Ultimate Guide to Panerai Dials

With its long history of creating instruments for the military, Panerai watches were made to provide high legibility and luminosity. Being Italian made, there’s no doubt that they are also beautifully designed.

One thing that can make purchasing a Panerai watch difficult is that there is a vast array of different options available to you, from various sizes and materials, to dial designs and straps.

Get ahead of the game and find out all the different dials that Panerai has to offer.

Sandwich Dials

Panerai Luminor Marina Blue Dial Steel Mens Watch PAM00070
Panerai Luminor Marina Sandwich Dial

Sandwich dials are made of two layers of contrasting material, with the inner layer usually being metal or ceramic and the outer layer lacquer, enamel, or treated metal. The sandwich dial was first used by Panerai in 1935 and designed by Swiss dial maker Stern Frères.

Vintage sandwich dials filled the cut-outs with a clear resin to seal in the dangerous radium lume. The lower disc holds all the luminescent material in recessed indexes. The cut-outs of the upper layer give an interesting, stenciled effect.

The sandwich dial has since become popular with other watch brands as well – notably Rolex (who used it for certain models from 1953 until about 1994), Omega (who first introduced their own version in 1959), and IWC (whose Pilot’s Watch model had one from 1961). Today, the sandwich dial is considered a hallmark of Panerai watches.


Sausage Dials

Panerai Luminor Base Logo 44mm Steel Mens Watch PAM00774
Panerai Luminor Sausage Dial

Sausage dials are named after their shape. The incredibly thick application of luminous material when drawing the numbers and lines makes them resemble sausages.

Because the paint is so thick, the dial markers have a three-dimensional effect. Sometimes the indexes were etched into the dial first and then filled.

Sausage dial and painted dial are often used interchangeably even though there are slight differences.


Painted Dial

Panerai Luminor Base 8 Days Acciaio 44mm Mens Watch PAM00560
Panerai Luminor Painted Dial

Painted dials are a simplistic dial with raised features. A luminous material is used to paint the numbers and markers right onto the dial material. This is a classic watchmaking method to detail the dial.

The paint and methods used to give the markers a very slight three-dimensional effect.


Printed Dial

Panerai Luminor Marina White Printed Dial
Panerai Luminor Marina Printed Dials

Printed dials lend a contemporary look to Panerai’s utilitarian style watches. They’re made by printing the numerals onto a metal dial, which is then placed under the crystal. Printed dials are used for their clarity and legibility – the numbers on printed watches are typically very thick and bold, making them easy to read at a glance.

In select models, Panerai places thick dots of luminous paint on the edges of the dial to provide a little low-light glow.


Waffle Dials

Panerai Radiomir 45mm Black Seal Ceramic Mens Watch PAM00643
Panerai Radiomir Waffle Dial

If you see the dial, you’ll understand the name. The dial material itself is molded into a texture that resembles the indentations of a waffle. This particular dial pattern is also often called the Paris Hobnail or Clous de Paris, after the streets of Paris, where patterns of hollowed squares intersect. The pattern is also reflected on the heads of the hobnail that was used and designed in Paris.


Baton Dials

The baton dial is a simplistic dial with dashes or lines indicating the hours. Baton hour markers are rectangular in shape. They can be painted or applied where they sit on the surface of the dial.

The baton dial was one of the prototypes that Panerai developed with Rolex very early on.

You’ll find that the older, more vintage baton dials will have more delicate markers with thicker lines on sports watches.


California Dials

Panerai Radiomir California 47mm 3 Days Power Reserve Watch PAM00424
Panerai Radiomir California Dial

The “California” dial first appeared on Panerai watches in 1936, then was patented by Rolex in 1941, as they supplied these dials to Panerai at the time. wasn’t adopted until 1944. The California dial is split in half, horizontally with Roman numerals in the upper half and Arabic numerals on the lower half. The four cardinal points are marked by rectangular and triangular hour markers.

Rolex actually advertised this dial design as the “error proof dial”, due to its exceptional legibility. It wasn’t called the California dial until the 1980s.

So how did the name California dial come about? A watch restorer and painter from California, Kirk Rich, became famous for restoring and repainting the 1940s Rolex Bubbleback watches. These vintage watches were slimmer in the area of the middle case and couldn’t fit the typical sandwich dials. They became very popular in California, hence the name.


S.L.C. Dials

Panerai Radiomir 1940 47mm 3 Days Ceramic Mens Watch PAM00577
Panerai Radiomir S.L.C. Dial

Originally thought to date back to 1939, the S.L.C. dial actually dates to the late 1950s, and is characterized by a minimalist design of baton and dot hour indiced. The dial has no numbers and only 4 line markers at 12, 3, 6, and 9. The other markers are indicated with a single dot.

Most collections will find the S.L.C. dial to be a combination of the sandwich dial with the minimalist markers of the S.L.C. dial. You’ll often find the S.L.C. dials to be black dials with luminous markers at the hours. The simplicity carries beyond the lack of intricate numbers to the simplicity of the overall design.


All Numbers

Panerai Luminor 1950 3 Days GMT Ceramic Mens Watch PAM01441

Panerai Luminor 1950 3 Days All Numbers Dial

All markers are represented by numbers on this type of dial. While this isn’t its formal name (it does not have a specific name among the Panerai fan-base) you’ll typically find larger representations of the 12, 3, 6, and 9 markers with smaller fonts representing the other numerals in between.


Panerai Dials: Final Thoughts

Panerai watches are a great addition to anyone’s collection. They are no doubt beautiful and functional, but what really makes collecting them fun is the depth of their history and the evolution of their watches. There are so many subtle changes that make each Panerai watch unique from each other. Take your pick from the vast selection of Panerai watches at SwissWatchExpo.com.

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