One is the Loneliest Number, Part 2

Sep 02, 2022,20:19 PM

I'm following up on the One is the Loneliest Number post of a few days ago. And relating this as well to the Hand-Written Dial post. 

Here are some character sets with all the numerals. All of these were originally in 18 pt type, so roughly the same height. You can see that the widths of a set from 0 to 9 are dramatically different. Why?

Is it the width of the character design, the inter-character spacing, the "boldness" of the lines that form the numeral? The slant, slope or italicization of the numerals? And what does this have to do with watches?

Making things fit is a big problem on watch dials. The proverbial "Ten pounds of trash in a five pound sack" problem. On the previous posts we saw a variety of ways to "make things fit", like cutting off the top of a six, or the bottom of a 10, or deleting the 3, 6 or 9 for a date window or small subdial. Or omitting some  numerals all together.

The dial designer could also choose a different font for each dial or subdial, as we often see on complications, where different fonts can refer to different functions of the watch. Here are two examples that ocurred to me when looking in my watch cabinet. Notice that the Seiko logo is a Serif font (it has little feet or tails on each character), as is the date (it's bold too) and most of the other characters are sans-serif.

Here this Flight Master Chronograph has all the numerals on the main dial in serif fonts, but the bezel scales are sans-serif (and yes, I didn't rotate the bezel back to zero, as I was wiping dust from the crystal).

Sometimes the dial designer does something you couldn't do in a paragraph of text, which is change the font size to fit the space available... you can see that the 8 and 4 are considerably smaller than the 12 -- in fact to squeeze in the 12, he fudged the border upwards a bit.

On the retro seconds scale at the bottom he did numerals and label in serif font, but on the power reserve at the top, the numerals are sans-serif (why isn't that subdial centered with 18 under the 12?!)  The 11/20 serial number is sans-serif, while his name is in a special Paul Gerber font that doesn't match anything else on the dial.

Of course, Paul is not the only one to play the "shrink the number" game:

Things are SO MUCH SIMPLER on a watch like this Panerai. BUT THEY STILL SHRINK SOME NUMBERS.

On this Andersen, you can be sure that the font for the dates was chosen so the largest numbers that would fit in the space available could be used.

This watch dial was designed in relation to an instrument panel on an Aston Martin, so the designer was under some external influences as well as from other watches at JLC.

And this from Armin Strom is saying "Don't worry about the numerals! Look at all the cool stuff we arranged in here and stop thinking about what time it is" leading to a watch you can stare at for 5 minutes, and when your boss (at work or home) says "What time is it?" you reply, "Uh, I dunno ... I wasn't looking at the time."

Here is yet another approach to dial design -- the Now you don't see it, and Now you do.

Designer was bravely relying on the & to identify the brand.

Bell & Ross.

A minimalist, traditionalist approach on this regulator dial,

and the Let's Put the Numbers on the Bezel strategy.

I think we can stop here, but I hope you will take a closer look at the numerals on your watch dials (and in those date, day, month, year windows) and notice how much variety you are carrying around!



More posts: Aston MartinPaul Gerber

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Incredibly interesting series of posts!

 By: andrea~ : September 2nd, 2022-20:36
Dial design is such a major part of a watch, and these little details make all the difference

Anything as simple as numbers on a watch dial...

 By: mdg : September 2nd, 2022-20:47
...should be hand-kerned and deliberately placed to a small fraction of an inch. When I was writing and laying out advertising, or designing retail packaging, I never typed a headline or subhead that I didn't go back and kern. Unfortunately, many watch ma... 


 By: InHavenPro : September 2nd, 2022-21:54

It should be mentioned that "Kerning" isn't related to Georges Kern (IWC, Breilting, Richemont)

 By: cazalea : September 29th, 2022-23:39
Just in case people wonder, it has been described this way by Adobe (maker of document-creation software including Illustrator and In-Design): Kerning is the spacing between individual letters or characters. Unlike tracking, which adjusts the amount of sp... 

Nice summary...

 By: mdg : September 30th, 2022-03:41
...I've spent a lifetime doing what most people never even notice : )

Isn’t that the truth?

 By: cazalea : September 30th, 2022-04:41
People say “who needs an editor nowadays? With Spellcheck and Grammarly? Anyone can do a book.” Ha!

It's telling that....

 By: InHavenPro : September 2nd, 2022-21:53
My favorite dial of the ones you posted here is the AMVOX .... Great topic, cheers, Filip


 By: cazalea : September 29th, 2022-23:32