Many watches today feature mother-of-pearl dials that are shimmering with light and different hues. Generally used on women's watches, mother-of-pearl has become a favorite for men's watches, as well, especially in darker hues. Not all mother-of-pearl dials are natural in color. Dials can be enhanced with color by painting a lacquer or varnish on the back.
The making of a mother-of-pearl dial is not easy. It begins with ultra-thin sheets of mother-of-pearl that are often brittle and can break easily. Those sheets are then cut into orbs, squares or rectangles, depending on the shape of the watch case.
The precise and painstaking task requires expert craftsmen and specialty tools. Often, the job is delegated to a special dial-making company that can handle the pressure. Even then, a dial maker with a strong team can produce only a few thousand top-quality mother-of-pearl dials annually. Watch brands typically buy the base dial already cut and then add their hands, indices or other accents in their workshops.
The best natural mother-of-pearl dial is extra bright white and is sourced in Australia, the South Seas or regions in the Pacific Ocean. Black pearl dials are typically Tahitian in origin. Natural mother-of-pearl is also found in very pale shades of pink, cream and beige. Sometimes the mother-of-pearl is engraved or decorated with sunray or other motifs.