Face Time

The dial is a canvas on which today’s watch designers are creating looks that are nothing like traditional flat dials. This year sees more three-dimensional dials, with multilevel subdials (such as Romain Jerome’s T-Oxy III) and more dials set deep into cases (some with interior rotating bezels), like Dolce & Gabbana’s Time Sir, Maurice Lacroix’s Mémoire 1, Formex’s Grand Prix GP 997, and Tissot’s Racing watch.

See-through watches, like Vacheron Constantin’s Quai de l’Ile, let wearers admire the movement. Other see-through watches have dial apertures revealing segments of the watch, like Clerc’s high-tech Odyssey or Movado’s Skeleton Date.

Many 2008 designs use circles in circles or overlapping sub-dials, like Alpina’s Manufacture Regulator and Pierre DeRoche’s SplitRock with chrono counters atop each other. Others use off-center subdials and innovative juxtaposition of numerals, like Audemars Piguet’s elliptical Millenary and Harry Winston’s Avenue Squared dual timer, both women’s watches.

Feminine influence is evident on many dials, including Maurice Lacroix’s Starside complications, with two-tone lacquered dials divided by a diamond wave, and Alfex’s Happy Moments, with star-shape seconds counter and open calendar ring.

Feminine appeal is apparent, too, in floral designs on many luxury watch faces, including new watch brand Kenzo, displaying lacquered flowers and diamond-set blossoms; Pierre DeRoche’s Saphira, with blue sapphires and diamonds; Perrelet’s Diamond Flower series, with a bejeweled lotus in the center atop its double-sided winding rotor; Breguet’s haute horlogerie Reine de Naples, with floral-engraved dials; and Glashütte Original’s Spring Blossom, with overlapping diamond-set subdials.

Aesthetics aren’t limited to women’s watches. Patek Philippe’s World Time displays a cloisonné world map at its center, encircled by world time zones and day/night rings, while Van Cleef & Arpels’s men’s Midnight in Paris dial represents (on a rotating aventurine glass disk) the star map over Paris.

Others present complications creatively, like Piaget’s Emperador Coussin Perpetual Calendar, with “fan” retrogrades; Seiko’s Spring Drive minimalist moonphase; and Longines’s Master Collection Retrograde, with four arcs (seconds, day, date, and second time zone) at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock.

Many upscale watches offer new ways to show time. TX’s Linear Chronograph Time Instrument, for example, breaks time’s circle with vertical scales (not subdials) for chronograph minute counters. In Pierre Kunz’s Infinity Looping, hours and minutes revolve on overlapping tracks resembling “a rose window of time,” with a single hand indicating time. De Grisogono’s square Meccanico dG, with time zones top and bottom, is the first mechanical watch to display analog and digital time.

TAG Heuer’s Grand Carrera Calibre 17 has a double-rotating disc system for seconds and minutes (in apertures at 3 and 9 o’clock). RSW’s Outland replaces hour, minute, and seconds hands with three discs, moving around an immobile marker. Greubel Forsey’s Invention Pièce 1 uses triangular indicators—red for hours, blue for minutes—showing time on concentric half rings, while JeanRichard’s Paramount Time Square, a world first, has a three-pointed red, blue, and black rotating hour indicator that moves along the sides.