Your Bag

Nothing in cart

What You Need to Know About Watches with Tropical Dial

What You Need to Know About Watches with Tropical Dial

A tropical dial refers to a watch with a dial that has a distinctive color change due to environmental change. Find out what is tropical dial watch here!
May 07, 2024

Tropical dial watches are a unique and fascinating category of vintage timepieces that have captured the attention of collectors and enthusiasts alike. These watches are characterized by a distinctive color change in their dials, which occurs over time due to exposure to light and humidity in tropical climates. 

Recently, these watches have also gained popularity among watch enthusiasts. Therefore, this article will explore the history of tropical dial watches, how they are made, and why they are so highly prized.

What is a Tropical Dial Watch?

A tropical dial watch is a vintage watch that has undergone a color change on its dial. This color change is typically caused by exposure to sunlight, humidity, and other environmental factors. 

As a result, the dial of the watch turns into a brownish color with shades of red, orange, or even pink, giving it a unique and tropical appearance.

The color change on the dial of a tropical dial watch is often referred to as “tropicalization” or “tropical aging.” It is a natural process that occurs over time and cannot be replicated artificially. 

This natural aging process makes each tropical dial watch unique and gives it a character that cannot be found in any other timepiece.

Steinhart Ocean 39 Tropic Plexi – Gnomon Exclusive
Steinhart Ocean 39 Tropic Plexi - Gnomon Exclusive

A good example of tropical dial watches available in the Gnomon Watches store is the Steinhart Ocean 39 Tropic Plexi – Gnomon Exclusive. The watch flaunts the tropical appeal from the dial to the bezel, and topping things off with the domed acrylic crystal accentuates the vintage effect.

The watch has undergone several trials and errors to find the perfect blend that results in a faded black bezel, and a matte-patinated “chocolate” dial. Throughout time, the utilitarian matte black dial has aged meticulously, yet in a natural state, developing a warm patina, towards a dark brown chocolate tone or dark orange hues.  

A Brief History of Tropical Dial Watches

The term “tropical dial” was first coined by collectors in the 1990s to describe vintage watches that exhibited a unique discoloration of the dial. 

However, the phenomenon of tropical dials has been observed since the 1940s, when soldiers returning from World War II brought back watches that had been exposed to tropical climates in the Pacific theater.

In those days, watches were not designed to withstand the harsh conditions of tropical environments, and many of them succumbed to heat and humidity. 

The dials of these watches would gradually turn from their original silver or white color to a beautiful caramel or chocolate brown. This change was caused by a chemical reaction between the dial’s paint and the moisture and UV radiation in the tropical air.

Over time, the tropical dial became a sought-after feature among collectors, and watchmakers began to intentionally create dials that would develop this unique patina. 

Some brands, such as Rolex and Omega, became particularly well-known for their tropical dials, and these vintage watches are now highly prized by collectors.

Read also: 7 Eco-Friendly Watch Brands for A Sustainable Environment

How Tropical Dial Watches Are Made

Tropical dials are created through a combination of careful design and natural aging. The dials are typically made from a metal base, such as brass or steel, that is coated with a layer of paint or lacquer. The paint can be of different colors, but it is often a light color like silver or white.

The watch is then assembled and sold to the customer, who may wear it in a range of environments. Over time, the dial will begin to develop a patina due to exposure to light and moisture. 

The specific color and pattern of the patina will depend on a variety of factors, including the humidity and temperature of the environment, the amount of exposure to sunlight, and the chemical composition of the paint.

Characteristics of Tropical Dial Watches

One of the most distinctive characteristics of tropical dial watches is their unique dial color. The dial color can vary from light brown to dark brown, and it may have shades of red, orange, or pink. 

The color change is often uneven, with some parts of the dial being more faded than others, giving the watch a distinctive appearance.

The patina which develops on the hour markers and hands is also a great appeal to this kind of watch. It is caused by exposure to sunlight and air over time and gives the watch an aged and vintage look.

Moreover, the patina can range from a light yellow color to a deep brown, depending on the age and condition of the watch.

Read also: Through the Looking Glass: The Different Types of Dials Out There

Why Collect Tropical Dial Watches?

Now that you know what tropical watches look like, let us tell you why these watches are worth your attention.

First, they are rare and unique, with each watch having its own distinct character, color, and appearance. Second, they have a rich history and are often associated with specific models and brands that are highly regarded by collectors.

Third, tropical dial watches are a testament to the craftsmanship and durability of vintage watches. These watches were built to last and have stood the test of time, surviving decades of wear and tear while maintaining their functionality and aesthetic appeal.

As the demand for these watches increases, so does their value, making them a valuable addition to any watch collection

Finally, tropical dial watches are simply beautiful and fascinating to look at, with their unique color and patina.


Tropical dial watches are a unique and rare type of vintage timepiece that has gained popularity among watch enthusiasts in recent years. 

These watches have a distinctive appearance, with their brownish dial color and patina, and are highly sought after by collectors around the world. 

You might also like: How to Choose Watch Dial Color That Suits You Well

You may like this

Related Articles

Compare watches
Comparison Chart

No watches in comparison chart

Artboard 1
Artboard 1



Lug width

Water resistance


Lug Width
Water resistance