The best TV dial watches that might signal their glorious comeback The best TV dial watches that might signal their glorious comeback

The best TV dial watches that might signal their glorious comeback

Adam Reeder

The TV dial watch is about as 1970s as you can get. As the name would suggest, a TV dial watch mimics the shape of a classic CRT television. They have either square or rectangular dials and usually have slightly curved corners. TV dial watches came into fashion somewhere around the late 1960s and persisted as a popular style throughout the ’70s and into the early ’80s. Looking at a proper TV dial watch conjures up images of the fast moving 1970s, when fashion and design were all about being bold, colorful, and modern. It was a time of shag carpeting, bright dayglo floral patterns, and obscenely large shirt collars. It was in this environment where the TV dial became a staple in men’s watch design, reflecting a culture that revolved around the family TV.

patek philippe beta 21 3587
Patek Philippe ref. 3587. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s

The popularity of TV dial watches also corresponded pretty closely with the advent of the first mass market Swiss quartz movement, the CEH Beta 21. Released in 1969 by a conglomerate formed by some of the biggest Swiss brands, the Beta 21 (and subsequent Beta 22) went into some of the earliest TV dial models such as the Patek Philippe ref. 3587 and the Omega Electroquartz. The Beta 21 movement was short lived but represented an important moment in Swiss watchmaking. That goes for a lot of other TV dial watches of the day as well, which is why the vintage ones are so appealing.

omega constellation electroquartz beta 21
Omega Constellation Electroquartz Beta 21. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s

Because round watches are so ubiquitous these days, any other shape seems unique and original. Although another 1970s watch style has been all the rage for quite a few years now (integrated bracelets), the TV dial hasn’t quite come back with the same fanfare. Maybe it’s time for a bit of a paradigm shift. Many collectors (and by that I mean me) are tired of seeing the same watches over and over and over and over again. It would be nice to see watchmakers shake things up a bit and usher in a whole new trend. Thankfully, a few brands might be a bit ahead of the curve.

 Seiko Recraft SNKP23

Seiko Recraft Blue

As always, if there’s a need, Seiko meets it. The Seiko Recraft line is the brand’s homage to styles from the 1970s. The SNKP line has both a green and blue dial variant, housing Seiko’s unimpeachable 7s26 movement. It definitely achieves those classic TV dial vibes with flying colours, and is probably the closest to what pieces like these would’ve actually been like considering the ancient roots of its automatic movement. What’s more, while you’re likely to see many Seikos in the wild on a daily basis, this one will definitely set you apart from the crowd. Nobody does it quite like Seiko. Price: US$275 (RRP)

Brew Metric Retro

Brew Metric Retro Dial Wrist Shot

Who says that TV dials have to look like they’ve come straight from the 1970s? While Brew’s design cues do hark back to those of yesteryear, it’s one of the best examples of a modern, hip microbrand. The Metric Retro incorporates just enough cues to earn its moniker, but the minimalist overall execution and intended use case is as 21st century hipster as it gets. The price point is also a great entrance to the world of watches without taking out a second mortgage. Price: US$450

Mido Multifort TV Big Date S01E01

mido multifort tv big date s01e01 wrist

Since its initial release, the Mido Multifort TV Big Date has become a popular affordable alternative to the Patek Philippe Aquanaut. The limited-edition S01E01 that just launched is a bold play on the TV dial inspiration, lessening its resemblance to any Holy Trinity sports watches, and putting it in a category of its own. The tongue in cheek literal take on a TV dial says “sure I’m a watch nerd, but I have a sense of humour too”. This one is a great option for anyone who’s ready to spend a moderate amount of cash and get a whole lot in return. Price: A$2,175 from the Time+Tide Shop

Glashütte Original Seventies Chronograph

Glashutte Original Seventies

Master German watchmaker Glashütte Original has also released a gorgeous TV dial watch that harkens back to the days of muscle cars and disco music. The Glashütte Original Seventies Chronograph is a well-made and refined watch, as expected from this respected brand. The movement is an in-house automatic calibre with a column wheel and flyback chronograph. While it’s not a direct reissue of a previous model, it’s obviously inspired by the period. This one is destined to become a modern classic with a retro feel. Price: starting from US$14,100

There are so many different styles to choose from when it comes to watches. Unfortunately, there still seems to be some hesitancy on the part of watch brands to mix it up when it comes to the shape of their dials. The TV dial was an extremely popular watch design for over a decade, but at some point in the 1980s, it fell out of favour with brands and the public. But this cool design has been gone for long enough. Everything that’s old eventually becomes new again, so it’s time to turn the TV back on and enjoy those retro vibes just one more time.