The string dials saw a string of brilliant-cut diamonds set around the minute track. The hour markers would then be
marked with an additional diamond or in some cases an emerald, ruby or sapphire. In some rare cases the hours were
marked with a single baguette-cut stone. At the Revolution Watch Bar in Singapore, we have a stunning example of
reference 18038, featuring a Missoni dial—a solid gold champagne dial engraved with the zigzag stripe motif from the
famous fashion house. Decorated with ruby hour markers and diamonds, the beautiful dial is encased in an 18k yellow
gold case and is presented on an 18k yellow gold President bracelet.
Pave dials also came into use. One of my favourite iterations is the paved chapter ring. Essentially this was a
precious metal ring that continued in the same thickness as the day window around the inner circumference of the
dial and it was paved with diamonds. The chapter ring would be highlighted at the hours with brilliant cut stones,
including diamonds, rubies and sapphires.
The full pave dial is a Rolex Classic. Who doesn’t love a full dial of sparkling stones? Still in use today in Rolex
sports watches, the full pave dial’s maiden voyage was on the Day-Date. Rolex takes gem-setting very seriously, much
like everything else that they do. They only employ the very best artisans who can flawlessly carry out the work and
insist on the highest possible quality of stones for use on their watches. All the diamonds used, even the tiniest
for full pave dials, must include zero inclusions when checked at 10x magnification. Each stone is checked by eye
and compared with master stones to ensure only the finest examples make it onto watches - Rolex even has its own
proprietary tools to ensure each stone is of uniform shape. The cut used for pave dials is known as the 8/8 cut,
which has a total of 17 facets.
One of the most challenging manufacturing processes for watch brands is the production of stone dials. Working with
stone is difficult as it is incredibly hard and the resulting finished piece is very thin. This leads to a large
failure rate with the brittle stone slivers being very prone to cracking. One of the appealing aspects of stone
dials, however, is the unique nature of each one. I spoke about this in the last instalment of this series regarding
the Daytona. The Day-Date used considerably more types of stone for its dials (check out a beautiful example of ref.
18079 with a rubellite dial with baguette-cut diamonds at the Revolution Watch Bar) and I’m not sure anybody, other
than Rolex, could compile a thoroughly exhaustive list of all the stones used in the Day-Date. However, what follows
is about as close as it is possible to get with full access to the Rolex archive.
A-Z of Day-Date Stone Dials
Agate- a rock consisting primarily of cryptocrystalline silica, chiefly chalcedony, alternating with
micro-granular quartz. It is characterised by its fineness of grain and variety of colour.
Ammonite – the most commonly known fossil, it is the hard shell of an ancient, extinct mollusk.
Aventurine - a form of quartz, characterised by its translucency and the presence of mineral inclusions
that give a shimmering or glistening effect
Bloodstone - a cryptocrystalline mixture of quartz. The "classic" bloodstone is opaque green jasper with
red inclusions of hematite
Cacholong - a form of common opal, although it is often mistaken for agate or chalcedony.
Coral - the hard skeleton of red coral branches.
Ferrite - a ceramic material made by mixing and firing large proportions of iron with small proportions of
one or more additional metallic elements, such as barium, manganese, nickel, and zinc.
Fossil – also known by collectors as ‘Jurassic Park’ dials, they are petrified fossil slices.
Grossular - a vibrant red calcium-aluminium species of the garnet group of minerals.
Jade -an ornamental mineral, mostly known for its green varieties.
Jasper - an aggregate of micro-granular quartz and/or chalcedony and other minerals. It’s usually red,
yellow, brown or green in colour.
Lapis Lazuli- a metamorphic rock used as a semi-precious stone that is prized for its intense blue
Malachite - a green copper mineral, known for its vibrant green color and agate-like banding that shows
different shades of green.
Meteorite - a nickel and iron alloy with heavy traces of cobalt and phosphorus. It is the crystal
composition of this meteorite that gives it its octahedrite structure that is so visually appealing.
Mother of Pearl (Nacre) - an iridescent organic composite material that is very strong produced by some
molluscs as an inner shell layer.
Marble (Howlite) - a calcium borosilicate hydroxide, it has a white appearance with threaded gray, black or
brown veins running through it.
Obsidian - a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as rock, obsidian is produced when lava extruded
from a volcano cools rapidly with minimal crystal growth.
Opal -formed when water from rain seeps down into crevasses in rock. Once the water evaporates, the silica
that is left behind dries out and hardens into precious opal.
Onyx - formed of bands of chalcedony in alternating colors. The most common colour used by Rolex is the
Pietersite - a variety of Quartz, composed naturally of Tiger Eye, Hawk's Eye and Jasper. Its dominant gold
hues are contrasted with deep blue-black, grey and brown, as well as occasional clear areas.
Rubellite - tourmalines with dark pink to red colours. Ruby-red colored specimens without orange or brown
overtones are highly prized.
Sodalite -a blue mineral named as a result of the very high sodium levels in the stone, which is very hard
but also quite fragile. The shades can vary from light powder blue to rich royal blue.
Tiger Eye -a chatoyant gemstone that is usually a metamorphic rock with a golden to brown colour and a
Turquoise- an opaque, blue-to-green mineral that is a hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminium. It
is a vibrant blue colour.