Featuring a mix of both Roman and Arabic numeral hour markers, California dials were originally developed for functional reasons back in the 1930s. The mentality behind them was that two different styles of hour markers would increase legibility, and help offer “error-proof” readings. In more recent years, California dials have garnered somewhat of a cult following among collectors due to their distinct appearance and interesting backstory. When Hong Kong/New York menswear company The Armoury teamed up with Glasgow-based watch brand Paulin, the two decided to reinterpret the classic California dial concept. Similar to The Armoury itself, which features a blend of both Eastern and Western design influences, the Paulin Modul A “Hong Kong Dial” for The Armoury watch showcases a unique dial that pairs Roman numerals with Chinese characters.

Based upon the core platform of Paulin’s Modul A Quartz wristwatch, the Paulin Modul A “Hong Kong Dial” for The Armoury features the Scottish brand’s unusual multi-component stainless steel C-shaped case, which consists of a black-finished internal section mounted inside of a brushed and polished outer frame that contains the lugs, with the two parts connected by a pair of screws located on either side. The “Modul” name for this series is actually short for “modular” and Paulin originally created this somewhat complex approach to the classic C-shaped profile in order to create a watch case that could be adapted to different types of movements. While its origins may be functional, it also results in a rather unusual and dynamic aesthetic, and the exact same statement could be said about California dials.

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At the time of writing, the Paulin Modul A “Hong Kong Dial” for The Armoury series offers four different variations, with dial colors that include yellow, black, light blue, and purple. Aside from their colors, the four dials all offer the same design and layout, which consists of Roman numerals at the 1, 2, 10, and 11 o’clock locations; Chinese characters for the 4, 5, 7, and 8 o’clock positions; an inverted triangle at 12 o’clock; and horizontal rectangles placed at the remaining cardinal points. On the yellow dial version featured here, the numerals and text are black, while the outer minute track is white. The four geometric shapes at the cardinal points are printed in gold, which gives the watch an unexpected and visually engaging twist.

The handset fitted to the Paulin Modul A “Hong Kong Dial” for The Armoury watches appears to have been carried over from the standard-production Modul A Quartz series, although the finishing has been updated to feature linear brushing on the hour and minute hands, along with a mirror-polished seconds hand. While there is no luminescent material on the dial or hands of the watch whatsoever, the indices are quite large, and the linear brushing on the hands often catches the light to further help promote their visibility. Although I personally wish that the minute hand was slightly longer to bring it closer to the markings of the minute track, the open cutout in its tip is an interesting design element. It also allows the dial’s signature hour markers to remain fully visible, even when the minute hand is positioned above them.

In terms of its dimensions, the case of the Paulin Modul A “Hong Kong Dial” for The Armoury measures 35mm by 40mm lug-to-lug, with 18mm spaces between the lugs of its C-shaped outer frame. Even including the box-shaped Hesalite crystal that sits above the dial, the total thickness of the watch comes in at just 8.2mm. Sitting at 3 o’clock is a push/pull-style crown that is signed with Paulin’s “P” logo. The reverse side of the watch receives a screw-down caseback that helps support its 50 meters of water resistance. However, unlike most watches with quartz movements that hide them behind solid casebacks, the Paulin Modul A “Hong Kong Dial” for The Armoury models feature casebacks that have transparent display windows to showcase the blue and gold components of their ETA Cal. 955.112 Swiss quartz movements.

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The various Paulin Modul A “Hong Kong Dial” for The Armoury watches are available with the option of either a stainless steel mesh bracelet or the gray suede strap that appears on the watch throughout the images of this review. The gray suede strap doesn’t offer any type of taper, maintaining its 18mm width all the way from the lugs to where it connects to its tang-style buckle. Additionally, the buckle itself is rather interesting from a design standpoint Along with being engraved with Paulin’s logo and having the first keeper for the strap integrated into its framework, the outer section of the buckle is brushed and polished stainless steel, while the interior tang component is finished black, and this mirrors the finishing on the case components of the watch.

On the wrist, the Paulin Modul A “Hong Kong Dial” for The Armoury offers a surprising amount of presence for its size due to the profile of its C-shaped case. In addition, it incorporates a number of unusual and slightly playful design elements without at all seeming childish or gimmicky. The blocky typography for the hour markers works equally well for both the Roman numerals and Chinese characters, and it creates a sense of balance where they almost become abstract indexes when quickly glancing at the dial. While an ETA quartz movement isn’t exactly all that special, I personally very much enjoy the use of a display caseback (something that exists on all Paulin Modul watches). With that said, the signature “Hong Kong Dial” is clearly the standout feature on these particular collaboration models, and it’s slightly surprising that we don’t see more brands put their own twists on the classic California dial concept.

With an official retail price of $600 USD, the Paulin Modul A “Hong Kong Dial” for The Armoury models is a bit more expensive than Paulin’s standard-catalog Modul A Quartz watches. However, they benefit from a noticeably more restrained appearance, while simultaneously feeling significantly different from anything else in Paulin’s current catalog. Additionally, rather than being watches that you will find on Paulin’s official website, the Modul A “Hong Kong Dial” models will be exclusively available from The Armoury (both online and in its physical retail stores). At the time of writing, some of the various colorways are already sold out, although since these watches are not limited editions, those who want one of the unavailable dial colors can simply wait until it returns in stock, rather than needing to resort to the secondary market to source one. For more information on the Paulin Modul A “Hong Kong Dial” for The Armoury, please visit either the Paulin website or The Armoury website.

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