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Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Today’s watch industry is arguably more advanced and refined in terms of design and production than it has ever been. Given that aesthetics are such an important part of choosing which watch to wear, one would think that common design challenges would have been addressed long ago. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case, so let’s look at the often problematic issue of displaying the date on a watch dial.

How is it possible that we see as many unattractive as attractive date windows on today’s watches? The date display is among the most common, and of course valid, sources of criticism among our readers that seems to come up in the comments of almost every article here on aBlogtoWatch. The size, the position, and even the color of the date wheel in relation to that of the dial can drive people nuts – and we often can’t help but sympathize! Too many great designs have fallen short of “perfection” or even been ruined by a misplaced, badly sized, or seemingly carelessly colored date display. Today, we focus on this single small aspect of watch design that can actually make all the difference.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Why Indicating the Date Presents a Design Problem

“Just delete it.” That, at least, is the conclusion of many watch enthusiasts and watch writers who advocate that many dial designs would be improved with no date display at all. What helps this opinion despite the commercial importance of date windows on watch dials is that most people no longer rely on watches as their calendars (phones work pretty well for that). The prevalence of this “no-date” sentiment (and it is very prevalent) should tell you that it is indeed a pressing issue. No date display at all makes sense as one option in the matter of solving how a date window can detract from an otherwise attractive watch dial. However, in a world of impractical and superfluous watch complications, do we really want less of one that is actually useful and convenient? A white date display on a dark dial is a deal-breaker for many people, with the answer being a black date wheel. I would argue, however, that the answer is in viewing the date display as a more central and harmonious part of the design to begin with, rather than just finding a better way to hide it.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

In 1945, none other than the Rolex Datejust (above) introduced the first wristwatch with an automatically changing date function, and it was displayed in a little aperture at 3 o’clock. Today, some seventy years later, such date windows are ubiquitous, largely unchanged, and there is no sign of them going away any time soon. The watch industry still feels that the general consumer (not necessarily enthusiasts) often demands this complication – and, apparently, retailer testimony and sales data is proof. After the hours and minutes, I would agree that the date is probably the most useful watch complication there is, in many ways more so than even a seconds hand. But the watch community has every right to demand a higher level of design refinement.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

And demand we do, but sometimes it seems like no one is listening. Why do we continue to see so many date wheels that clash – in the eyes of many, at least – with their dial colors? I don’t have the answer for why. As many have wondered in vain, can getting a black date wheel with white numbers really be that expensive or difficult? Some entry-level watch companies (Swiss, Japanese, and even some others) are able to produce reasonably priced watches with matching date wheels. So it can’t be that hard – although, beyond black and white, it might start getting more complicated to match the date wheel with other dial colors.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Perhaps it is reasonable for the watch industry and watch designers to feel that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Watches at more or less all levels continue to incorporate “contrasting” date displays. The Rolex Submariner, for example, is arguably the most successful and iconic watch design of all time, and offers a white date wheel for a black dial – though, notably, the Rolex Submariner debuted with the no-date version (see our review here) only. However, the white date on the Submariner works, one could argue, because of the overall black and white design, with the white indices and hands on a black dial – if there were no other white elements on the dial, for instance, the white date window would be just as distracting as it is on any other watch.

It also has to be said that, in the past, when watches were common tools that many people relied on in their daily lives, a little white date window on a black dial was a solution that conveyed useful information legibly. But we have evolved, watches are now largely luxury items, and there is every reason to strive for utility and harmonious design. With that in mind, let’s see what options watchmakers have when it comes to fitting date indications to mechanical timepieces.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Swiss Sellita SW300 movement

Types of Date Displays

It may be obvious, but one reason that we see the same thing over and over is that the highly common ETA movements (and their Sellita and other 3rd-party copies) which in total are installed into hundreds of thousands of watches every year, proscribe certain layouts and inherently have certain features and limitations – as well as flexibility.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Still, the standard date display leaves us with an aperture at either 3, 4:30 or 6 o’clock on the dial. The technical difference between the date at these different locations is pretty much in the print’s orientation on the wheel – and sometimes it seems as though that decision is where the design creativity stops. Further, in order to fit all 31 numbers onto the date wheel, the numbers themselves often have to be pretty small, depending on the dial size and other considerations, of course. And because most ETA calibers (and, in fact, the majority of watch movements) were designed ages ago when the average men’s wristwatch measured in at some 6-10 millimeters smaller in diameter than today, many watchmakers who produce 42-44mm-wide or larger watches now are forced to fit these relatively small-diameter movements under considerably wider dials. This, in turn, leaves us with date windows positioned oddly close to the center of the dial, cutting indices in half, or just simply appearing to be more of an afterthought than anything else.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Another issue with traditional date mechanisms is the fact that many of them are rather slow to “update,” meaning that they take their sweet time, sometimes requiring +/- 2 hours before and after midnight to advance to the correct setting. Another infuriating issue is when the date does not display in the dead center of its aperture. The way the two Arabic numerals of the date are displayed and advanced brings us to the second tier of date functions – that of the more creative, more complicated, and, generally speaking, more widely appreciated ones.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

The “Outsize Date” complication revealed on the dial side of the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon’s caliber

This watch enthusiast, personally, loves the “big date” (aka: grande date, oversize date, outsize date, panoramadatum, etc.) complication as one alternative that uses the date as a confident and prominent design feature. Two German manufacturers have ascended as the key experts of this indication. With its Lange 1, A. Lange & Söhne debuted the first “Outsize Date” complication on a wristwatch in 1994. Also, Lange’s Datograph watches use it brilliantly alongside chronograph and more complex date complications, while their Saxonia shows it in a more simple and classic context.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Glashütte Original’s PanoramaDate is different to Lange’s solution in that “GO” has found a way to design this large date indication so that the two discs are on the same plane – while in Lange’s mechanism, one disc is visible over the other. A minor difference, but one that is definitely notable in the pursuit of the most refined date indications.

It arguably happens more often with digital date displays than with other versions that an “instantaneous jump” feature is added: what this means is that the watch “charges up” the date indication, gathering energy as midnight nears, and advances or rather, jumps the two discs simultaneously at midnight. This is yet another way to refine date indications – and again, one that we would love to see much more often.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

TAG Heuer Aquaracer 300m Calibre 45 Automatic Chronograph with “big date” alongside ETA 7750-based Calibre 16.

Other brands have their own takes on it too, and while it does add complexity to the movement, I would certainly like to see more “digital dates” at more accessible prices. Give the watch designers that option with more widely available and affordable big-date movements, and let’s see what we get. What are your suggestions and preferences for a more elegant date display? Let us know in the comments!

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Another great but unfortunately less common alternative is using a hand to indicate the date rather than discs under an aperture. Some eye-catching examples include the new-for-2016 blue Omega Speedmaster Moonphase Chronograph Master Chronometer (debuted here) with a date sub-dial, or this Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Calendar Meteorite (hands-on here) that uses a centrally mounted hand and a date track along the periphery of the dial. Well executed, a “pointer-date” can be a legible and elegant solution to incorporating a date display without disrupting the dial’s visual balance.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Then, as is always the case in watchmaking, you have what could only be referred to as “overkill.” IWC added two digital indications to their IWC Ingenieur Perpetual Calendar, for instance, while the Christophe Claret-developed Jean Dunand Shabaka used tiny rollers, set laterally into the plane of the dial to display the day, date, and month, respectively. Nothing wrong with a creative approach!

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Good Versus Bad Executions

While there are a number of ways watchmakers have come up with to display the date, alternatives to the standard date window at 3 o’clock or 6 o’clock often result in an even more niche, quirky, or avant-garde feel. Expanded date windows that show the dates on either side of the current one, analog “pointer-dates,” and the magnifying “cyclops” on the crystal above, for example, can be even more controversial.

This Edox Grand Ocean Decentrique that you see above is maybe one of the worst offenders when it comes to extended date apertures. Not only is the date disc colored an utterly disruptive white, and the dial gives you an unnecessarily extended view of it, but it also gives you some help with your arithmetic in case you have trouble counting. It may have appeared a novel idea on a computer render, but it is difficult to imagine that many people would want to see this every time they glanced at their watch.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

So while we like options and variety, displaying the date elegantly is clearly a tricky task, and it makes sense that you would have to be very careful when dealing with what is essentially a cutout – or a considerable amount of added print – in an otherwise attractive and thoughtfully designed dial. Simply matching the date disc’s color to the dial, to other dial design elements – as in case of the Submariner, for example – and/or offering a model version that does away the date indication altogether are probably the easiest ways of pleasing a much larger number of potential customers.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

With all that noted, maybe a watch with a black dial and the date displayed on a white disc at 4:30 is no problem for you at all. The aesthetic issues of the date window are a totally subjective matter (this writer is personally not all that perturbed, actually) and can often only be judged case by case. However, once a design element of a watch has been pointed out to you as even slightly “off,” it can become hard to ignore, to “unsee.” I believe that we enthusiasts are right to scrutinize watches the way we do because, after all, they are products that essentially ask to become part of your person. Although the common date window is not “bad” per se, we want to strive for better, with more creative, deliberate, and elegant approaches to this design element so that it will find a welcoming audience. The date display should be anything but an afterthought.

Explaining Design Problems With Date Displays On Watches Featured Articles

For consumers choosing a new watch, be aware of this design element as an indicator of the care and refinement that went into a watch’s design and consider how you will feel about seeing it on your wrist every day. To our readers: know that we hear and echo your opinions, and that the watch industry is listening. Do you use the date display on your watch? Do you miss it on a watch that doesn’t have it? At what price point would you not accept a date wheel that fails to match the dial color? How can watch companies win your money while still offering the date? Please share your thoughts and suggestions below.

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Comments

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  • Justino Valverde

    The Omega Planet Ocean Chronograph (232.90.46.51.03.001, Liquid metal, titanium) is another great example for the worst date wheel ever. Is you look at the SS version in black (232.30.46.51.01.001), it has a black wheel, if you look at the BLUE DIAL Titanium Liquid metal, black again… Are this “luxury watch makers” gonna make so much more money for using the same date wheel? It’s a shame.

  • the #watchnerd

    The Series 4 from Roger W Smith has an interesting travelling display that does away with the hand.

    The Ochs und Jnr also does away with hands. And numbers.

  • DR

    One of my – many! – frustrations is inconsistency in style throughout the month – you might have a very ‘squashed’ single-digit date, and then very tall, thin double-digit dates (like the Hamilton Intramatic above).

    Or perhaps even worse, the ‘6’ that looks more like a ‘G’!

    • Dinkee, H. O.

      You need to buy better watches.

  • trj66

    “The date display should be anything but an afterthought”… So true, and it sums up the problem perfectly.

    Nice write-up!

  • Dcf

    I see there is no pics of Omegas criminally ruining their blue dials with white on black date wheels.

    • IanE

      The trouble is that most of these issues are so personal. I quite like the white on black Omega date wheels plus dark blue dials (with light blue dials I’d probably hate this). Conversely, I abhor the cyclops which lots of people like (or even love); ditto date windows at 4.30!

      • Dcf

        True, some people like to wear black shoes with a brown belt, though that doesn’t make it atheistically pleasing. I agree with you about 4:30 dates and with the exception of the ROC find it to stick out like a parrot on someone’s shoulder.

    • Sevenmack

      There’s the matter of legibility. Black lettering on white background is always easier to read than white on (name any color) background. So while color-matching may be preferable from a design perspective, it isn’t necessarily sensible from the point of legibility. And legibility, especially on a small device as a watch, matters.

      Now, in the case of Omega, it would have been better off just doing black lettering on white background. There’s no good reason why they neither did that nor did a color-match on the date.

  • ETA produces date wheels typically with white and black backgrounds. Sometimes you can find them with a gold background. Orientation is usually 3H but 6H is not that hard to find. The standard date wheel with an ETA movement has a white background. Unless you order directly from ETA (which is getting to be very hard these days), you will have to buy the black background date wheels as parts and switch them in during assembly. So arguably, anything other than a white background cost more to produce in small quantities.

    4:30 as a printing solution is unusual. The 4:30 aperture on many watches is really 136.45 degrees (not 135 degrees) from “12”, so the date window often not really at the 45 degree line up with 4:30 on the dial. People often complain about this, but it’s because the watch brand is using a standard 3H wheel and just made the opening over the numbers for 3 days earlier on the date wheel.

    To truly have a 4:30 (or anything other than 3H and 6H) a watch brand usually has to have custom printed date wheels. And outside of black and white (and occasionally gold), other colors also require custom printed date wheels. But custom printing allows a brand to print with any orientation they want. So you could then have an opening at 4:30 where the numbers are vertically aligned (and not angled downward from their printed 3H position).

    An ETA 2824-2 movement advances completely within a 30 minute period. The reason you often hear not adjust your watch’s date via the winding stem between 10 PM and 2 AM is that the watchmaker who assembled your watch might have been lazy and did not precisely set the hands during assembly at 12:00 by observing when the date change occurs (via changing the time via the winding stem). So on an ETA 2824-2 for example, once you see when the actual date change occurs, you should be able to allow for an hour (even though it only takes 30 minutes) based in your observation as your date change exclusion period. 4 hours really excessive once you know when the date change actually occurs.

    (self-serving statement follows): You can design an well integrated date display if you try and care about the details when designing a dial.

    Thanks for the article James.

    • iamcalledryan

      That overnight stem-changing point is not exactly true. The more common format uses a jumper on a star wheel for a quick or instantaneous change, but the gears associated with the change are meshed for several hours before and after. If you use a quick date mechanism during this time it can indeed break the mechanism. More advanced mechanisms are uncoupled outside of a very small window and so mitigate the risk.

      • Not sure I’d call it a star wheel, but whatever. Or maybe you meant on an instantaneous date changer. The date change mechanism for an SW 300 is shown in red in the image below. Cheers.

      • Almost every watch I’ve looked at lately all warn against changing the day / date between, for instance, midnight and 3 or 4 am — the transition hours. This seems to be a thing that any watch enthusiast should already be aware of.

        Er… If I’ve got this wrong, my apologies.

        • iamcalledryan

          Unless you know for sure that it has a safety mechanism you are best not to quick-change the date between 9pm and 3am.

          The first thing I do when picking up a stopped watch is to pull the crown to the time-setting position and then I move it past 12 o’clock. If the date changes you know you have midnight, if it doesn’t you know you have midday. Then you can go ahead and set the time. If the actual time is outside of the transition hours you go ahead and use quick date (often the case as I often pick my watch in the morning); if it’s within those hours you change the date using the time-setting position.

          No tears!

    • Boogur T. Wang

      Thanks and that is a nicely designed dial.

      • Thanks – sort of less is more but every element has to work with the others. At least that was my intent. And yes, the date window width drove the size of the hour markers from the git go.

    • otaking241

      I feel like the 6 o’clock position is the “correct” place for a date window, but I have something of a fetish for symmetry. Too many attempts to balance date windows at the 3 o’clock position have ruined otherwise attractive watches; the Breitling Super Ocean, the Rolex DJII with Roman numerals etc.

      I agree with the article though that the “extended” date window is the worst offender. If you don’t know what comes before and after the number displayed you have bigger problems than your watch can solve for you.

    • egznyc

      I always liked a date at 6:00. ;-). It’s just good symmetry – not something that jumps out at you, unless you’re interested in checking the date.

      • I agree. The only down side is that the 2 digit numbers become rather narrow.

  • iamcalledryan

    Well was disappointed to discover that you were not reviewing a watch that featured a question mark in the date window!

    I personally prefer the watches that make a statement with their dates, and the further away from the ubiquitous date black on white 31-day wheel the better. My top two displays are the central moon hand a la triple calendar and the Saxon big date. James, you note the difference between GO and Lange, have you seen the Moser Perpetual? It’s very cool, all on one peripheral disk, but using an overlapping trick…

    There are also ways to make an ETA imprint a little more personal. I have a B&R and I love the tiny pinhole aperture at 4:30 as well as the colour matching. The date is there when you need it, and gone when you don’t.

  • Concerned1

    I think you mentioned one key point. Most comsumers want a date wheel. And, I feel they don’t care as much if it matches the dial, etc. The enthusiast market is typically very small compared to the overall market in any industry. While there are legitimate design suggestions that can come from the enthusiast market, they typically require greater expense and result in lower margins. I have seen this in many different markets. Enthusiasts don’t feel the companies are listening. They are. It’s just that they need to make business decisions as they relate to the overall market.

    • iamcalledryan

      I actually think this is a very valid point. We often forget that the learned watch enthusiast is a very small group, and a subset market of it’s own. More often than not I find myself saying “nice Master II, what’s the GMT hand set to?” And the response is “the what hand?”.

      People like us look at heavy handed marketing, design being led by 3rd party movement format, and copied design, and it causes us to scream. But for the buying majority it’s instrumental in their buying decision and who are we to chastise them for it – after all it’s a privilege to have the time to study watches, and there are arguably more World-saving things to do with that time.

  • mojomarc

    I am sort of disappointed there was no mention of retrograde date displays. I am a fan of, for example, the FP Journe Octa Calendrier.

  • DanW94

    When the date window is framed and properly color matched, (gold frame to match gold indices or silver on a black dial, etc..) it’s a welcome visual element to the dial. I don’t like circle windows at all and the placement at 4:30 is off putting to me. I’ll even take a triple date display as long as it’s thoughtfully integrated into the overall dial design. Interesting read, James.

  • Mark Baran

    I prefer a date display. Always have. Creature of habit I guess. And I would also echo the sentiment that how the date is integrated into the dial design a very important aesthetic.

    Manufacturing operations that use third party movements have obvious limitations. And James chose one of those when he featured the Shinola watch. This is one of those executions where in which the date complication should have been left out of the design. It just screams “this Ronda movement was a poor choice for this watch.” On the other hand, Bell & Ross is mentioned below. They integrated the movement size limitation into their watches (like it or not) in a much more creative manner.

    When done properly (Moser, Lange, GO) the date display is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

  • TrevorXM

    From my own experience, a date and a day of the week function on a watch are the two best complications. I use them all the time. Add a rotating hour bezel so you can quickly time things like cooking or creating dedicated work periods, and you have the perfect watch. I occasionally forget the date, once in a while I forget momentarily the day of the week. These are very useful complications.

    Also from my own experience, a watch is much better for telling time than any phone is. Here’s an experiment: if you wear a watch every day, stop yourself from wearing one for a few days in the middle of the week and relying on your phone only for the time. It becomes very annoying because you’re always having to pick it up or take it out of your pocket and then you have to tap a button or screen so that you can actually see the time — because your phone goes on dark battery saving mode. With a watch, I just move my wrist — and maybe not have to move it at all and just shift my eyes. It is the phone which is not needed for telling time, and is the lesser tool for doing so.

    As for design, most watches handle the date just fine. People spend way too much time on web boards getting picky about nothing. Exceptions are the ridiculous multi-date exposed wheel that IWC finally abandoned. Extreme exceptions include that horrible Edox thing.

    • Thank you for so eloquently pointing out that using a phone for time-keeping and/or date-keeping is a tedious chore.

    • Sevenmack

      The Edox is awful from a design point anyway. The date wheel is the least of its problems — and one that would be forgivable (or even a positive) if the rest of the design was up to shape.

  • SuperStrapper

    Personally, I prefer a date wheel and I can enjoy almost any attempt as long as it doesn’t just look like an afterthought parts bin disc slapped on. Surprised we didn’t see the Hublot style that other brands have adopted, the exposed date wheel and the current date sits over a different color to highlight it.

    My favourite date display is the outsize/grande date style.

  • Josh Graves

    Date windows, even pooly executed ones, have their place. Personally I would like more dress watch options…something for a formal event/tux friendly…without a date window.

  • Herby 2000

    For me it depends on the the overall use of the watch and the purpose for which the watch was purchased. If the watch is meant to be a daily beater, a date window will be useful. If the watch is part of a rotation and is mostly worn on casual occasions then a date window is totally unnecessary. A watch purchased for its aesthetic and other characteristics over its function need not be burdened with a date display. Most of the Automatic watches in my collection deliberately have no date display because it relieves me of that extra time it takes to set the date when the watch was down. Additionally, I have observed that dial designs look more symmetrically balanced without the date window. My pet peeve is a date window placed at the 4:00 & 4:30 position, that right there is the deal breaker.

    • Willy Chu

      Here are two of my watches that I feel have done a good job with 4:30 date windows. Three reasons:

      1) The background color matches the dial color.
      2) The color of the date digits match the color of other writing on the dial.
      3) And finally, the font matches or is harmonious with the style. For example, the Brietling uses a serif font in keeping with its vintage look versus the non-serif font that works on the Bell & Ross.

      • I agree – both of those are nicely done for 4:30 date windows.

      • Roman

        A date window at 4:30 doesn’t bite off the index at 3 o’clock and i like it more.

      • Mike Brooks

        The date on the Bell & Ross works well because of the round aperture, that on the Breitling less so.

    • Roman

      I agree with your statement about necessity of the date window.
      But a date window at 4:30 doesn’t bite off the index at 3 o’clock and I like it more.

    • Roman

      A date window at the 4:30 position doesn’t bite off the index at 3 o’clock and I like it more.

    • Mike Brooks

      I will shortly be receiving my new daily, (Seamaster PO), and have bought a third watch winder so that the other three watches I wear will only need the date adjusting when the number of days in the month changes. That’s no biggie.

  • cg

    Still love the old Rado Original design with the day stacked on top of the date at 6 o’clock…. Nothing better than that!

  • Chaz

    I find myself more often than not glancing at my watch for the date. When the watch doesn’t have the date, it’s actually slightly disorienting.

    Doesn’t really matter where the date is for me but I am liking some new designs that throw the date at 9, such as with Piaget. Funky…different.

    That said, I’m glad to see IWC has phased out the three date window. Hopefully that becomes an industry trend.

    Still yearning for a Lange…any model with the large date.

  • JimBob

    I check the date display mostly to see if I have to adjust the date.

    • Boogur T. Wang

      As we all recently had to do. Good point.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Firstly, what an interesting article Zen, some interesting comments below. Here’s my take on it. Am on the fence on this one. Occasionally you might hear me say ” for that price , i want a date window ! “.( am just annoyed i cant afford it ). I can take it or leave it, depending on what i have bought. If a maker is going for a minimalist look like the Botta-Design NOVA Titan or UNO Titan Watches, then a date window would stick out like a sore thumb. If am going for the all day piece, then a date window, or in the case of the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Calendar Meteorite, a day, month, and beautifully executed date pointer is a must. While am on the subject can i say i hate the 3/4 date window and the bubble window. And i don’t like the date anywhere but below the 12 or a 3.

  • Mark Flanagan

    My watch is on the extreme end of date windows – a Ball Trainmaster Racer, a triple window date watch.

    It displays day, date, and month in 3 horizontal windows at the 3 o’clock position. Decidedly old school, but it works great while avoiding hunting all over the dial for date info.

  • secretpanels

    That Edox is an absolute abomination. Your article should have contained a warning about that ghastly image! It has completely put me off my breakfast.

    • iamcalledryan

      Agreed it is a disgrace. Not only does the aperture seem designed for a GMT function (when the +/- reference might have been ALMOST useful) but 8-1=9 according to them. So misleading as well as pointless.

  • Great article Zen!

    I have seen watches on this site that have a day / date complication that look beautiful as well as watches where it is hideous to look at. It seems that it is a really subjective thing from one person to the next.

    As mentioned by another poster, using your phone instead of a watch is a really poor substitute, for all the reasons he mentioned.

  • Sevenmack

    Why does the casual watch buyer remain unconcerned about date windows when many a watch collector is? Because unlike we insane people who lurk around here, the casual watch buyer usually owns just one or two watches. They don’t worry about having to set dates on collections as large as 100 watches and they find the date indicators useful in a pinch. [That most also buy quartz watches, which unlike many mechanicals collectors prefer, have quick-date setting, also matters.] As with most things involving enthusiasts of every type, the concerns of watch enthusiasts matter little to the rest of the people.

    Personally, I prefer date windows. To me, a watch should more than just tell time (which any device connected to networks can do reasonably well anyway). The only real concerns I have with date windows is if they are just done lazy; they should be bordered like regular windows on houses, legible, and, match up to the overall design of the watch itself.

  • anonymous

    I always want to see day & date at 3 o’clock in a framed window with no magnifier. (I am perfectly capable of remembering the month)

    This new trend of showing multiple dates in an oblong window is utterly retarded.

  • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

    I always enjoy reading the btw editorials, and this one is my favourite so far. I believe in the last couple of weeks I contributed even too much on these topics, so it’s time for me too just lay back and enjoy 🙂

  • Willy Chu

    My pet peeve is a 3 o’clock date window not lining up with the hour numbers. I understand that, if you use an off the shelf ETA movement, the location of the date window is fixed. But what about in house movements? If you’re designing from scratch, does it really cost that much more to move the date window outward a few millimeters? If you know you are going to sell tens of thousands of a classic watch, is the incremental cost not worth it?

    My thoughts on improving the date window on the Sea-Dweller here:

    http://www.rolexforums.com/showthread.php?t=445161
    and
    http://www.rolexforums.com/showpost.php?p=6286723&postcount=36

    • Interesting, thanks Willy. But the mock up with the slim line date in the 3 marker would not really look like that. Rather than being up there where the lume is, the date would actually be below the dial, so the applied hour marker frame would only exacerbate the depth problem (looking at the skinny date at the bottom of a well). So off angle viewing would be virtually impossible. One of those ideas that looks good in 2D but may not play out so well in real life. Plus Rolex would have to revise the movement, this would not just be a dial and date wheel change as the diameter of the date wheel in the render is larger than the real thing. Cheers.

      • Willy Chu

        In the first mock up, I’m simply widening the date window, moving it outward toward the edge of the dial, and then re-centering the date. This doesn’t change the depth of the date wheel below the surface of the dial. That’s why it seems to be just a aesthetic design decision (or lack of decision).

        As a watch designer yourself, is it that difficult to simply enlarge the diameter of the date wheel, leaving the rest of the movement the same? Does it significantly increase the torque necessary to turn it? If that’s the problem, is lightweight aluminum used for date wheels? Are there other nonintuitive issues in play?

        • Not a torque issue. But the dial feet placement (those pins on the back of the dial which locate it to the movement) would be an issue as usually they are just outboard of the date ring. So, it is usually not trivial to increase the date wheel diameter. But then I’m not very familiar with Rolex calibers…

          • Willy Chu

            I see…Thanks for the insight.

    • beardedman

      Similar problem to using a sourced movement. The in-house 3135 is used in different, smaller models like the 36mm Datejust.

  • word-merchant

    The word merchant set of rules for date windows is as follows (for now!):
    1. The date wimdow must be close to the dial edge, at 3 or 6 only, and must be coloured to match the dial with a suitable font. The IWC Port Auto gets this pretty much spot on. Small movement in a big case? You may need to drop the date window.
    2. No date windows at 4.30 ever, unless the date window is round and the text within the porthole is horizontal – colour and font rules from 1 apply of course: B&R and Patek usually get this right. This is possibly the first time these two brands have been positively mentioned in the same sentence.
    3. Never show more than one date ordinal. IWC, you have finally seen sense.
    4. For big date complications with two discs, most of these rules can be relaxed – a manufacturer of a big date complication has already proven their aesthetic and mechanical prowess; but make sure that one of the discs is not recessed obviously deeper into the dial than the other.
    5. Showing the full date wheel behind a skeletalised dial is akin to flashing on the subway. Never do it under any circumstances.
    6. A cyclops is acceptable, but try to also offer a no-date version in this instance for those who don’t like the look of a blistered watch glass.
    7. Date change must be instantaneous at midnight. No exceptions.
    8. Do not label the date windows with their function. This is beyond idiotic.

    • Raymond Wilkie

      Good set of rules

    • Pretty much agree but practical considerations mitigate some of these “requirements”. Cheers.

    • HectorAsuipe

      If the crown is at 4 or 4:30, then the date window may be aligned to the crown, but it needs to read horizontally. The round window is a nice bonus, but not necessary as when I read the date while at my desk, the 4:30 orientation reads straight to me.

    • MEddie90

      I’m not sure i’m entirely on-board with all of these.
      1. I agree with positioning the window close to the edge of the dial but in cases where the date window is effectively in the place of one of the indices often its best to match the date window to the color of the rest of the markers to avoid throwing the dial balance off. A submariner for example would look unbalanced with a white text on black background.
      2. while generally true I can forgive a three subdial chronograph (such as the Zenith el primero historique 1969) which uses this arrangement.

      Otherwise I couldn’t agree more, infact I think i’d even add a point that the day window should be reasonably close to the dial surface and not deeply recessed as you often get with modular chronos.

  • Boogur T. Wang

    IMO, that ROLEX 1945 Datejust is a very beautiful watch. Still.
    The GP 1791 pictured is also really nice looking – but sould have benfitted from a blue date wheel that matched the dial.
    The elongnated window doesn’t bother me; but I have never liked a month display on the dial.
    As someone mentioned elsewhere, if I do not know what month it is I have other, greater, problems to attend to.

    As much as I like the Submariner design, I have never cared for the maginifier window.
    And I would prefer them with a black wheel and white numerals.
    Honestly, I can take or leave a date display. I have both types and have never been hampered by a non-date watch. YMMV.
    I think the trend(hopefully) to dial/date wheel color match is a good idea.

  • beardedman

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say I don’t mind a white background, black numeral date display, because that is easiest to read. I use the date complication all the time, so I really want it to be there. And I’m my eyes are not what they once were, so I really appreciate a readable, large date or a Cyclops. Small date dials with numbers crammed together like the Patek in the article are very hard for me to read so are nearly useless.

  • Marc Matloff

    Yes, I do want a date indicator on my watches. I don’t want to take out my phone every time I want to verify the current date. As far as the matching date wheel color, etc., I look at the face as a whole. If the date style works for me on a particular dial, that is all that matters. That said, I agree with those who dislike tiny windows, and I also agree with those who dislike dates at locations other than 3 or 6 (I especially dislike those a 4:30). I have a Ball with the day and the date at 3. The watch has a beautiful blue face and the day and date are black on white. The white let’s you quickly locate the windows and they match with the white numbers and indices which gives the dial balance. If I could change anything I would have the day/date text in blue to match the dial. As you have pointed out, I don’t know how much a change like that would raise the price of the watch, but I would love to have the option.

  • Dan Atwater

    In my line of work, putting the wrong date on a form could get me fired so I like to double check often. I hate pulling my phone out of my pocket for multiple reasons, so I like having the date on my watch. I do prefer a date window that matches the color of the dial, and as far as aesthetics go I really like pointer date indicators though I find them much harder to read.

  • Der0

    For a watch, to have a complication on the timepiece, no matter how simple or how complex it is to implement, it needs to be done properly. The watches being given airtime on this blog are regularly so expensive that to have a date complication done as an afterthought or delivered with so little grace and consideration for use, it is next to criminal.

    I don’t mind if the date wheel is white on a black dial or vice versa. As long as the aesthetics work with the overall presentation against the rest of the dial and the date is clearly legible then there shouldn’t be anything to complain about.

    I have seen terrible next to illegible and indecipherable date complications on Richard Mille products. For something costing the same as a home mortgage, it really needs to be a lot better.

    TL:DR
    Dear Watch Manufacturers,
    Please don’t make a date complication an afterthought. If you are going to have it on your dial, the most important of all is that it’s easily legible, identifiable and placed in a position which fits with the overall presentation on the dial. If you cannot do that and want to make the watch look more haute horology, then don’t have it there altogether.

  • Paul B

    As a collector with about a dozen watches, I have come to rely on the date function. When I wear my Rolex Daytona, or my FP Journe Chrono Bleu, I am constantly looking at my watch and bemoaning the fact that I do not have a date.
    I remind myself of the non-watch kids who check their cell phone for the time–it’s because they are used to it and say they don’t need a watch.
    I love my Lange TimeZone with the oversize date, and am thinking of getting a Glshutte Origional with a large date as well. And after reading this article, I probably know why. Even with my classic Patek, a 5127, I had to have a date.

    Paul B

  • Mitko Dimitrov

    White date window on dark dial doesn’t irritate me at all. I think that date window first should serve legibility, second the design purposes. I really doubt that there is so many watch lovers/collectors that give such a attention to this, what you claim in this article. Otherwise I believe that the industry would react long time ago.

  • commentator bob

    The $150 automatic mechanical Swatch Sistem51 offers 5+ date disk colors with 5+ date disk print colors. In both 3H and 6H orientation. That kind of makes Vacheron and GP look like crap that they do not provide blue date disks in their ~$30,000 and ~$15,000 blue dial watches pictured above. AP does provide a blue date disk in the blue dial Royal Oak, so it can be done (if the Swatch example was not proof enough).

  • Raymond Wilkie

    Nice amount of feedback from this article.

  • Mulleteer

    I do want date complication, it’s some days even more used than the time itself! Having used watches with both matching and non-matching date disk color I can say that I prefer to have some contrast for easier readability. Even at the cost of visual balance.

  • Chris Morgan-Jones

    Tricky. I think the submariner image above is a good example, in my opinion it looks better without the date but all my watches have date complications. I check the date on my watch every day when signing documents or setting deadlines. It’s quicker to check my watch than get out a phone.

  • egznyc

    A date window is much easier to read than a pointer. And I often find the feature useful on a watch. I cannot tell you how many times I instinctively look at my watch for the date – including the ones that don’t HAVE a date display. That said, some designs certainly look cleaner and more attractive without a date display of any sort. I’m a believer in matching the background of be date wheel with the dial color in most instances, although a white background can work well where it takes the place of a similarly sized lumed marker.

    • Sevenmack

      Agreed. The only time I like pointers is when the dates surround the circumference of the dial, and not when they are a subdial. One example is the Citizen Calibre 9000, which has a great pointer date in which the numbers surround the dial. The nice thing about it is that when the date changes around midnight, you get to see the pointer move (along with the small clock subdial that is used to keep internal time).

  • Chuck

    I like a date window. It’s an almost indispensable complication to me. However, I’ve been noticing a lot more watches these days with the date window at four o’clock, or even worse, the date window sandwiched between the four and five markers like that should somehow be a clever thing. As if we should admire the way they managed to squeeze it in there. It makes me sad to see someone ruin a perfectly good dial that way and angry that they didn’t have the design sense to keep from doing so. Call me a traditionalist, but I think date windows should be kept at the three, six, or… and only if they are a big date, at the noon or sub-noon’ish position.

  • Stephen Scharf

    Personally, on the whole, I am not a fan of date windows. They are almost always done poorly, IMO, and look, as the article cites, like a design “afterthought”. Have to say that Lange’s implementation of the big date complication is probably the best I’ve seen, and I agree with their principle that if you’re going to have a date complication, make it an integral part of the design. Additionally, one of the best date window implementations I’ve seen is on the Sinn 104i.

  • Jeff_85

    Are there any dark colored watch faces that have a matching date dial with date numbers that have lume on them?

  • ProJ

    People forget to mention the PP Aquanaut 5167 which perhaps has one of the best placed date window

    • Han Cnx

      Can’t argue about personal taste, but I think that may be the worst I’ve every seen! It dislodges the number 3 marker AND the wheel is the wrong color. When I saw the image I was sure it was presented as an example of how not to do it..! 🙂

      • A. Henry Rose

        agreed with han. wow.

  • morcheeba

    I liked the way Ventura did their date … rather than cramming two digits in to a little window, they use dots above the numbers to indicate the first digit. So, for the watch below, it is the 21st.

  • Trevor Hirst

    The lowly Seiko SNK809 has a color match day/date at 3 o’clock, along with Spanish day as well.

    I love my Nomos Timeless Club with the blue dial. The date is at 6 o’clock with matching disc. Very classy.

    If I were to get a Rolex Sub, I’m not entirely sure which one I would go for. I think I like the clean lines of the no-date, and the fact that if the power would run out, I would not have to reset the date. It is also $1,000 cheaper. Though the cyclops and the date are iconic now as well…

  • Mark Miller

    Actually, I want the date on a watch. Even though I could look at my phone or my computer screen at work, I still am old school enough that I look at my watch face to see the date. Usually I prefer that the background of the date display match the color of the dial (like the Seiko SNKA15 or SNK807). But, if done right to match the indexes, a contrasting color would do (like the Seiko SKX007) because it will make the dial pop as it where. I also prefer digits for the date display as well as digits for the indexes. I believe a watch should be accurate first, then legible. If I were able to design a watch dial, I would love to have all the indexes digital, like the old Montgomery dials on pocket watches. Ball did this on the Trainmaster II 60 Seconds. I love that dial but the only difference I would make is to make the dial slightly larger so that all the hour digits and minute digits would be there and move the date to just above the 6 o’clock position. I really think that would be a beautiful dial as well as very legible/functional.

  • somethingnottaken

    I prefer a watch to have a date indicator; however, many are poorly implemented and end up looking like the watchmaker bought a large number of movements which came with standard black on white wheels was too cheap to replace them with date wheels that matched the watch. This is tolerable on a cheap watch, but at luxury prices cost cutting and laziness simply aren’t acceptable.

    The Submariner’s white date wheel works because it is in a location that would otherwise be occupied by a similarly sized white hour marker. The overall black and white colour scheme helps as well.

  • I prefer a date window, as it’s useful. But yes, most of the time it ruins everything. I have this Oris and to me it seems they did a great job integrating day/date to the overall design of the dial, it looks well designed (at least they’re not hiding it)!

  • James Miner

    Sinn does a nice job of incorporating the date in many of their watches.

  • Spangles

    Good article! I find a date window quite useful rather than dragging out my phone. I look for watches with a date function, but yes, a poorly done date can ruin a watch.

    The Blancpain Fifty Fathoms with a 4:30 date really doesn’t work at all, for example, as it breaks up the symmetry of the dial.

    • A. Henry Rose

      with that huge dial, not sure why they couldn’t get it at 6pm

  • John Henry

    I favor date windows, but not at the 4:30 position on the dial. Dates at the 3:00 and 6:00 read best and are ergonomically better than the necessarily canted display at the 4:30 position (I haven’t seen any date dials with the numbers rotated 45 degrees counterclockwise to read parallel with the 9–3 meridian, but it would be an improvement.) Date dials with date hands, on the inside bezel or as a sub dial are inherently less easy to use, harder to see at a glance, and a poorer choice for instrument ergonomics. Maybe for jewelry aesthetics they get a pass, but for functionality, not so much. As for whether to do without the date entirely, I think that is a matter of taste. For me, going without a date diminishes a watch’s utility (on the other hand, I can do without needless day-month-year indicators and have no use for utilities like power reserve indicators or astronomical complications.) As for contrasting colors on the date, black over white wins on the ergonomics, highest contrast, regardless the dial color.

    • John Henry

      I have to correct myself; my Swatch Black is Back chronograph has a 4:30 date window and a rotated date script that makes it parallel to the 9-3 axis on the face. And it is a nice round window with black-on-white numerals and complements the black dial. So good design can’t be all that expensive.

      • nicedream06

        The Sinn 556a has a rotated 4:30 date as well.

  • Han Cnx

    I think this is an example of a well executed date window. It’s slightly out of the way to not mess with the ‘3’ hour indication, and color and font are spot on.

    http://www.timelessluxwatches.com/sites/default/files//reviews/Timeleass%20Damasko%20(1)_0.jpg

  • Groovenik

    Year old article, but still a relevant one. I’m primarily of the “No Date” camp. It’s an unnecessary and ‘outdated’ complication to a modern watch. Now, there are a few examples where the date complication actually adds to the character and “WOW” factor of a watch, but in such instances, these are more than a simple 31-number rotating dial with a viewing window.

    Watches today are more for form than function in an overwhelmingly large majority of cases. And unlike the watches of a century ago when having a ‘mobile calendar’ would have been beneficial and useful, today we usually wake up to a digital device that tells us day, date, time, and likely also month and year. I’d much rather see an increase in mainspring gauges, day of the week, or even a lunar phase complication than a standard mediocre ‘1~31’. And lets not even talk about how adjusting dates on a large number of movements at non-optimal times can stress, damage, or even break a movement…

  • christosL

    I quite like a small discreet date window at 4.30 IF the numbers are displayed horizontally. That’s my favourite look. Like the PP here and B&R watches always have.

    • A. Henry Rose

      b&r does a nice date window, agreed! can’t stand their hands though.

  • Mike Brooks

    My Seamaster with deep blue dial, has a discreet black date window with the numerals a nice silver colour, which I find tasteful. I don’t need to know what the previous day’s date was, or what it will be for the following day, as I can just about work these things out for myself, and having too many numbers merely adds to the clutter on a dial. As for the cyclops, I find it a little too distracting.

  • Paul Dalton

    I wear a wristwatch every day, but (with the exception of one very formal gold wristwatch) never one that does not display the date; and the more legible the date is, the better.

    In that regard, I like magnification of the date (even more as I get older), but I really don’t like the look of a lens affixed to the outside of the crystal.

    Since current technology permits creating much thinner lenses than in the past, can someone explain why watch manufacturers don’t simply incorporate a very thin magnification lens into the dial face itself?

    It seems to me that it would require only a minor modification to the dial stamping die for it to also stamp a recessed area around the perimeter of the “Day/Date display hole” for securely mounting a thin magnification lens into the dial face itself.

    I believe this would eliminate the need for the lens itself to be particularly hard or scratch resistant, which should permit the lenses to be made of materials that are less expensive &/or have better optical properties.

    Is there some technical reason why this wouldn’t make sense?.

    • Lindsay

      Since current technology permits creating much thinner lenses than in the past

      Out of interest, to what technology are you referring?

      • Gregski

        High refractive index glass

  • Thomas Bowen

    I am continually amazed (actually, annoyed) in this day and age that so many great looking dials are marred by conspicuous day and date windows, especially dive or vintage style watches. A date window is nice for more formal wear but please put it in the classiest place, at 6:00 where it sits nicely symmetrical and in the background. I’ll find it if I really need it. I simply don’t get the need to have a day/date feature jumping out with every glance of the dial.

    • A. Henry Rose

      six is definitely the right place.

  • Brad Hodges

    Why does this article say that Rolex invented the date window when Mimo/Girard Perregaux had a date window on their watches as early as 1931? That is 14 years before the Datejust…. Sounds like someone needs to do more research before writing an article.

  • Jonathan Doughy

    A watch without a date, is just a mechanical piece of jewelry. And while that is completely reasonable for a dress watch that you wear for special occasions, it is unacceptable for a daily watch. Unless you are a nurse that needs to take someone’s pulse several times a day, the date is actually more important than a seconds hand.

    Additionally, I reject the argument that you can easily find the date on your phone or computer. If that is the case, then why even wear a watch? …since you can also find the time in those same places.

    Just like other aspects of watch design, there are date windows that are executed poorly. That doesn’t mean you should just get rid of all of them. And if you don’t like how it ruins the symmetry, then it’s time for you to find a watch where the crown is either at 6:00 or 12:00.

  • A. Henry Rose

    The new Breitling Navitimers / Aviator’s provide a very elegant solution even with an ETA / Selita caliber.

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