. While I find knowing the brand and model name useful, I don’t always need to see a reminder of the depth rating of my diver, or that my Valjoux-7750-powered watch is indeed a Chronograph.
Since we mentioned names earlier, it should be noted too that sometimes the genre of a watch is indicated in its own name. We are all familiar with the Omega Speedmaster, the now-gone Seiko Diver’s SKX, or the Rolex GMT Master II. After adding the word “Master” to another word so many times, brands had no choice but to become a bit more creative in naming their models. A trend I’ve seen expand over the past few years is to name a watch after a mythical creature. For example, the Lorier has a diver called “Neptune” and A. Lange & Söhne a sporty everyday watch called “Odysseus.”
I never really put too much thought on the words printed on a dial until recently: I realized that they say more about the brand (and who runs it) more than the model itself. (I admit I always found the five or six lines of text on certain Rolex and Tudor models ridiculous.) Overall, and as previously mentioned, words can indicate where the brand operates, where a watch is manufactured, whether or not their founders are creative/independent thinkers, or what they don’t want us to know via omission of certain words. Brands, therefore, must put a lot of thought into what they choose to indicate on the dials. Or Not.Featured image: www.professionalwatches.com