Unfortunately for the fish, the color salmon doesn’t refer to its shiny, silvery-blue scales, but rather how it looks when prepared for consumption. Morbidity aside, salmon-colored dials are finding favor with watch enthusiasts – to the point where we might just consider them the watch trend that will define 2023.
Though salmon dials might be trending now, they’ve actually been around for the better part of a century. In fact, Patek Philippe and Rolex were the first to experiment with this dial color in the 1930s and 40s. These dials can sometimes verge on copper and pink, and definitely break the mold of the standard black-blue-white we usually pick from. So yes, these timepieces stand out, but they whisper rather than shout; and while they never really went out of style, they’ve been gaining a lot of traction lately. This begs the question, is the salmon dial trend here to stay?
I have to admit that I’m a fan, and while looking into the trend and the many offers, I compiled a list of watches with salmon dials at different price points.
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph
In early 2023, Breitling released a line of new chronographs with the well-loved retro flair of the 1940s. This line, the Premier B01 Chronograph 42, has two models with salmon dials. Breitling’s muse for this collection was their Premier ref. 777 from 1945, which is definitely evident with a side-by-side comparison: bicompax design with subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock, Arabic numerals, and tachymeter scale surrounding the dial. Look closer, and you’ll see that Breitling also kept the slim silhouette of the syringe-shaped hands from the 1940 original.
Unlike the ref. 777, the new model has a date display at 6 o’clock. Another obvious difference is the case: The original had a rose gold case and a diameter of just 38 mm, whereas the latest release comes in a stainless steel case that measures 42 mm across and 13.6 mm thick. The timepiece also offers water resistance to 100 m (10 bar, 328 ft).
Needless to say, the inner workings have also been upgraded, namely from the manual caliber Venus 175 to the Breitling B01. This caliber has a vertical clutch, chronometer certification, and a 70-hour power reserve. The Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph has a see-through case back that lets you watch the movement at work.
The two versions of the Premier B01 Chronograph 42 with salmon dials come under the reference numbers AB0145331K1A1 and AB0145331K1P1. The former is paired with a five-piece link pilot bracelet made of stainless steel. Breitling fits the latter reference with a classic brown alligator leather strap. Both models cost just under $9,000 on Chrono24.
Patek Philippe 5172G & 5320G
As the brand credited with the creation of the salmon dial, Patek Philipp naturally has plenty of models in their repertoire. The ref. 5172G from the Complications collection is a great watch to consider. Visually, the watch looks quite similar to the Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph on account of its subdials at 3 and 9 o’clock, Arabic numerals, tachymeter scale on the dial’s outer edge, and syringe-shaped hands.
That’s where the similarities end – the Patek is ten times more expensive than the Breitling, after all. The dial of the 5172G is crafted from rose gold and the 18-karat white gold case also steps things up a notch. The case is 41 mm in diameter, and houses the artistic manual in-house caliber CH 29-535 PS.
The column wheel chronograph movement has a vertical clutch and a 65-hour power reserve. There are six patents protecting the movement’s innovations, including the self-setting, return-to-zero hammers and optimized toothing profiles. You can view the intricately decorated caliber through the sapphire crystal case back, but you should remember it’s only water-resistant to 30 m (3 bar, 98ft). Patek mounts the show-stopper on a brown alligator leather strap and demands a list price of $80,000. You can buy the model in mint condition on Chrono24 for around $75,000.
Another remarkable watch from Patek Philippe with a salmon dial is the ref. 5320G, which belongs to the Grand Complications collection. Introduced in 2017, this model is equipped with the automatic in-house caliber 324 S Q. It boasts a perpetual calendar with day of the week, month, leap year, and day/night indicators, as well as a pointer date, moon phase display, and central seconds. The power reserve clocks in at 45 hours.
Like the 5172G, the dial is made of rose gold and features applied Arabic indices and syringe-shaped hands. While Patek Philippe lists the 40-mm white gold watch for $97,580, market prices for new copies are closer to $85,000.
Rolex Datejust & Air King With Salmon Dials
Rolex has offered a number of different models sporting salmon dials over the years. On more modern timepieces, however, the hue tends to be closer to a dusty pink. A good example is the current Rolex Datejust 36 ref. 126234. The case and bracelet of the 36-mm Datejust are made of stainless steel, but the fluted bezel is crafted from white gold. More opulence is found on the dial: applied Roman numerals, with the 6 and 9 glistening in 18-karat gold complete with 24 diamonds.
The timepiece is powered by the Rolex caliber 3235, which offers the wearer a 70-hour power reserve, and has a depth rating of 100 m (328 ft). Prices on the secondary market came in at around $16,000 in mid-2023.
The Datejust ref. 1601 was in production until the mid-1970s. The version we’re interested in has a white gold bezel and, of course, a salmon dial. The applied line indices lend the watch a particular air of elegance, and inside the case, you’ll find the caliber 1575 oscillating at a leisurely 19,800 vph. It comes as no surprise that the Datejust is paired with a five-piece link Jubilee bracelet with polished center links. It can be yours for around $6,600.
Measuring only 34 mm, the Rolex Air King 14000 with a salmon dial is a great unisex watch. Rolex produced this model from 1989 to around 2007, and it was the first Air King to have a sapphire crystal. The reference’s most recognizable details are the applied bar indices, which are broken up by Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, earning it the nickname “3, 6, 9 Dial.” A polished bezel surrounds the dial. The Rolex caliber 3000 ticks away inside the case for up to 42 hours uninterrupted, while the stainless steel Oyster bracelet ensures the watch’s sporty undertones don’t go unnoticed. Prices for the Air King 14000 are quite affordable by Rolex standards, coming in around the $5,000 mark.
Moritz Grossmann Central Second
Moritz Grossmann is a well-kept secret among aficionados of high-class luxury watches. The brand’s history dates back to 1854, when watchmaker Moritz Grossmann founded his small watchmaking workshop in Glashütte, Germany. Production focused on high-quality pocket watches until his death in 1878, when the manufacturer disappeared into obscurity for over a century.
It wasn’t until 2008 that watchmaker Christine Hutter resurrected the brand, launching horological works of art that could hold their own with any of the big names in the industry. One of these masterpieces is the Moritz Grossmann Central Second, which is also available with a salmon dial. The only drawback is that the watch is strictly limited to 25 pieces, so it’s not easy to come by.
The Moritz Grossmann Central Second is 41 mm and made of stainless steel. The dial is intentionally kept very simple; the narrow Arabic indices are printed as luminous material directly on the solid silver plate. The time is displayed centrally via tempered, lance-shaped hands and the minute scale encircling the dial.
The watch is powered by the manual in-house caliber 100.11. This movement has a number of exclusive features, including the Grossmann manual winder with a pusher on the right side of the case. A short pull on the crown switches the mechanism to hand-setting mode and stops the movement. The caliber oscillates at a comfortable 18,000 vph and offers a 42-hour power reserve. The watch is paired with a hand-stitched brown leather strap. When I was writing this article, there was one listing for this watch on Chrono24 for $35,000
This brings us to the end of our list of interesting luxury watches with salmon dials. I’m curious to see if the trend will continue in 2024 and if more exciting models are in store.