Does the Dial Match the Mask?

Rolex Color Theory & History, hermetically sandwiched between personal anecdotes.

6-min read

I tried to stay away from cracking the crude ‘are the drapes matching the carpet’ joke because watches might be the only ‘asset’ I’m particularly fond of, but alas. Below, I walk through my decision-making process on picking up one of Rolex’s most accessible models, why I bit the bullet when I’d already purchased the Hulk less than five months ago, and dial color theory.

The Why

Relatively reckless purchase. Doubt a non-Datejust would retain any intrinsic value, but omg look at that tiffany turquoise. I know, I know, I said I had enough blue in the last grail post about my prismatic collection, but hear me out, this shade can’t honestly stand up to the vibrant intensity of the (now-antiquated) indigo-dial FC-303NN6B6.1 Also, I needed something for the upcoming summer + yacht season shenanigans.

The process to acquire the Oyster Perpetual was simple and straightforward — trot over to any of the countless Authorized Dealers in Hong Kong and grab the first attendant while simultaneously explaining your dire situation. Usually, they pay no heed to anyone under the ripe age of thirty, but armed with my Hulk and dressed in an unorthodox form-fitting crisp white shirt, I managed to convert hard cash into the lowest-priced model™, which is also the timepiece you’re rewatching in awfully low-quality GIF-form right above.2

Me waiting outside the Rolex Store in Central. Image stolen from ASOS. They’ve recently added videos of models strutting around and if you have an hour to kill I’d recommend watching some of them.

Why the sudden need to splurge? The markets are doing well... and I can. Jokes aside, I have a dream — to own all colors of the rainbow in one way or the other, and I intend to achieve this by owning watches with distinct colored dials (or hands, I’m not picky)3.

I’m currently at V̶I̶B̶G̶YOR: three left. I already have black/ white faces in my possession and with each passing day, I feel more and more like a Pokémon Master. I imagine orange would most likely be the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M (obviously with the NATO strap)4 — I have no qualms about switching loyalties. This might also be because the other three Rolex colorways are fugly and I sincerely doubt I’d be able to pull them off. Once again, I’m accepting any and all candidates.

Accessible === Cheap?

But Viren, why would you lower your standards? Submariners over Oyster Perpetuals any day of the week. And why blue out of all variants? Well the TL;DR is that I like the color. From the perennial Forums:

I can’t comprehend some of the feedback I’ve received: “Go with the Milgauss, it’s rarer and stands out.” Or “Why go with the entry-line Rolex when you already have a Hulk — save up and splurge on a Daytona”. First of all, I doubt I’m ever going to wear the equivalent of a glow-in-the-dark Timex, and second, I’m not prepared to drop 17 large on the Cosmograph Platinum. Or: what if this watch only serves as a homage to the Ice-Blue Day-Date 40? I’d retort that if you knew me well enough you’d know I detest anything iced out or flashy. I just like the fucking color.

With Time & Tide placing 2:1 odds on my blue baby before The Hong Kong Watch Auction: XI hosted by Phillips last year, I thought I’d be in the clear from criticism:

Blue dial watches are always popular, but this turquoise variation glows with a spearmint freshness that’s enlivened by the lustre of the steel. As inviting as a swimming pool on a baking hot day, this is a head-turning colour but not so outré as to be off-putting.

Unfortunately, bidders didn’t feel the same way, and the results were questionable, to say the least. My watch got bested by the equivalent of two-thirds of a stoplight and the color pink. The final standings:

  1. Red, Yellow, Pink @ HKD $107,100 apiece

  2. Turquoise blue @ HKD $94,500

  3. Green @ HKD 88,200 apiece

Eat the rich, I muttered to myself in indignation. Guess The Sky Is Pink. I reluctantly accept second place. Back to my quest of collecting the sorbet rainbow of colors.

A Problem: Teeny Tiny Wrists

And now a problem as old as time (ha) — the 41 is too large for my dainty wrists but I also wouldn’t be caught dead in the 36mm. The reference numbers change based on the case diameter, but for all intents and purposes, I’ve stuck to 41mm which is 124300. Pink dials max out at 36mm and rightly so, and are demarcated as 126000.5 A primer:

After watching this video one might understand why I can’t possibly cop the Coral Red. If it looks this bad on Caucasian skin I’d rather not test the hypothesis on brown complexions.

Cool Color Calculations

I noticed quite early on the dial color is similar to the (now ubiquitous) disposable surgical face masks. It offered a deeply disturbing lens into the lives of pseudo-insta-influencers who have different colored masks to match their OOTD.

I wanted to test my hypothesis, so I used a color picker to grab all the hex codes.

  1. Bright blue: #013B5F

  2. Bright black: #050505

  3. Silver: #CFCDC2

  4. Yellow: #FBB400

  5. Green: #036033

  6. Turquoise blue: #96D2D2

  7. Coral red: #E83D0B

  8. Candy pink: #F2D6DE

Now, these might not be exact — some of the variants (looking at you Black/ Silver/ Bright blue) have a sunray finish instead of the usual monochromic dials. Along with the gloss built-in into the paint, this meant it was particularly challenging to correctly deduce the shade. The mask was #7BD3EB. Cool, now how do I compare them? The correct answer is with some python code and good old dE.

Delta-E is a single number that represents the 'distance' between two colors.

from colormath.color_objects import sRGBColor, LabColor
from colormath.color_conversions import convert_color
from colormath.color_diff import delta_e_cie2000

# Watch Color
c1_rgb = sRGBColor(150, 210, 210)

# Mask Color
c2_rgb = sRGBColor(123, 211, 235)
# Convert from RGB to Lab Color Space
c1_lab = convert_color(c1_rgb, LabColor)
c2_lab = convert_color(c2_rgb, LabColor)

# Find the color difference
delta_e = delta_e_cie2000(c1_lab, c2_lab)
print ("The difference between the two colors are= ", delta_e)

This outputs 25.3145. Where does that fall under the standard perception range?

<= 1.0: Not perceptible by the human eye
1-2: Perceptible through close observation
2-10: Perceptible at a glance
11-49: More similar than the opposite
100: Exactly the opposite

It’ll pass. The actual Tiffany Blue (PMS number 1837) is #0ABAB5, also known as robin egg blue. How does this compare to our dial? 17.6284. Huh, who would have thought?

Stellar Silver & Sordid Sales Tales

Many fans have lampooned the brand for releasing these childish colored dials. Similar to my critics, they harped on the value of tradition, conformity, and a legacy of excellence. A Crown for Every Achievement. Fortunately, I possess none of these qualities and have no significant achievements.

As Zach Blass from Time & Tide rightly stated,

These watches may not have the same depth in the water as the Submariner and Sea-Dweller, but they have just as much depth on the wrist and present a lot of playful opportunities and expressions not previously found within the Rolex catalogue.

I instead draw a comparison to the Rolex’s of yesteryear. Quoting an article from Tariq Malik in WatchTime Middle East,

Rolex really pushed the envelope in the 1970’s & 80’s by introducing hard enamel dials known as Stella dials. These enamel watch faces came in a riot of colors, tones you wouldn’t expect to see on a Rolex. Interestingly, ‘Stella’ is not an invented nickname but Rolex themselves used the term ‘Lacquered Stella’ in their catalogues.

The difference between the Stella’s of the 70s and the OPs of today are not so subtle — diamond-set markers compared to the currently applied indexes, Eastern Arabic numerals superseded Roman numerals, Opal, Jasper, Bloodstone, Lapis, Onyx, Ammonite, Coral, and even Petrified Fossil for dials vs. the current lacquered finish. Fortunately, the current iteration wins in movement: 3055 automatic to caliber 3230. These watches command a high price tag in auction houses today, and for good reason — Rolex destroyed the remaining stock once they realized these watches were not only not selling well in their primary markets (America/ Europe) but their target demographic also, which was primarily Middle Eastern and Asian countries.

Give it to the century-old manufacturing company to further froth the tumultuous watch-wearing waters. I doubt there will be a similar demand for the current OPs, since Rolex seems hellbent on churning as many as humanely possible, up to the 800,000 limit per year. I’m not the type to resell. I’ll keep this as my lasting legacy, or my singular achievement. I also know there is no gold pot at the end of the rainbow, but I’m open to adopting the leprechaun or at the very least having a live-in relationship with him/ her/ them.

Further Reading: The Colorful World of Rolex Stella Dials by A Collected Man.

1

That’s the Frederique Constant Classics Index Automatic for the uninitiated or uninformed.

2

Substack for the love of God, please support more video formats.

3

(but not straps) — anyone can purchase half a dozen NATO straps and call it a day.

4

I’d absolutely love to sport the 45.5mm Chronograph variant but I fear the size of the watch and weight will compress on my already dashed spirits. 43.5 it is, I guess.

5

A neat guide on how to ascertain the type of Rolex by just the reference number.