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Rolex Dials: A Tale Of Textures

October 17, 2019

BY Justin Mastine-Frost


Innovation, finishing, and exceptional history aside, sometimes the real excitement behind a watch is as simple as its dial. We are not referring to just colors like blue Rolex dials in this article.  For decades the brand has been building unique variants of several of their watches like the Rolex Datejust and Day-Date that have dials that dramatically defy convention. In some cases using traditional techniques, and in others using unconventional materials, either way, the end result makes for something pretty special. There have been a good number of examples to roll in and out of the doors of Bob’s Watches over the years, but here’s a look at a small assortment that’s currently in the shop.

Rolex Linen Dial

Rolex Linen Dial

Rolex President Linen Dial Day-Date

Starting things off, you’re looking at one of the more common varieties of obscure dials from Rolex – the Linen dial. Its name is pretty self-explanatory, as the texture applied to the dial is very similar to what you have seen in linen fabric when viewed up close. The pattern has appeared on several Rolex President and Datejust models going back to the ’60s.


Rolex Tapestry Dial

Rolex Datejust Tapestry Dial

The Tapestry dial is also a ’60s baby from the Rolex archives, though one not quite as common as the Linen dial seen above. It’s also a fairly simple in design, as thin vertical ridges are cut into the dial surface, giving it a slightly three-dimensional vibe.

Rolex Jubilee Dial

Rolex Datejust Jubilee Dial Diamond

For the 40th anniversary of the Datejust in 1985, Rolex unveiled what was the beginning of an ongoing series of specially patterned dials using the Rolex name in a stylized repeating font. In some cases, the all-over pattern can be quite bold and overpowering, but in other instances, it can be incredibly subtle. Without looking too close, you would almost mistake certain Rolex Jubilee dials for more natural patterns – precisely what makes me a huge fan of the more under-the-radar examples.

Rolex Exotic Wood Dial

Rolex President Exotic Wood Dial

We see stone dials all over the place in watchmaking these days, with things like malachite and aventurine becoming surprisingly popular. That said, when was the last time you saw a wood dial? There have certainly been some here and there, but overall they are miles more rare than most other material dial options. Most can be found on Rolex watches from the 1970s and 1980s, and when combined with a yellow gold case and bracelet, it is about as quintessential ’80s as it gets.

Rolex Hobnail Dial

Rolex Cellini Hobnail Dial 

The early to mid-2000s Cellini Prince models are a very special breed for many reasons, being the last of the hand-wound Rolex watches out there, and the only ones fitted with a sapphire crystal display back. That said, their dials are also exceptional in a lot of cases. The 18k yellow gold example uses a gold plate with an old-school hobnail pattern (also known as Clou De Paris) that also appears on the bridges of the movement. The dial choice is perfectly suited to its rectangular art deco-style case, and though it’s got a very vintage/traditional vibe, it’s still damned cool. It won’t be for everyone, but it will certainly impress any self-respecting watch enthusiast out there.

Rolex Floral Dial

Rolex Datejust Floral Dial 

Last but not least, we have one of the strangest Rolex dials out there – the floral dial. These are still in current production and are rarely ever promoted by Rolex as a brand. Offered in a 36mm case, considered the unisex standard of the line, these things are just plain odd. The slightly cartoonish/graphic floral pattern is engraved into the sunburst dial plate, and they can be found both with and without diamond-set hour markers (diamond Rolex) at the 6 and 9 o’clock locations.



9 Responses to “Rolex Dials: A Tale Of Textures”

  1. Jeff Scanlon says:

    Thank you for this post. I understand it is a year old, but I was wondering if you knew when Rolex stopped offering the tapestry dial. Im sure I had a Datejust with tapestry dial in my hand at a NYC retailer’s in or around 1999. I balked at buying it, and have yet to see one in the flesh again. Thanks again for the great topic and post!

    • Paul Altieri says:

      The last generation of men’s Rolex Datejust watches offered with tapestry dials was the 162xx series, which was discontinued in 2005 with the arrival of the models with 6-digit reference numbers. You certainly won’t find any tapestry dials on watches produced after that; however there is also a chance that Rolex stopped producing them a handful of years before they discontinued the ref. 162xx series completely.

  2. GWL says:

    I also have a question in re: the tapestry dials … just how common were they? For example, of all the datejust & day-date watches produced in say the 1980’s, roughly what percentage would have been tapestry versions of the usual gold/silver/black/champagne dials … 10%? 5%? 1%? even less? Cheers!

    • Paul Altieri says:

      Rolex never releases production information, so there really is no confirmed number out there, but there are some factors to consider. Textured dials (including all textures) make up the minority of all Rolex dials – as to what exact percentage is unknown, but there are significantly more examples of flat, traditional dials out there compared to the various textured dials. Among this percentage of textured dials, tapestry is one of the more common varieties you are likely to encounter, although since this style has been discontinued that percentage will only ever be decreasing in relation to the total number of Rolex dials out there.

      • GWL says:

        Thank you for that. So there’s really no way to even ballpark the historical ratios? I mean, 5% textured dials vs. say 5% textured dials would be two very different realities!

        • Paul Altieri says:

          There will never be a confirmed figure from Rolex and as time goes on, the exact percentage gets harder to ascertain due to the fact that a number of dials have been replaced or swapped out over the years. However, if we had to ballpark a figure based on just what we have had come through our hands in the 10+ years that we have been in business (again, this is not accounting for possibly different ratios present in different markets around the world), maybe about 20% – possibly a little bit less (this would be inclusive of all dial textures, but not including stone dials/mother of pearl/etc.)

          • GWL says:

            Thank you very much for the kind reply and for being willing and able to ballpark an estimate. Great info!

  3. Ronald Yu says:

    Can you tell me which generation of Day date and Datejust did Rolex put on wood dial?

    • Paul Altieri says:

      Most commonly, you will find wood dials fitted to the 5-digit series Datejuset and Day-Date watches, but in very rare instances you may sometimes come across wood dials fitted to the previous 4-digit generation.

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