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Black Dials

Ethan Lipsig

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I estimate that less than one percent of pocket watches had black dials. Were black dials ever in vogue on pocket watches and, if so, when?

See below for photos of the two American examples I have collected. Please post photos of the black-dialed pocket watches you have collected.

I am posting a similar thread on the European etc. Pocket Watch Forum.

14k Elgin Grade 543 "Lord Elgin," Circa 1940
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Base Metal Hamilton 23, Circa 1940s
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Jerry Treiman

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This photo was included in "Through the Ages With Father Time" by Roy Rutherford Bailey, published around 1922.
It is a C. H. Hulburd presentation model Elgin.
View attachment 336869
 

Clint Geller

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Here are my two favorite black dials. Both watches are N Size Howards. The personalized dial with Gothic versals is on a hunting case nickel keywind Model 1871 ("Series IV"), and the Arabic numeral dial is on an open face Model 1884 (3/4 plate "Series VIII"). Both dials are signed on their reverses by the Howard dial room foreman, Josiah Moorhouse. The very different Howard signatures on both dials are both highly unusual. The signature on the Gothic personalized dial has the characters "E," "H," "&," "C," and "o" superimposed on one another. I have only seen that done on one other Howard dial. The movements and cases are gorgeous too.
 

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Accutronica

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I don't have any watches with black dials yet, but I like them. Sometime in the future I'll hopefully get one.

Robert
 

Clint Geller

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I no longer own the two black dial Howards I mentioned, either. They are still in the family, though, so to speak, as they belong to a close friend who lives a block away from me. I still have visitation rights. :)
 

Ethan Lipsig

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Beautiful dials, Clint. I am glad they're "still in the family."
 

artbissell

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Often wondered about the reasons for scarcity of black dials with the great variety of other colors in 10 and 12 size p.w. I have one only. 1930's Lord Elgin in gold SOLIDARITY 12s case. artbissell

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Ethan Lipsig

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Another beauty, Art!
 

topspin

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Black dials are very common on military watches, e.g. the Waltham "GSTP" of WW2 (and Elgin equivalent, if I recall correctly.)
They're also very common if you take a trip to somewhere trendy like Camden Market and look at the cheap watches mass-produced in China.
I have some Russian examples here, too.
 

artbissell

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Right you are about watches other than 10 and 12 size. Gruen was a pioneer using many metal dial designs in their popular 10s p.w. And used many black dials in w.w. Show me a Gruen p.w. with a black dial? art
 

Tom McIntyre

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Painted black metal dials can be very striking, but they are a rather simple variation of the dial. An enamel dial is another matter. All the examples I have seen use a standard enamel on copper blank like a normal white dial, but apply a negative image on the face of the dial in black, leaving the white numbers visible or apply a full black coat and then do the marks in white enamel. Either of those processes is fraught with difficulty and the yield was almost certainly much lower than for a normal dial.

The black negative approach was very difficult to execute while the white on black approach required a level of opacity in the white that was generally not available. I will try to dig out some of my black dials to post, but it will be a while since I am way overbooked at the moment.
 

Tom McIntyre

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This dial is not exactly black, but I think it fits the category. At one time I thought I was going to own it, but it did not happen.
DSCN7190.jpg DSCN7192.jpg DSCN7196.jpg
 

Dante Sudilovsky

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I only have one example of a black dial PW, and probably one of the most common ones: A 1944 Elgin Jitterbug Timer. Absolutely love these Elgin Timers (both the 15j Jitterbugs and the 7j 60 seconds variants). Well built, easy to work on, affordable.

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Clint Geller

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This dial is not exactly black, but I think it fits the category. At one time I thought I was going to own it, but it did not happen.
attachment.jpg attachment.jpg attachment.jpg

Tom, If I am not mistaken, I believe that dial may also be signed on the back by Josiah Moorhouse, from the period before he came to Howard, when he worked for the American Watch Company.
 

Jerry Treiman

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This is at the opposite end of the quality spectrum. It took me a while to locate this one in my older cigar boxes. The movement is an 18-size Knickerbocker Watch Co. with a duplex escapement. I think it may have been made for them by the New England Watch Co. The case is thin stamped steel with a black lacquer finish. But the dial is a beautiful black enamel dial with gold numbers. The bezel doesn't even expose all of the minute marks, but I am pretty sure it is original. (and the dial is applied a little crooked!).
Knickerbocker_f.jpg Knickerbocker_d.jpg
 

artbissell

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Right you are about watches other than 10 and 12 size. Gruen was a pioneer using many metal dial designs in their popular 10s p.w. And used many black dials in w.w. Show me a Gruen p.w. with a black dial? art
Do not know how many different dozens of different Gruen p.w. dials I have seen and thousands of watches, but only now see a black dial. It is the last Gruen 10s p.w. from early 1950. Movement actually made for Gruen by Lavinia. art

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topspin

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Topspin goes for a black-dial pocket watch world tour!

First up - Zippo - American brand, made in China.

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Knonen & Sohne - German.

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Raketa - Russian. One of several ex-Soviet brands available in black dial (mechanical.) This one fits perfectly into a miniature grandfather clock on my desk at work.

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Unknown half-hunter mechanical from Camden Market. Swiss or Chinese, perhaps.

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Typical (extremely common) WW2-era British Army GSTP, in original case complete with MOD crow's foot on the back. What's left of what's inside, started life as a Waltham 1609.

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Timex. Japanese.

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Big chunky dragon single-hunter. From Hong Kong, IIRC.

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And last but not least - my "Flood Gamechanger". Can't remember where on earth this came from.

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Completing the black-dial set I also have a Skagen (quartz) - Danish ; and a HMT (mechanical) - Indian.
 

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Waltham Watches by Clint Geller