Watch dials

The Watch Dial: Everything You Need To Know About Your Watch Dial

How much do you know about the humble watch dial? If you’re not too sure what a watch dial is, then you have come to the right place! We are taking a closer look at everything you need to know about watch dials.

While they might appear relatively simple at first glance, the deeper you dive into watches the more you discover. Take the face, for example, it’s not necessarily called the face. Rather, a watch face is commonly referred to as a dial.

After dropping that bombshell, we’re going to be exploring all there is to know about watch dials! From explaining watch dial parts to the very rim of a watch face, we’ve got you covered.

What Is A Watch Dial?

Watch dial

Let’s start with the basics; determining what the dial on a watch actually does. A watch dial is essentially the face, which is where you tell the time from.

Analogue watch dials commonly display hour markers much like you would expect if you looked at a clock. Typically, analogue watch dials have three hands; hour, minute and second. However, many manufacturers opt to remove the second hand from their analogue watch dials.

This is purely a stylistic choice and each manufacturer has its preference. Digital watch dials display a numerical screen that commonly offers either 12-hour or 24-hour times.

Different Types Of Watch Dials

Various watch dials

One of the easiest ways to distinguish one watch from another is the dial. They commonly come in different colours, like our watch straps, and patterns. Some watchmakers prefer a cluttered dial while others take the minimal approach.

In theory, all a watch dial needs to be is a clean slate but often they are a little more complex than that. There are many different types of watch dial and we’re going to explain some of the most common ones.


Crosshair watch

The crosshair design is a popular one among dress watches. For a dial to be a crosshair dial it will have thin, almost invisible, vertical and horizontal lines. An example of a watchmaker that uses a crosshair dial design is Omega.


An enamel watch dial is probably the most common type thanks to the fact enamelling has been around for thousands of years.

In essence, enamel is a soft type of glass made up of red lead, silica and soda which are then heated up to 1200° Celsius. This process reduces that mixture to a liquid which is then poured over the watch metal.

Over the years, watchmakers have used different combinations of raw enamel materials to change the colours of their faces.


A guilloche watch dial is much more ornate than standard faces and it comes with an engraved wave-like pattern. Many watchmakers hand engrave their guilloche designs but the practice is more and more uncommon as the years go by.

These days, most guilloche designs are done by machine, even if they may look like they were done by hand.


Skeleton Watch Dial

For those who like to see the inner workings of their timepieces, a skeleton dial should be right up their street. Also known as ‘openwork’ designs, skeleton dials give us a close look at what is going on underneath the surface.

It’s not a simple case of putting a different dial on an openwork watch, however; special materials, designs and techniques are used to show off the intricacies. Mechanisms and movements are on display so this is as much a part of the design process as the materials used.


A tapisserie watch dial is another form of engraving but it comes in a different pattern. Unlike the guilloche dial, tapisserie watches have a set of tiny square patterns. One of the most famous watchmakers that implement the tapisserie design is Audemars Piguet.

Parts Of A Watch Face

Watch parts diagram

Although known as the dial, watch faces, in general, are composed of several different elements. Some other notable parts on the face of a watch include the bezel, hands, lug and crown.

The watch bezel is the metal ring around the watch dial. The bezel ensures that the watch crystal stays in place and it too can be styled in various ways. Different types of bezel include decorative, plain, or functional (such as those found in diving watches).

The crystal is the clear covering on the watch that displays the dial. It also helps to hold everything in place so you can keep on telling the time with precision.

Other recognizable parts of the watch dial include the hour marks and the hands which, naturally, point to the time.

What Are Subdials?

Chronograph watch

As if one dial wasn’t enough to think about, some watchmakers use subdials to distinguish their watches even more from the competition. These are commonly known as chronograph watches and they can feature up to three additional dials on the watch face.

These subdials are not just for design, they have a purpose on the watch dial. Subdials may do anything from displaying the seconds ticking by, to acting as a stopwatch or acting as a calendar.

Watch Dial Indices

One further way watchmakers can distinguish their dials is the indices they use. Like with most watch parts and design features, there are multiple ways to display the time markings on the dial.

The most common dial indices are stick, Arabic, Roman and mixed. However, there are many more types, like diver, California, KonTiki and Flieger, to name but a few.

Which Watch Is For You?

If you are interested in the different styles of watch dials then perhaps you would like to take a closer look at the watches we have on offer. Here at Uniform Wares, we bring elegant Swiss-made watches to our customers, including the best watches for women and the best unisex watches.

All Uniform Wares watches are built to be fully serviceable and repairable so any minor problems can be fixed immediately. We offer chronograph style dials, diamond-cut hands, and pad-printed dial indexing.

Our watches are all designed in-house in London with premium quality at the forefront of each one.

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