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What Are the Smaller Dials on My Watch?

Sundials, or auxiliary dials, are the mini dials located on the watch face.  These smaller dials provide information other than the time indicated on the main watch dial. Secondary dials often display unique pieces of information, such as the date. They are a common feature of multifunction watches such as chronographs, alarm watches, dual time zone watches and calendar watches.  The Rolex Day Date remains one of the most iconic subdials on the market. These watches feature the day of the week and the day of the year on their dial and can be seen through an aperture on the watch’s face.

The Function of Subdials

Subdials distinguish many of Rolex’s designs, including the Yachtmaster shown here

Subdials have different functions. Some track elapsed seconds, minutes and hours, speed, while other’s trace distance and even moon phases. This feature appears on such popular Rolex models such as the Daytona, Yachtmaster and GMT watches. Patek Phillipe as developed the moon phase subdial and movement that boast over 1000 years of accuracy.

Why Do So Many Watches Have Subdials?

The popularity of supplementary dials is at an all-time high. This fervor can be attributed to a number of factors. First, multifunction watches are extremely popular. Meaning that subdials are useful, and often necessary, in displaying the various types of data they measure. Second, these dials give a watch a high-tech and/or sporty look – which is extremely fashionable. That’s why some watches that don’t really need an additional dial. Ones that simply show the day of the month, for example, or incorporate a seconds hand can be deemed functionally useless. Nevertheless, these watches still use them. Finally, larger model watches are especially popular. Subdials look aesthetically pleasing and give balance to a larger watch.

Although subdials have surged in popularity in recent years, many luxury timepiece houses have opted against the trend. Some of Rolex’s most iconic models, including the Milgauss embrace the simplicity of a watch without a subdial. A new desire for smaller faces has emerged among some watch aficionados. The petite size of these watches prevents the inclusion of a bold subdial.

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