Fishing for the best salmon dials including Patek Philippe, Breitling, Kurono and moreThor Svaboe
Nothing says vintage like the warm flash of pink in the salmon dials of last century, a hard to define touch of colour steeped in the glamour of the 1940-50s era of craftsmanship. An elegant and quieter time where 38mm was a big sports watch, and 44mm+ was the diameter of the clock at the train station.
Let’s have a closer look at this glow of salmon and coppery pink that seems to be seeping back into watch dials this year. There’s a wide choice to be had in 2021, and this often chameleon-like tone can be found in 38mm elegance from small independents right up to the brands that were originally doing it back in the golden age of dial panache.
The daddy – Patek Philippe 5270P
Why not start at the top, I say, with the Patek Philippe 5270P, and what many collectors consider the cream of the salmon crop. As one of Patek’s flagship references, the 5270P got this vintage-infused update in 2018 to become the talk of Baselworld. Put in a cheeky perspective, for close to $200,000 this could be considered a bargain compared to the $400k that someone paid for a Nautilus last month. The flared, stepped lugs of the polished case are worth a brace of macro shots alone, while the inset diamond between the lugs is reserved for Patek’s platinum cases. A medium sized 41mm with a 12.4mm thickness is only fair when we consider the caliber CH 29-535 PS Q within, a tightly packed movement combining a chronograph with a perpetual calendar, featuring a host of functions including the delightful moon-phase window at 6. There is an unmistakeable gravitas to a high complication Patek, that nonetheless here materializes into exemplary legibility for such a maximalist dial space. The colour pulls you in with its metallic tint of salmon, and soft satin greyish black for the hands and hour markers. There is just something about this golden version of salmon that is as soothing as it is dangerously addictive to look at. So, if we go back to the half-of-a Nautilus argument I wasn’t going to mention again, I’d choose the 5270P in a heartbeat. Price $205,810 USD
Japanese wrist-art from the pen of Asaoka-san – Kurono Toki
You don’t even need the pre-requisite of a love for all things Japanese to fall in love after reading Zach’s review of the Kurono Toki here, and wonder whether this indescribably rich salmon tone is simply too perfect? While we might might question Zach’s reasoning for needing another Kurono within the same case, it only takes but one look at the still-unusual Art Deco dial to nod approvingly. At 37mm, the sublime elegance of the compact case befits the background as an accessible sub brand of the independent mastery of Hajime Asaoka. Simple and proportionate, it frames the now well known Kurono dial design proving how much the personality of a watch changes with a colour. Google the Kurono Toki, and you will not find two pictures that look alike. The sometimes dusty pink, sometimes rich metallic tone of the Toki dial is a fresh background to the Art Deco jewellery of the architectural indexes cutting across three inlaid polished steel circles inboard of a delicate minute track. This formal circular frame reminds me of the early 1900s touch of iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and juxtaposes with the smooth dial centre. With its crisp logos and open space, the rays of sunlight do their best to confuse us, altering the salmon to a coral, then copper. Just enjoy the theatre and give up trying to match it with your pocket square, it will only use its chameleonic nature to fool you again once the light fades. $1,738 USD
Delightfully compact British craftsmanship – Fears Brunswick salmon
For me personally this ticks a hell of a lot of boxes, starting with its rather perfect 38mm unusual cushion case. It seems to create a sweet spot between round and square, if Panerai made a dress watch in the forties it might have looked like this. But unlike the woefully too large PAMs, Fears play a compact game of quirky cool, and then you’re captured by the dial. This has a luscious warmth through galvanic coatings of copper and 18K rose gold, which is then vertically brushed by hand to enhance its already rich flavour. Tall applied Arabic numerals in anthracite are suave companions to the blued Fears hands, creating a play of light on the rich surface. The specially designed typeface is calm and balanced, exuding the sweet flavour of Art Deco. At £3,150 you will have the compact charm of 38mm x 42mm lug to lug, in a slim case housing the venerable ETA 7001 manual wind top grade calibre. An instant ice breaker for any conversation involving wristwear, unlike most big brands at this price point. Surely I’m not the only exhibitionist?
The surprise of the year – Breitling Premier B25 Datora 42 Copper
This spring I got very excited about two Breitlings, which says a lot, as while I do enjoy a lot of the brand’s offerings with a smallish wrist I find many references too large. With a penchant for vintage, I loved the pistachio-flavoured 40mm , and even more, this salmon delight. At 42mm it might not be my preferred sub-40mm size, but with this flourish of a dial I wouldn’t want it any other way, and the gently downwards turned lugs make this a comfortable companion. Drop dead gorgeous in its salmon splendor, with the perfect juxtaposition of blue details and polished excellence. Capturing the essence of 1940s Breitlings, this is one of this year’s best examples of a pure vintage aesthetic with sharp, modern execution. The delightfully busy dial has a true depth to its salmon tone, polished details and blued hands adding to the mid-century maximalism that in this chunky case just feels right. With its COSC-rated automatic B25 caliber, at $12,950 USD this is one of the strongest cards in Breitling’s vintage deck.
The accessible ticket to mid-century style – Furlan Marri Chronograph
This year’s strongest watch debut on Kickstarter was triple funded within minutes and Furlan Marri are on a roll with their strong mecha-quartz powered chronographs. This Havana Brown version is nothing but a perfect 38mm, svelte 11.2mm case of 1940s panache, and is your best entry ticket to the world of salmon goodness. I will admit that in this case I found myself actually backing the Kickstarter project with my own hard-earned cash, no favours asked. Andrea Furlan and Hamad Marri have simply struck a nerve, and with backing from new enthusiasts and Patek collectors alike, we can only tap our fingers impatiently waiting for this month’s shipping, and the exiting and probably mechanical chapter two of their story. On a richly detailed dial with chocolate brown tones, the vintage-bling application of a big polished XII and VI balance out two large registers. This is a pure embodiment of the more formal times of the forties and fifties, though ironically this would have been a large sports watch in its heyday. $330 USD on Kickstarter.