Top 6 Custom Watch Dials to Suit Any Style - Oracle Time
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Top 6 Custom Watch Dials to Suit Any Style

BWP Intaglio_finishing_Copper

The dial is the metaphorical window to the soul of your watch. Aside from a few notable examples, it’s the first thing we think of with any iconic timepiece and, let’s be honest, it’s usually the thing we’d like to change the most – a touch of horological plastic surgery if you will. So, while we’ve covered custom timepieces aplenty in the past, this time we thought we’d look at the action directly underneath the sapphire crystal.

Some of these aren’t dial-makers per se, but custom watchmakers that let you do whatever you please to the face of the watch. Sometimes within reason; sometimes not. On the other hand, there are some simply on hand in case for whatever reason your Rolex collection could use a touch of enamelling or marquetry.

Danevych The Great Wave off Kanagawa

Either way, if you want to know just how inventive a watch dial can get past three hands and a few indexes, then let these artisans be food for thought. Who knows? That classic 1950s dress watch just might not do it for you anymore.

Wessex Watches

Wessex JB Hand Painting a custom Peerless Auto

Let’s begin on home shores with one of the few watchmakers in the UK to manufacture its own dials. In fact, Wessex founder Jamie Boyd takes more than a little well-deserved pride in his work, being the pair of hands behind each and every handcrafted silver dial. That would be impressive even if it didn’t mean the multi-layered, architectural and incredibly ornate dials of the Wessex Peerless collection.

Because of the Peerless’ signature two-layer dials, not only is there an incredible level of depth to the watch face, but Wessex is able to create any image of your choosing. If you’ve seen the epic Tsunami watch (which started off as a bespoke commission), you can imagine the kind of results that are possible.

wessex watches handpaint

The process though is simple enough: just contact Wessex watches, let them know what you’d like and, after a one-to-one discussion with Jamie, he’ll send you a few mock-ups. From there, he’ll create your choice as a prototype dial and from there the final piece.

Customisation ranges from simply changing the guilloche background of the already-impressive Peerless (at no extra cost, note) to incredibly detailed hand-engraved frescos, all the way up to full-on cold enamelling. Overambitious? Possibly, but the results speak for themselves.

Find out more at Wessex Watches.

Bespoke Watch Projects

BWP Intaglio assembly

Heading across the Atlantic to far sunnier shores than these, California’s Bespoke Watch Projects takes a more precise, less traditional approach to the dials of its sleek, handsome Intaglio series. Inspired by historical prints and experimental fine art techniques, each Intaglio dial starts life as a simple metal blank before being sanded-down and receiving an initial patina.

From here the dial can get a myriad of finishes applied, from solid enamelled colours to custom stains and patinas. Only once that finish passes muster is the dial engraved.

BWP Intaglio Dials display

The result is a range of graphic, clear-cut and incredibly sharp designs in a dizzying array of colours and finishes. It’s a varied technique that Bespoke Watch Projects regularly showcases through its Intaglio Limited Editions, but one that is also offered as a unique, custom service.

That service does include plain, coloured dials of course, but for my money not much beats the razor-fine lines and retro looks that Bespoke Watch Projects has made its signature. Pure modernism on a dial. These are then applied to a watch case size of your choice, be that a svelte 36mm number or a 38mm diver. Whichever you opt for, there’s no denying that the dial is what really makes the watch here.

Find out more at Bespoke Watch Projects.

Ematelier

Ematelier Panerai Earth dial

Enamel Dials are, by their very nature, unique. The individual strokes of a hand-painted picture are impossible to replicate, no matter how careful the artisan behind the brush is. However, Toronto-based Ematelier isn’t content in the illusion of uniqueness, and its custom dial offering has created some truly spectacular one-off pieces.

Before even getting started, the right type of enamelling has to be chosen. Grand Feu miniature painting, Cloisonne, and Champleve are all on the table, depending on the client wants. In fact, everything from the shape and angles of the dial to the colour of the enamel all need to be taken into account to ensure the delicate enamelling process goes off without a hitch.

Ematelier 13-Rolex Neptune watch

Because Ematelier only creates dials, this all means that you can fit one of its miniature pictures or vibrantly-hued original masterpieces directly onto a watch of your choice. Want to channel Picasso on your latest Vacheron or a peacock’s colouring on a Cartier? The choice is entirely up to you.

And if you can’t come up with something yourself, then Ematelier will be more than happy to work with you to come up with a design that you won’t just want to live with, but one that you’ll want to show off. Personal portraits be damned, this is real bespoke artwork.

Find out more at Ematelier.

Porsche Deisgner

Porche timepiece 1

The most mainstream watchmaker on this list, Porsche Design is the most recent to try its hand at creating a custom service and, if you’re looking something a little racier, who better to go for than the makers of the 911?

The custom timepiece service started at the beginning of last month and already there are 1.5 million possibilities in how you want your watch – impressive, given that it all stems from a single model. You can choose everything from the case finish to the colour of the oscillating weight in the movement.

Porche timepiece 3

For our purposes though, the real action is on the dial – especially if you happen to own a Porsche yourself. Overall, the look is of a classic speedometer, but thanks to inlaid coloured rings you can choose one of 27 Porsche car colours to match whatever’s in your garage.

Yes, it might be a little obsessive to buy a custom watch to match your car, but we’ve all done crazier things – especially when the watch itself is an incredibly solid, automatic number. Even if that’s all a bit too obvious for you though, Porsche Design’s bespoke timepieces make for a striking racing watch for a simpler but no less appealing take on dial customisation.

Find out more at Porsche Design.

Crude

Crude Print Crude Beweger

‘Crude’ isn’t exactly a name that rings with luxury, but that’s kind of the point. The German studio based out of Pforzheim revels in fusing unfinished, industrial elements with fine gemstones and a level of craftsmanship that far belies its rough-and- ready approach. If you can imagine most dials being painstakingly hand-engraved on a workbench then those of Crude are closer to being beaten out on an anvil.

Given the current trend towards meaner, more industrial-looking timepieces, Crude’s approach is an appealing one. While all its watches come from a single silver cast, the finishes are incredibly diverse between them, both on cases and dials.

Crude raw black diamond dial detail

In the Gypsetter collection, that’s helped by the option to gem-set your dial for a real glam-rock look. You can either go for one of Crude’s ready-made (or, to follow tailoring nomenclature, ready-to-wear) pieces or use them as inspiration for a piece to suit your own snakeskin-toting alter-ego.

Crude’s watch dials aren’t for the shy and retiring and they’re not what most people would call refined. What they are is unique, both in the natural patina of the metal and the fact that, if you own a muscle car and an angle grinder, you’ve probably just discovered your dream dial.

Find out more at Crude Studio.

Danevych

Danevych Pablo Picasso Girl before a mirror

Marquetry is not a skill you see often outside of antique furniture and the map rooms of bond villains. It requires the precise placement of different-coloured woods to create a picture, kind of like mosaic – except where marquetry is 4K compared to mosaic’s CRT pixels.

Ukraine’s Danevych is one of the few practisers of marquetry still plying their trade in any real way, and they are doing it well – well enough that they can create almost as intricate a design as enamelling.

Danevych Picasso Mujer Gallega Marquetry

The first step though is a practical one: ensuring that they have the right dimensions for your dial. Marquetry adds a little to the thickness, so it’s vital Danevych knows what it’s working with, which generally involves sending in the original dial for them to measure. If that leaves you without a watch, you can just send the measurements, but if you want to be 100-per-cent sure then you’ll opt for the first option.

Then and only then, you can decide what you’d like to be on your watch. Abstract, realism, directly translating a famous work onto your new wooden dial, there are countless ways to go about it. Just beware overly-ambitious creations: price is dependent on the number of pieces your new dial will have. A marquetry dial is already an unusual novelty; getting one designed and built from the ground up is heirloom-worthy. Just be careful your heirs don’t start quoting Patek Philippe advertisements too fervently.

Find out more at Danevych.

About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.

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