Why are watches with black dials so popular? Do watches with black dials go with everything? And how exactly are black dials created? We’ve gathered a few frequently asked questions about black dials and answered them here.

Why are watches with black dials so popular?

As a color, black has long held powerful symbolism. It was one of the very first colors to be used in art, and can even be found in prehistoric cave paintings. For the ancient Egyptians, black had positive associations; for the ancient Greeks, black was the color of the underworld. For the Romans, it was the color worn by craftsmen. In Europe in the middle ages, black became associated with darkness and evil. In the 14th century, the status of black began to change again. High-quality black dyes came onto the market and made it possible to create garments with a deep, rich color. Magistrates and government officials began to wear black robes as a sign of the importance of their positions.

The change to wearing elegant black outfits was quickly taken up by royalty and nobility. By the end of the 16th century, it was the color worn by almost all monarchs in Europe and their courts. In the 19th century, black gradually became the most popular color of business attire for the upper and middle classes in Europe and North America. In the 20th century, the significance of black transformed again as it became a fashionable color for city residents around the world. In short: Across the ages and the globe, black has always made a statement when worn.

Now, in the 21st century, black is a classic color choice for a wide range of accessories, and is often seen as one of the most elegant. But that is not why this dial color has become so popular in the past fifty years. Black is also seen as a practical choice for timekeeping and utility. Dial legibility is a major factor when it comes to complications in general, and tool watches in particular. A dark dial with superluminova on its hands and numerals is easy to read in low-light conditions—or even underwater. That is why a vast majority of dive watches and many sports watches feature black dials enhanced with superluminova.

Aside from tool watches, dress watches with black dials have gained popularity for several other reasons as well:

  • Versatility
    Black is a neutral color that pairs well with a wide range of outfits and styles. A watch with a black dial can seamlessly coordinate with both casual and formal attire, making it a versatile choice for many occasions—and a smart choice when investing in your first or second mechanical timepiece.
  • Elegance
    The understated look of a black dial can lend a touch of refinement to the overall appearance of a watch, appealing to those who prefer an elegant aesthetic—while remaining modern.
  • Gender-neutral aesthetics
    Black-dialed watches are often considered gender neutral, making them a popular choice for many individuals across the gender spectrum.

Which is better: a black watch dial or a white one?

There are some traditionalists who believe that only watches with white dials are suitable for formal wear. But more recently, the boundaries between casual and formal have been blurring, and black dials are becoming more acceptable for almost every occasion.

When it comes to color dials, black is by far the most common choice after white—and its high popularity has remained consistent for over fifty years. So if you are looking for a classic choice that will not go out of style, but is just a little more adventurous than a white dial, black might be the perfect choice for you.

Do watches with black dials go with everything?

Generally speaking, black-dialed watches add a stylish touch to the wrist that can easily be dressed up or down. The answer here would be yes. When choosing a watch to match an outfit or occasion, it is also important to consider other elements—such as the watch's size, case material, and overall design—to ensure a cohesive look. Traditionalists advise against certain color combinations, such as a black dial with a brown strap or other brown accessories. However no single factor, such as the dial color, can determine whether a particular watch is the right choice for your wrist or not.

How are black dials made?

Regardless of the color of the finished dial, dial blanks are where the entire process begins. These are made from raw metal, typically brass or silver, that then undergo an extensive production process to create the desired finish—such as a black colorway.

A key stage in the production process to create a finished dial is electroplating. Electroplating the dial blank not only enhances its appearance, but also its resistance to corrosion and rust. This process typically involves creating a salt with a precious metal such as gold or silver. This salt is then dissolved in water to form a galvanic bath for the dial blank. Once immersed in this bath, an electric current applied, which deposits small amounts of precious metal onto the dial blank.

To turn this electroplated dial black, certain metals can be added to the galvanic bath. At NOMOS Glashütte, several of the darker dial colors are created using ruthenium, which is a rare metal from the platinum group.

Alternatively, lacquer or enamel can be used. A lacquered dial is produced by coating the dial blank with layer after layer of lacquer, letting each coat dry in between. Before being assembled as part of a watch, every dial is carefully inspected by quality control. Galvanized dials tend to have more consistent results than lacquered dials, which is one reason why they are usually preferred at NOMOS Glashütte.

Black dial shades at NOMOS Glashütte

When it comes to watches with black dials, there are several different shades to choose from at NOMOS Glashütte. Learn more about the full range of black-dialed watches here:

  • Black (new black, noir)
    This colorway is a deep, dark black—which contrasts elegantly with rhodium-plated numerals and hands. Unlike other dial shades at NOMOS Glashütte, it has no hints of other colors. It is just pure black.
  • Marine black
    As dark as the depths of the ocean, this rich dark shade and superluminova provides excellent legibility in our Tangente Sport model—especially in combination with the light blue, sand, and red color accents on the dial.
  • Night
    Galvanized and ruthenium-plated, this dark dial color has a subtle brownish undertone. It adds a touch of warm and creates a clear constrast with the stainless steel hands and beige numerals on the dial.
  • Urban gray
    Despite its name, this dial color is much closer to black than gray—offering a faded black that creates a clear constrast to stainless steel hands and color accents on the dial. Ruthenium, a rare metal belonging to the platinum group, is used to plate the dial and create its muted tone.
  • Velvet black
    To create this warm shade of black, the dial is plated with ruthenium—a rare metal belonging to the platinum group. White details and rose gold hands, for example, contrast elegantly against its dark, rich tone.

At NOMOS Glashütte, there are several watches with black dials to choose from. To make finding your next timepiece easier, we’ve divided them into two categories: dress watches and tool watches. Keep reading for our top three recommendations in both these popular watch categories below.

Top Three Selected: Black Dress Watches

Top Three Selected: Black Tool Watches