A Brief History of the California Dial

A Brief History of the California Dial

Postby koimaster » April 26th 2018, 8:24am


The definition of a 'California Dial' is very simple. It is a watch dial that consists of half Roman and half Arabic numerals. Numbers 10 to 2 are Roman, 4 to 8 are Arabic with 4,6,9 & 12 changing design from brand to brand.

The two brands most associated with the California dial are Rolex and Panerai. Rolex first started making watches with california dials as early as 1934 with the Ref. 3595 bubble back watch. These bubble back watches are some of the coolest vintage watches that Rolex ever made. They may be small by today's standards, 32mm to 34mm, but they have so much character that you gotta love them. The pink gold hooded lugs, tonneau cases and bubbly backs are worlds apart from what Rolex makes now.

In 1936, the Italian Navy requested that Officine Panerai make a watch for a team of combat divers. It needed to be water and pressure resistant watch with a dial which was visible at night and under water. To go on a quick tangent, this does not mean this watch, the Ref. 3646, is the first dive watch. Yes, it was a watch made for a team of professional divers but it's design did not differ all that much from other watches of that era. Compared to the dive watches from the 1950s and 1960s like the Doxa Sub300T, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, the Omega Ploprof and the Rolex SeaDweller, the Ref. 3646 is a very different beast.

The thing is that Panerai didn't make watches. They made measurement instruments like depth gauges but no wristwatches. So they approached Rolex to make a watch to the specs needed by the Italian Navy.

https://www.timepiecechronicle.com/feat ... ornia-dial

A Brief History of the California Dial.pdf
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Re: A Brief History of the California Dial

Postby MAX » April 26th 2018, 9:19am

Never liked the california dial until I owned one. A favorite now.
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Re: A Brief History of the California Dial

Postby foghorn » April 26th 2018, 10:20am

One of the few styles that I have never owned. I've come close a few times but , like the dials designer , I couldn't make up my mind.

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Re: A Brief History of the California Dial

Postby smellody » April 26th 2018, 11:15am

I've always wanted one.
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