You might be reading this article because you saw the California dials that we released just a while ago and wondering what exactly that is. Is it a dial made in The Golden State? Or is it a dial that can only be sold there..? Who came up with this dial gimmick and why does it look so interesting? Whether you love it or hate it, you can’t deny that it’s a showstopping look, and we think it’s worth getting into the origins and history of this iconic dial design.

Known for their unique mixture of Arabic and Roman numerals, California dials have an intriguing history steeped in mid-century, war period design. Keep reading to learn all about these distinctive dials – where they came from and why they remain popular today.

What Is A California Dial And Why is it Called That?

Source: Bob's Watches


The ‘California’ mainly refers to a watch dial featuring a mix of Arabic and Roman numerals as hour markers. Typically, the hours will be marked with Roman numerals I, II, X, and XI, and Arabic numerals 4, 5, 7, and 8. The 3, 6, and 9 hour positions are marked with a bar, while the 12 marker is a triangle or an inverted triangle. 

There are many theories as to how the nickname came to be, and no one can be 100% certain which one is true, but it seems that the prevailing theory is that back in the 80’s, it was trendy to have vintage dials to be refinished at a dial refinisher in California by the name of Kirk Rich Dial Co., regarded as the best in their craft at the time, and specializing in this particular design.


Source: Rolex Magazine


Take note though, that they did not invent this design - they only refinished it. Rolex is credited as the original maker of this design, as evidenced by a 1942 patent that protected this half-Roman, half-Arabic configuration for the purpose of “high visibility underwater.” That’s right - the dial is designed for diving watches, in a time when diving watches where not yet officially invented.

It was still a nameless design back then, and only got its moniker during the dial refinishing craze of the 80s. It remains a highly-collectible design to this day.

Current Popularity

While California dials originated over half a century ago, they’ve experienced a major revival among modern watch enthusiasts. The vintage appeal matches up neatly with current interior design trends favoring bright colors and atomic age styles. It’s also a natural conversation starter.

Beyond vintage re-issues, many watch modification fans opt for custom California dials when constructing their builds. The striking two-tone numerals make these dials well-suited for all types of watch mods including classics like the SKX007. They look fantastic on a range of dial colors from sunburst blue to silver shimmer.

Great Watches Using California Dials

Certain brands consistently revisit the California style dial for their heritage models and modern takes. Let’s explore a few key examples:

Timex Marlin California Dial

Source: @regular_guy_watches on IG


The hand-wound Timex Marlin provides the vintage California dial look in an extremely wearable modern execution with old school proportions. Timex also nails the color combinations, offering the California dial on the Marlin in a range of grey, black, navy and green shades and making it very easy to accessorize as a dress watch.

Serica 4512 California

Source: @morpheustime on IG


The Serica 4512 is a refreshing take on the military field watch style. Its 37.7mm stainless steel case houses the reliable STP1-11 movement boasting a -3 - +7 seconds per day and 2 days of power reserve. Of course the star of the show is the California dial, which is paired with a Bonklip bracelet for more novelty.

Panerai Luminor California 8 Days

Source: @1965tnk on IG


The PAM00779 is one of the greatest hits of the Luminor Collection. The California dial has its deep roots with Panerai so for us, it makes the most sense on a Panerai watch. This model features a 44mm DLC-coated Titanium case on a bund strap, lending a beefy facade to the watch. Inside is a P.5000 mechanical movement with an 8-day power reserve, hence the name.

Modding with the California Dial

We released 4 different variations of our California Dial so our modfam can play around with different combinations, but most of you will probably gravitate towards the classic black dial with white markers. We also have black California dials but with vintage style creamy lume, and another variation with ‘hollow; markers with lumed outlines. A white California Dial is also available if you want to mod a brighter looking watch.



Given its military history, it would make the most sense to use this dial on a MilSpec inspired case, like the NMK950 Pilot Tonneau or our NMK929 Nautical Watch Case. Of course, you’re free to use it with any style of case that you want, as long as you are happy with the look.

Wrap Up

With their breezy vintage styling and unusual mixed numerals, California dials continue intriguing watch enthusiasts while fitting seamlessly into modern collections. Whether you seek out an original mid-century watch or a contemporary re-issue, these dials offer instant cool factor and design charm. 

In the world of watch mods, they make unique bases for one-of-a-kind custom builds. The California dial guarantees your watch will always invite questions and second glances, so be sure to check out our catalog and start planning your next build with namokiMODS.

Happy modding!

Februar 20, 2024 — Jeremiah A

Hinterlassen Sie einen Kommentar

Bitte beachten Sie, dass Kommentare vor der Veröffentlichung freigegeben werden müssen