DIAL & DISPLAY
The dial is a plate that occupies the entire surface of the movement or its part. It is the fixed element of the display. In addition to displaying the time, it can serve as a platform to convey various types of information (date, power reserve, second time zone, etc.). It is the most visible and most frequently observed element of a watch. Protected by the case and the crystal, it can be made from an infinite variety of materials (metal, stone, synthetic materials, wood, sapphire, etc.) or combinations of them. However, there are numerous other ways to display the time or other indications (rotating discs, discs, spheres, etc.).
The dial is a plate attached to the mainplate. On the analogue display, various hands move above its surface, following their dedicated graduations. In some cases, a window is opened through the dial (a “window” or “aperture”), revealing a numerical value printed on the indicator (generally a disc) located beneath the dial and directly driven by the movement (digital display). While an analogue display is generally used to show the time, the date is commonly indicated by a digital display (disc-aperture).
This small opening on the surface of the dial allows for the numerical reading of the provided information. Hours, minutes, date, second time zone—almost all the information on a watch can be displayed through an aperture. Typically rectangular in shape, the aperture can take on various forms depending on the information it conveys (e.g., the “crescent” of a moon phase, the day of the week sector, etc.).
The hand is a rotating pointer that moves linearly (e.g., the minute hand) or randomly (e.g., the power reserve indicator hand) along its dedicated graduation, which is often indicated on the dial’s surface. As highly visible elements, hands can be made from numerous materials and come in an infinite variety of shapes.
The index is a marker, an unnumbered element of a graduation. For example, many dials do not display the numerical value (numbers from 1 to 12) but simply feature twelve distinct markers (the indices). An index can be printed or appear as an applied element.
The aplliquéd element is an indicative or decorative element applied to the surface of a dial. For instance, it can be a number, an index, a frame of an aperture, or the manufacturer’s logo. The appliquéd element is either affixed to the dial with feet pushed into the dial or simply glued to its surface. In most cases, the applied element is made of metal. However, it can be made from any material or appear as a set gemstone.
The pad printing or tampography is an indirect offset printing process. It allows for the printing of all the information on a dial (brand, numbers, graduations, decorative elements, etc.) as well as on discs, flangs, and even crystals. A steel plate (also called cliché) is chemically etched or laser engraved with the indications to be printed. Ink is then deposited over the engraving. The pad is then placed on this imprint and can thus transfer the ink from the engraved plate to the surface of the dial.
The dial is both a decorative and functional visual element. For artists, it is a privileged place to showcase their craftsmanship talents. Thus, a dial can be partially (appliquéd indices) or entirely set with gemstones (paved). Setting dials with gemstones requires a thicker metal base to ensure the stones are securely held in place.
Micro-painting or miniature painting methods vary among artists. In general, micro-painting involves painting directly on the surface of the dial, be it metal, lacquered surface, mother-of-pearl, etc.. Micro-painting should not be confused with various grand feu enamel techniques. Micro-painting is made with acrylic and generally does not require any strong heat treatment (sometimes, it may involve baking to fix and degrease the paint).
Among the numerous forms of artistic expression that a dial can illustrate, mosaic is often found in unique watches or those produced in small series. Many materials and techniques can be used for mosaic work, including stone, mother-of-pearl, wood, ceramics, or metal. Due to the expertise and time required for their creation, mosaic dials are primarily intended for exclusive luxury timepieces.
BECOME A CONTENT CONTRIBUTOR
HOROPEDIA is a participative knowledge platform and we invite all those who wish to contribute to this adventure of sharing watchmaking knowledge to join us.
It can be additional explanations, images or other illustrations or terms not yet identified that deserve to be.