A dial or sometimes referred to as the clock face is the main frame of the timekeeper that displays the time through the use of fixed numbered digits in the form of Roman, Arabic numerals or indexes along with moving hands. The modern watch keeping also includes a digital form of dial where the time in displayed in a LED panel.
Another form of dial display is the 24 hour format where the hours are numbered from 1 to 24 and the hours hand completes one revolution in a day. Various other functions are added in the sub dial of the watch, for example, a chronograph; moon phase indicator, etc which are also showcased on the clock face making it the heart of timekeeping and other tasks.
The evolution of dial design is dated from way back in the 14th century where the use of various matt as well as brushed and sunray polish was done to beautify the dial. Use of material like mother of pearl and hand engraved guilloche patterns started later to add a graceful and exotic touch to the timekeepers.
Enamel – The creation of an enamel dial done by fusing coloured powdered glass in a liquid medium (usually water) and then heating it to get a lustrous liquid with which dials are painted.
Mother of pearl – The thin layer of an oyster shell has a shimmering two tone quality. Shells are collected from all parts of the world. To make the thin mother-of-pearl sheet from which dials are cut, shells are crushed and precisely machined into thin layers that are typically 0.2mm.
Guilloche – The decorative engraving on the dial and the case back which is highly intricate is known as guilloche. It is achieved through a technique called engine turning and the machine used is called rose engine lathe.
Engraved – Certain brand indulge in crafting three dimensional scenes inside their dials. This is achieved through very intricate hand work. The Jaquet Droz Les Ateliers d’Art Petite Heure Minute Relief Cheval is a fine example of the same.
The peripheral of the dial is numbered from 1 to 12 indicating the 12 hours of the day. The short hours hand makes two revolutions in a day while the longer minutes hand makes one revolution every hour. The seconds hand makes one revolution every minute keeping the cycle constant. In a digital watch the LED panel displays time in the form of numbers. The circumference of a dial depends on the case size in which it is built. The size varies as per the design and functionalities involved. According to your personal needs you can pick a watch of a particular dial size.
The dial also comprises of of the hands and the hour markers which play a vital role in telling time. The hands act as the pointer and the hour markers act as the indicators. Often taking their cues from the general aesthetic of the watch, the hands can vary in shape, size and style.
There are many ways a dial can be marked. The examples below show some of the most popular dials. The aesthetic appeal of the watch comes from the dial hence it is considered one of the most important parts of watchmaking.