When is a dial too ‘noisy’?

There are more watch dial designs than atoms in the universe (probably), and I wondered at what point you would consider a watch dial to be a bit much… if at all! Personally I like uncomplicated dials, simplicity rather than complexity.

Examples from either end of the spectrum.

Junghans Max Bill (I was going to add a NOMOS as well but they were very similar!)

Image

Rolex OP

Image

To the Citizen Navihawk and Breitling Navitimer

Image
Image

What is the design that you feel is optimal, is it a chrono or something else?

·

To me, the issue is mostly in terms of being able to read the time at a glance, rather than the "business" of the dial. My silver dial OP36 dial is uncluttered, but the white gold hands blend in to the dial, making it hard to read at a glance unless the light strikes it just right. I have several chronographs with much busier dials, but which are easy to read based on contrast between hands and dial.

Image
Image
·

For me it's too busy as soon as it's just garbage the designer added for no reason. 

Random shapes etc. Can't stand them.

Image
Image
Image

But I love dials where it's mostly practical. Busy or not. Just feels manly and purposeful. 

Or in the case of the colorful g shocks, casual and sporty, but again purposeful. Here are some ones I do like:

Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image

But I'll give an exception for something like that blue g shock with the pattern on the dial. - Because it's cheap and casual the pattern doesn't feel out of place (like those overdone pointers I showed) or pretentious (which is how I feel about many dress watches and skeleton watches that take things too far).

For me a watch is cool only if it's a tool - or if it's cheap and casual. 

Anything beyond that I feel is just "trying too hard" which is uncool. For me most luxury watches just make the guy look like he's insecure or pompous.

·

For me, a dial is not too busy if:

  • every detail was decided upon and relates to a customer goal or need, and the watch was tested with its intended end user
  • the watch has built enough historical significance to overshadow the obsolete design patterns
  • the watch was made to show the limits of what watchmakers can do, either artistically or technically
·

My preference is for high contrast three handers, and generally non-patterened dials. 

·
tempus

To me, the issue is mostly in terms of being able to read the time at a glance, rather than the "business" of the dial. My silver dial OP36 dial is uncluttered, but the white gold hands blend in to the dial, making it hard to read at a glance unless the light strikes it just right. I have several chronographs with much busier dials, but which are easy to read based on contrast between hands and dial.

Image
Image

That speedmaster is stunning!

·

the Omega Speedmaster is exactly as busy as a dial can be without overdoing it. 

·

I think Breitling has mastered the busy dial.  Well, they practically invented it with the slide rule bezel watch.  I admit its my favorite because I am old enough to have been required to learn how to use a slide ruler.  The fact that I can do slide rule calculations on my watch is pretty awesome.

·

I generally prefer simple dials.  However, there are simple dials I don't like. Also, there are busy dials I like a lot, and the Breitling Navitimer is definitely in that category. 

·

For me the problem of the dials is not in business, but bad design: wrong proportions, breaking the rule of closeness, visual weigh dissbalance (when the watch is info heavy on one side. When designers use a lot of differently styled elements it becomes a mess. In case of Naviter and how it is designed - I'm a fan!

·

I would own so many more watches if the makers of them could just show some restraint. And, of course, the other extreme is an issue too. Your examples;

The Junghans is a good example of minimalist design. It's tempting because the design is so clean but it falls short on the case. The dial is nearly perfect, though slightly more prominent hands would make it more legible at a glance and would help with lume, but it's truly an exercise of "if it doesn't need to be there, it won't be there." 

But it also comes with a sense of fragility built into it. No crown guards. Slender case. Its domed crystal feels vulnerable and exposed. While minimalist in design, and with a great dial face, it lacks substance and I'd be afraid to wear it. 

The Rolex though; the OP is very nearly perfect. Minimalist in design with a strong orientation and distinct and clean markings. The case is substantial making it look sturdy and protected. Good contrast on the dial and the branding is present and identifiable without being overbearing. Too much text though. Superlative Chronometer Officially Certified. 15 syllables in 4 words. Put all that crap on the caseback. On the front? Rolex on the top half. Oyster Perpetual on the bottom half. That's it. Brand and model. That's probably more than Rolex even needs to do. 

That Citizen Nighthawk is an abomination. There are 4 analogue subdials and 2 digital ones; one of which is 3 lines of data. Too much. The watch hands themselves are comically small. The goal of simplifying the graphic design vocabulary by keeping the colour palate restrained to black and white just makes it all harder to read. Put a red seconds hand on it. Outline the watch hands in blue. It's awful. 

Breitling Navitimer? Ditto. What. A. Mess.

For my money, the Sinn 556 I RS is one of the cleanest, best designed watches ever made. 

Image

 We know what the numbers are. We don't need them on the dial. A clean demarcation and hierarchy of the minute markers is, maybe, slightly bolder than they need to be, but still very clean. The hands are substantial enough to be easily read without dominating the dial. The red seconds hand is easily disregarded while being present enough to easily verify the watch is "ticking away" and keeping time and will never be confused with anything else on the dial because it is red. The case is substantial enough to not appear delicate, while being elegant enough to not feel like you're killing a mosquito with a sledge hammer. A simple and clean date complication; all that is required and nicely colour matched and without a frame so it looks like it's seamlessly part of the dial. And crown guards, because if you've bought a cheaper watch, you've snapped the crown off it at least once. 

I wish it was 40mm. I still have my name on the wait list for one. It's a good watch. Close to perfect. 

Can they be busier and still look great? Sure. But why?

·
Image

Did you say noisy ?

·

I have grown more and more interested in simple dials. So much so that I’m planning on buying a Tudor Ranger in the near future. I really want quick legibility and no clutter helps that. 

·

I’d have said I’m more of a less is more type chap. As some are doubtless aware due to the amount of wrist shots of the same watch, I like a simple single dial most - and this is about as much noise as I can take!

Image

I do like the IWC Portugieser Chronograph though. It strikes a balance beautifully:

Image
·

That is my first criteria.   Can these old eyes read the dial?  If not, and regardless of the brand, I go right on past.   Simple dials, high contrast hands, and big ass numbers/markers.  Something like the old school clocks, but smaller.

·
Image

Simple and stylish is best. The worst watch in my collection is the above Casio Edifice Solar. The watch does everything for an incredibly cheap price, but boy is it ugly!