Green Watch Dials Explained

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Green watch dial Breitling

Spring has sprung. Green watch dials are popping-up everywhere! Big Horo’s color revolution was so sudden and unexpected that even the watch press was stunned, belatedly trying to piece together an explanation. Here are the leading theories behind the green watch phenom and some idle speculation . . .

Green is The Color of Money

Green watch dial Aquapod

This theory holds that a gold watch is an excellent wealth signifier, but a green watch is the more socially acceptable (and cheaper) money move. Green is, after all, is the color of money. The hue the Crane family uses on the linen-and-cotton paper it prints for Uncle Sam.

Proponents suggest that greenbacks – and thus the color green – have become the universal icon for cash, in the same way an obsolete Western Electric rotary is the symbol for a telephone. Does a green watch telegraph its owner’s [presumed] wealth? Never mind if it looks like money, do it look money?

Matthew Lesko

That Master’s green jacket might say yes, sort of. As would the Riddler-esque Matthew “Free Money” Lesko. But I’m not sure how many people are thinking of old accountant visors and banker’s lamps when contemplating a green dial watch. This one’s a stretch.

Green Saves the Planet/Represents Cleanliness

One of the weakest explanations for green-watch-mania: the color’s association with environmentalism. Sorry, corporate greenwashing is not that subtle (e.g., the hype over recycled materials in luxury watches). While few go broke underestimating the credulity, impressionability and conformity of the average watch buyer, this is also a bridge too far.

Green is Clean in the PRC

Note: I didn’t say American consumer. It’s not about you. With over 50 percent of traditional watch sales going down in The People’s Republic, China’s the man now, dog. And in China green means clean. color-meanings.com:

Chinese green milk

Green stands for wealth, harmony, growth, eco friendliness in the West, whereas it stands for “clean, and contamination free” in China. Green is also used to describe organic things for example, Green Milk means organic or toxin free milk and Green vegetables mean ones without pesticides. 

Apparently the Chinese expression “to wear a green hat/cap” means that one has an unfaithful wife. That has nothing to do with a green watch, so let’s move on.

Green Watch Dials = Liberation!

Also on the list of dubious explanations: green dials represent a celebration of being outside. Lest we forget, the bulk of the civilized world has been subject to COVID-19 restrictions on mobility and freedom. (The scourge was originally called coronavirus – until the Mexican beer company got mad and people kept giggling.)

I don’t truck with this theory. It’s not like people, especially luxury consumers, lived in a dungeon devoid of the sight of grass and plants. Were that the case, cabin fever-crazed people would have made shoebox dioramas of outdoor scenes from green colored construction paper and pipe cleaners.

Outdoor putting green

But please, the golf courses were empty for a week, max. And there are lifeless urban areas where no living thing takes root (nothing new). Luxury watch buyers in affluent Asian markets were over the lockdown fad a while ago. Hard no.

Green = Market Manipulation

My pet theory is the Scarlett O’Hara, based on the drapes-into- dress action in Gone with the Wind. I suspect that the selection of green was the luxury watch industry’s attempt to produce something new and exciting on short notice during Coronageddon – when normal resources (men, machines and material) were unavailable. And why not green?

Green is the most acceptable colorful color after the already popular blue. The other primary colors – red and yellow – are loud and a tough sell. Except for Rolex, but those sell regardless. The other remaining secondary color is purple. I think Audemars Piguet has a Code 11.59 in purple. That’s two strikes there. Brown and other earth tones are nonstarters that remind us of dirt and excrement. Pastels are not masculine and it’s a man’s market.

Besides, green has variety. Vastly different colors; olive greens, bluish teals, and pistachio shades are all lumped under the same umbrella along with lime and kelly. I’m not sure what kelly green is, nor emerald or hunter. There are lots of greens, not just collard ones. Bolstering this theory . . .

Green Watch Dials Are Nothing New

Going through the TTAW archives, it’s clear that green watches are nothing new. They just used to come out sporadically throughout the year instead of in a contrived rapid succession of a media blitz.

Tag Heuer Aquaracer in green

Just last year we had an article entitled TAG Heuer Aquaracer Dive Watch: Is Green the New Blue? as well as PAM 768 – 3D-Printed With Green Accents!

About a year ago, around Baselworld time, Seiko introduced a green-faced Grand Seiko Elegance SBGW264 LE and Omega launched an olive OMEGA Seamaster Aqua Terra 150m Master Chronometer in the same week.

In 2019 we had “Christopher Ward Watch in British Racing Green” and that may have been the year that the green Seiko Alpinist caused a big hubbub.

Green Watch Dials – A Flash in the Pan?

Will green watch dials remain popular? Reactions have ranged from generally favorable to oh hell no, depending on shade. My guess: the jewel tone greens that weren’t unknown beforehand will enjoy an upswing, however modest, for the next few years. The appeal of odder shades will wither and die.

Mr. Green Jeans and Captain Kangaroo

Blue is on top for a reason. People wear blue all the time, especially men. Blue jeans, blue dress shirts, navy suits and blazers. Where are the green jeans, as worn by Captain Kangaroo’s friend? I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for the new kid on the block to cause an upset and become a front runner. So if you see someone wearing a green dial watch, don’t be green with envy. It will pass.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Green can be really hard to work with. White, black, or blue will always look good. Sometimes green just doesn’t look right. A black dial, cream dial, white dial, that can always be a “go to” watch. But a green dial? No.

  2. I think olive is pretty dummyproof, and the almost-black darks aren’t far behind. As with blues, the lighter and brighter you go, the more potential for unsuitability and clashes arise.

    • That is a good way to look at it. I can’t help but notice a lot of the green I see in the pictures is lighter rather than darker.

  3. I purchased a rather expensive “LE” olive green dial watch when the green craze was just starting. Like O.K. says, dummyproof color, unfortunately the watch itself wasn’t. Complicated, outside the norm mechanism that drove me nuts and didn’t hold a charge. Back to the original manufacture twice and finally worked perfectly. Unfortunately the damage (to my ego) was done. I had to get rid of that piece at quite a loss and cannot bare the site of that brand or that color. Needless to say, I did buy a microbrand recently with a non-green green dial, “mint” green, that I enjoy looking at very much. I don’t consider this color part of the herd of the green sheep, but then again maybe it is all part of the same craze and I too, am one of the color blind being herded to slaughter.

  4. Light greens are very unique, so perfect for the collector. Sort of reminds me of the 80’s edition of “Dress for Success” I read that said a teal suit was a total power suit because it was such an odd and non-versatile color that it was a flex implying that one owned a lot of suits.
    When they are right, they look really right, but when they don’t…

  5. On behalf of Doxa orange is also a secondary color.

    Green has always been a dial color in use, especially with the most prominent global luxury/mechanical watch company – Rolex – as its corporate color. As the article points out, men buy watches, and the manly colors are for the most part black, white/silver, gold, blue, and green (and maybe brown). So green will always be in rotation.

    The current hype over green indicates to me that the watch industry is out of ideas and development money. And also shows how desperate for content the watch media has become. A new dial color that would have been quietly added to the catalog in the past now gets multiple press releases and articles.

    • I’m embarrassed not to have made the observation about the need for perpetual content and the the accompanying bar lowering. Indeed, this mundane “dog bites man” story did not warrant the speculation of so many sites. The fact that this was a story is the story.

    • The U.S. is one of the few (the only?) country where all denominations of paper money are the same color.

    • You are absolutely correct. I don’t know the color of a Chinese yuan but I know that paper currency outside the states tends to be different colors by denomination. It wasn’t my theory, and I alluded to the outdated provincialism of this with the telephone symbol gag. The thinking of the Chinese consumer is surely a prime manufacturer consideration.

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