The Blue Dial Watch Trend: 12 Timepieces To Consider
Our watch expert showcases the best blue dial timepieces you can buy in 2023, from sports to diving, luxury to affordable.
There came a moment, around the early 2010s, when watches with blue dials went from being exceptions to being necessary inclusions. Every brand had them.
It’s worth saying that blue dials were nothing new. There’s a Breguet tact (touch) pocket watch from 1799 sold to Mrs Bonaparte, before she was Empress Josephine, with a gorgeous blue cover showing. Because of the time and effort required to create blue enamel, this color was, until mid-way through the 20th century, used as an accent rather than on the whole dial.
The rise of machinery in watchmaking made things easier and then the popularity of the steel sports watch, particularly of the diving variety – started by Rolex and Tudor, who often released a blue style alongside the customary black – saw popularity rise in the 1950s and 1960s. However, black and white were still the shades customers wanted more.
It could be argued that it was the return of Bond in 1995 that started the Blue Renaissance. In the film GoldenEye (1995), Pierce Brosnan wears an Omega Seamaster Professional Quartz, the dial a rich sea-dark blue. Lindy Hemming, the film’s costume designer, has said she chose this Omega because she thought the dial color would match Brosnan’s eyes. Eleven years later, by the time Daniel Craig took on the role and swapped a quartz for an automatic, blue dials were a phenomenon.
It’s a trend that’s shown no signs of slowing. At the 2019 edition of the now-defunct Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), Vacheron Constantin showcased a blue-dialed version of eight watches across its core collections – all in a new proprietary shade the Maison named ‘Majestic Blue’.
Richemont stable-mate Jaeger LeCoultre let blue dominate its SIHH offering the same year, while in 2023 Omega celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Seamaster with a collection called Summer Blue where the tones of blue tracked the water resistance of the watch; the dials becoming darker as its wearable depth descends. Now it’s rare to find a brand without a few shades of blue (or 165 if you’re Seiko) in its lines.
As well as being calming and a color found in nature, blue has symbolic meaning in different countries. In Japan, it is the color of dignity, stability and security. In Greece door and window frames are painted blue to prevent evil spirits from entering. In the Middle East it symbolises spirituality and immortality.
Sartorially it is also incredibly easy to wear. Punchy shades such as Pepto Bismol pink and fluoro orange may have their moments but these are not easy hues for the average gent to work into his daily wardrobe. There are so many variations of blue to choose from you can easily select a shade that’s right for you.
And to prove that every timepiece looks good in blue, here’s a comprehensive list of models across all watch styles.
Sports: Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Shades
A classic steel sports watch given a contemporary twist thanks to the grey-inflected color of this dial. Omega calls this shade Atlantic and, with its sun-brushed finish, it does resemble the sea shade on a winter’s day.
Powering it is Omega’s famed Co-Axial Master Chronometer calibre 8000, which is rigorously tested by the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology (METAS) at the brand’s eco-forward facility in Biel/Bienne.
Diving: Blancpain x Swatch Bioceramic Scuba Fifty Fathoms Atlantic Ocean edition
This definitely divided opinion when it launched in September 2023. There were rumblings about movements that can’t be fixed, rendering the watch disposable, which seems contrary to Blancpain’s ocean commitments; the idea that such a cheaply made movement should be associated with the Blancpain name; and that it didn’t have the hype of the Moonswatch.
All that aside, it looks pretty decent, has a water resistance of, you guessed it, 50 fathoms (or 91m in today’s money) and is a bit of fun. Which is what you want from a Swatch.
Pilot: Oris Big Crown Pointer Date
Inspired by Oris’s pre-war aviation heritage, the Big Crown Pointer Date has gone from being a reissue to a brand signature. Everything about its design is so well judged, from the unusual ‘date hand’ to the font used for the numerals, which has a vintage vibe but doesn’t feel slavishly retro.
This version comes with a coin-edge contrast bezel in bronze, a metal that patinas with age and will add to the air of nostalgia.
Dress: Grand Seiko Snowflake Blue Dial
Technically a dress watch should be a three-hander; no frills, no extras. But look at how stunning this watch is. It could easily slip under a starched cuff.
In true Grand Seiko style, this particular dial color is inspired by the surroundings of the watch studios, this time the one in Shinshu where, during Shōkan – the name for one of Japan’s 24 seasons, which begins around January 6 when the winter chill starts – the lakes are covered in ice and the sky is a deep blue that colors the snow on the mountains.
This is also a Spring Drive, meaning it is mechanical but is regulated with a quartz module to ensure superior accuracy.
GMT: Bell & Ross BR05GMT Sky Blue
It was out of the advent of commercial air travel, which forced pilots to cross time zones, that the GMT was born. So putting this function in a pilot’s watch case seems apt.
A GMT watch has an extra 24-hour hand, which moves around the dial once every 24 hours, not every 12 like an hour hand. This allows you to read the time in a second time zone but also helps tell if it’s morning or night there – a point usually emphasized with a date/night colorized inner ring, which you have on this Bell & Ross.
The dial color, sitting somewhere between blue and turquoise, complements the steel case, and there’s also the option of a coordinating rubber strap.
Three-hand: Timex Giorgio Galli S1 automatic
The name on this watch is that of Timex’s Milan-based design director, who was tasked by the brand with making the ür Timex – one that brought together the brand’s love of design with its reputation for accessibly priced, high-quality watches.
This is the result and it’s so smart. Simple, stylish but with the synthetic red sapphire stone adding that touch of Italian sprezzatura, like a red cashmere scarf flung nonchalantly around the neck.
It’s automatic, comes with an interchangeable strap, and slips in under the $450/£500 mark. What’s not to love?
Chrono: Frederique Constant Classic Flyback Chronograph
This is a classic vintage chronograph but with the added accuracy of a flyback, meaning that when the chronograph hand is restarted, it goes back to zero and immediately restarts without stopping; a function normally associated with stopwatches.
Here the chronograph is not a column wheel but Frederique Constant’s proprietary star-shaped one, which the brand says makes for a smooth action.
The rich blue of the dial is wonderfully contrasted by the silver sub-dials, accentuating their legibility as well as that of the tachymeter scale; useful should you wish to know how far you, and the watch, have travelled over a lapsed period of time.
Mil-spec: Bulova Classic Hack Military watch
It’s tough to find a blue mil-spec because most military specifications opt for black or khaki and purists like to keep things, well, pure.
This was actually created by Bulova for the Allied soldiers in WWII. Bulova claims this timepiece was known as ‘the watch that won the war’ – a maxim that refers to the fact that it has hacking seconds, which means that when the crown is pulled out the second hand stops, allowing pilots to synchronize watches. Handy when planning coordinated attacks on enemy territory.
It has a 37mm case, which makes it very true to the original, retro-font numerals and NATO-style strap to complete the look. The only anachronism is probably the Japanese movement.
Driving: TAG Heuer Carrera Date
A grueling Pan-American race probably deserves a more rugged watch, but the Carrera’s elegance is a huge part of its charm. Designed by Jack Heuer himself, the general aesthetic of the watch remains unchanged since its 1963 debut.
This version is technically the least automotive seeing as it doesn’t have the sub-dials. Yet what it lacks in timing capabilities it more than makes up for with its sartorial panache.
The combination of blue and gold is perennially stylish, and the sunray brushing brings light to the dial; something emphasized by the warming rose-gold indices.
At 36mm, it is not for those with generous-sized wrists, but if you can pull off something more petite, this is the timepiece to do so.
Moonphase: Longines Elegant Moonphase
Blue and moonphases go together like steak et frites. It’s so obvious yet so satisfying. The midnight sky of the dial, the pale face of the moon as it moves through its waxing and waning – it’s a dial design that writes itself.
This Longines is a particularly fine example of why this all works so well. It really has gone for the ‘dead of night’ shade of the spectrum, graduating to almost black. In keeping with the sophisticated aura, the moon doesn’t have a face, it is an expressionless disc against a backdrop of tiny stars.
A date ring around the aperture completes the look, bringing function to a beautiful form.
Calendar: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar
Dark colors are easier to render in ceramic, which is why Audemars Piguet has chosen to make life more difficult for itself by choosing to create a case and bracelet in indigo. It transforms the Royal Oak’s signature angles from a 1970s lounge lizard into a contemporary color pop.
Despite everything being in blue the calendar dials are still easy to read, the trademark grande tapisserie elevates the dial rather than cluttering it, and despite it being 41mm it sits well on the wrist.
The hands are luminescent and the movement delivers 40 hours of power reserve. Begin ceramic, it’s scratch resistant, making this the most extravagant daily wearer you could ever add to your wardrobe.
Tourbillon: Breitling Premier B21 Chronograph Tourbillon Willy 42 watch
Technically, no pilot’s watch – nor modern watch, for that matter – needs a tourbillon. Breitling has decided that it does.
Part of the Premier line, which first launched in 1943, this timepiece is named after one of the founders, Willy, who is credited with the invention of the two-pusher chronograph, also in evidence here.
Breitling worked with the renowned movement maker La Joux Perret to create a calibre that combined the two, making the unusual decision to house the tourbillon at 12 rather than the traditional six o’clock position.
It’s as daring as putting a haute complication in what is, essentially, a tool watch but that has become Breitling’s USP. And it works.