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Why Do So Many Watches Use The Same Fonts?

Arthur D. from Ontario, Canada asks:

A lot of watches have Arabic numerals. How and why did this come about? Whats wrong with other fonts? Just looking at the Anstead watch article and then looking at my Omega Seamaster PO and the fonts are identical.

What we think you are asking is why so many watches have the same fonts on the dial. Arabic numerals aren’t a font, but simply the numerals we typically use (1,2,3…) versus Roman numerals (I,II,III…). There isn’t a specific answer that we know of, but we will offer an educated guess based on what we know about the industry and today’s watch design.

Think back to when wrist watches were still new. A lot of companies experimented with dial styles, fonts, hands, etc… going through 1,000s of designs trying to identify which ones were the most legible and attractive. Before long there were clear winners and losers in those areas. Assuming any of those designs were protected, such protection would have been lost long ago or become generic. So many fonts are free to use and copy. Brands today simply like to use what works. If a font has been used before and it is successful, why try to invent something new? So basically after a lot of experimentation, a few winners arose that mixed aesthetics and legibility very well; and they are simply used a lot for those reasons.

There is also a nostalgic element to design. Brands want their watches to feel timeless and familiar to wearers. Use of a font people are familiar with and have likely seen other places is usually a simple way to win people’s attention versus coming up with something new and fresh that will wow people. By and large watch design is rather conservative, with people mostly tweaking or mixing around existing designs versus coming up with something untested.

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  • EranR

    Actually, watch dials feature quite a lot of fonts. In fact, on many watches you would find 2, 3, sometimes more fonts. Often you will have different fonts for big hour indicator numbers, for smaller second / minute numbers, for the date etc.
    Date font is often generic (from the movement’s standard disc), other fonts printed by the watch designer. Thing is, to the untrained eye, these fonts could appear to be the same, but they’re not.