Fun Facts about your Watch Dial, More Than a Time Display

January 15th, 2010 | 1 Comment

Without the watch dial, the complex internal workings of mechanical watches would have no way to display the time. Analog watches typically have a numbered watch dial, an hour hand and a longer minute hand.

But do you know why the watch dial’s minute hand is longer than the hour hand? Read on to answer this and other interesting questions about watch dials.


Why do watch dials move clockwise?

Henry Fried, the foremost expert of American watchmakers who in his lifetime wrote 14 books and hundreds of articles on horology, speculated that the clockwise motion of minute and hour hands originated with sundials. On sundials in the northern hemisphere, the shadow rotates in a clockwise direction.

Fried said that clock inventors then built the watch dial hands to mimic what they saw on sundials.


Who were the Radium Girls…a pop band?

No–they were a group of female factory workers at the United States Radium factory in Orange, New Jersey in the late 1910′s. They painted watch dials with glow-in-the-dark paint, which they were told was harmless, but was actually a mixture of radium and glue. Believing it to be harmless, they licked their paintbrushes to sharpen them.

In 1922, Grace Fryer’s teeth began to loosen and fall out for no apparent reason, and her jaw swelled. Other similar cases appeared around the town, and a clear link was easily made between the women; they all worked at the same factory during the same time period.

Five of the women challenged their employer and won, establishing that employees who contract occupational diseases have the right to sue their employers. The rest of the fascinating story can be found here.


Do watch dials in advertisements display a time of 10:10 to commemorate JFK’s death?

No. Watchmaker’s logos are often displayed just below the 12. Having the watch dial hands point to 10 and 10 frame and accentuate the logo.

In the past, when some logos were placed above the 6, manufacturers did the same thing by displaying a time of 8:20. However, this practice has been mostly discontinued because it gives the timepiece the appearance of “frowning”, whereas 10:10 looks more like a smile.

Besides, JFK was shot at 12:30 p.m. and pronounced dead at 1:00 p.m.


What are the most popular watch dial colors?

According to Watch Trends 2010, the latest trend is slightly pink rose gold, with platinum and white metal being time-tested favorites.

Clearly, there’s more behind a watch dial than just telling the time.



  1. 1 Comment | Tell us what you think!

  2. By Diane on Jan 26, 2010

    Interesting article! Love the trivia!

1 comment | Tell us what you think!