Opinion: Black Dials > Color Dials

Just the other day, the latest addition to my collection and the watch that will take up most of my wrist time this summer finally arrived at my doorstep. Inside the well traveled box, a 50th Anniversary Doxa Sub 300 Sharkhunter. I’ve been patiently waiting for this specific Doxa reference to resurface for the longest. After countless eBay searches, Watch Recon alert checks and Chrono24 page refreshes, an opportunity finally presented itself and I immediately jumped on it. It’s a pristine example of a 50th Anniversary Sub 300 Sharkhunter from 2017. The brushed chunk of steel and untouched polished bezel, now in my hands, are just begging to be marked with scuffs and scratches from my future adventures this summer. The most important trait to me however, and the main reason why I pulled the trigger on this particular Doxa in the first place, is the monochromatic look of the Sharkhunter dial.

The Black Dial Collection.

I adore the minimal dial of the Sharkhunter without the black and yellow Aqua Lung logo. And although a minor detail, I also love how the minute hand is white instead of orange as it is in the current Doxa Sharkhunter offerings. It’s simple and clean. Nothing pulls my attention away from admiring the cushion case, sawtooth bezel or the peculiar hand set. Doxa does offer up plenty of dial color options (a couple of which I’ve owned), but like all the other color dial watches that have come and gone, they never quite stick around for long. Come to think of it, as my collection currently stands, all but one of my watches are steel with black dials.


Before I dive into this, let me just say that I am firmly in the camp of, “Wear what makes you happy.” If you’re someone that enjoys some (or a lot) of color in your life and wears the watch confidently, then props to you. That doesn’t mean I dislike colorful dials. I appreciate a well executed vibrant dial like the teal Grand Seiko SBGW275, the salmon Oris ProPilot X 400 or the Maiz Astor+Banks Fortitude Lite. I’m just at a point right now where my taste leans towards a steel watch with a black dial. Simple, no fuss and straightforward. If you’re a reader that’s picking up what I’m putting down, then I’m sure you’re getting where I’m coming from.

The best way to explain how I feel about colorful dials is to compare it to the single “Hawaiian shirt” (Yeah, you know the type of shirt I’m talking about) or the orange puffer jacket hanging in my closet. When it comes down to it, I only use them seasonally, sparingly and occasionally for a specific purpose. When I vacation in a tropical locale or find myself headed to a bar along the Hudson in the dead of summer, you can bet that Hawaiian shirt is getting some air. Same goes for my orange puffer jacket in the winter. Aside from keeping me warm, it’s something I throw on when I’m in the mood to wear a bright color in the shorter, darker and much cooler days of winter. The jacket also proves useful when I’m picking up family or friends at the airport since I won’t surely be missed in a crowd of people with an obnoxiously colored jacket. High-vis at its best. There’s a parallel here with how I feel about wearing a colored dial watch. When it comes down to it, the watch ends up resurfacing from the depths of my collection to be worn seasonally or when I’m in need of a refresher.

When I further dissect my ownership, this is the life cycle of the color dial watch in my collection. Like any brand new watch, I get extremely psyched about it. The honeymoon period ensues and the watch stays on wrist indefinitely. But after a few weeks, the watch may get sidelined for a day, substituted for another watch in the collection or for a watch review (perks of the job). I’d come back to that watch for a bit more, but slowly it spends more time in the watch box, only to be taken out again here and there to “switch things up”. At that point it’s only worn every so often and I ultimately make the decision to list it online for sale or on my IG stories asking the good folks within the community to give the watch a good home. The watch gets shipped off, leaving a group of black dialed watches that were there to begin with.

No Orange Dial On This Doxa, But An Orange Puffer Instead.

Now why black dials? The short answer is that I can wear them all year long and with any outfit. They’re neutral. There’s no need to second guess if it fits the look for the day because a steel watch and black dial is a part of my daily uniform. So, back to the wardrobe example. My closet is filled with blacks, grays and navy blues (to me that’s still neutral). I have a pair of black chinos that I wear all year round, a navy blue chore coat that’s my go to and my trusty pair of bone white Onitsuka sneakers. And on the odd chance I’m in the mood to throw on some color, a black dial watch never fails to fall in line.

The “Hawaiian Shirt” That Makes An Appearance Once (Or Twice) A Year.

So yeah, a black dial watch is versatile. There’s also never an issue with legibility if the design is executed properly. White markers and even faux patina provide a clear contrast against a black dial. They’re not distracting when attempting to tell the time. Have you also noticed that black dials also appear to look smaller and slimmer on wrist? So if you’re on the narrower wristed side like I am, this also works to your advantage. I also guess it’s true what they say, black does make you, or your watch, look slimmer. There’s also a “classic” element to a black dial watch, much like a black tuxedo or a black Lamborghini Countach. There’s no mistake that watches like the Submariner, the IWC Mark XV or the dirty dozen field watches have black dials and are deemed classics.

In my opinion (I mean that’s why I’m writing this, right?), you can’t mask any design flaws with a black dial. In minimal design, it’s easy to spot imperfections. Not saying that all color dials have something wrong with the design, but there is a quality there that a bright color might pull you away from something that might be a little off with the watch. Maybe this is the reason that black dials have stuck around in my collection and color dials haven’t. I’m able to appreciate the design aspects of the watch, whether that’s the case lines, finishing or dial layout. It’s like the old saying goes, beautiful things don’t ask for attention.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love the minimal accents of color on a black dial. I’ll take the orange numerals on the polished bezel of my Doxa Sharkhunter, or the blue “Sat” and red “Sun” on the date wheel of my trust SKX013. If I do feel the need to add some pizzazz, then I’ll just throw on a NATO or a perlon strap with some color. I know I haven’t mentioned white or silver dials up until this point, but that’s probably where I would start if I were to commit to owning a watch that doesn’t have a black dial (Seiko’s latest white dial SPB313 Prospex Diver is currently tugging on my heart strings).

Finally there’s the price conundrum. I can’t justify spending a sizable amount of money on a watch that I know for certain will be worn sparingly, and then only to go through the hassle of selling the watch. If I do drop some cash, I want to have something that I won’t get tired of and will stick around for the long run.

Now my tastes are constantly evolving. I’m sure that at some point, I might get sick and tired of looking at the same black dial steel watch, and I’ll want to add something different just to have a new look. But that’s not where I’m currently at. There are plenty of watches out there, most notably Grand Seiko, that have a color dial that I aspire to own but just haven’t quite committed yet. Looking at the microbrand space could provide a viable alternative. Nowadays, the microbrand space has offered plenty of opportunities where someone like me can dip their toe into the shallow end of the color dial pool and get the same experience without the high stakes of buying into a luxury brand. And when in doubt, there’s always going to be a plethora of options for color when it comes to G-Shock. Who knows what the next dial color trend will be or if we’re still riding the green dial train from last year. I do know one thing, when black is the new hot dial color (which in opinion it has always been), I’ll be more than prepared to be the cool kid on the block.

Now it’s your turn. Do you agree or disagree? Are all your watches steel with black dials or do you prefer a pop of color on wrist? If you had to recommend a color dial watch, what would it be? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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Thomas is a budding writer and an avid photographer by way of San Diego, California. From his local surf break to mountain peaks and occasionally traveling to destinations off the beaten path, he is always searching for his next adventure, with a watch on wrist, and a camera in hand. Thomas is a watch enthusiast through and through; having a strong passion for their breadth of design, historical connection, and the stories that lie within each timepiece.