Spotting a non-original wristwatch dial is rarely easy, even for a seasoned collector. As a novice, it can sometimes feel downright impossible. But, to let you in on a little secret… even the most experienced collectors have unwittingly purchased at least one re-dial, or non-original dial, at some point. It’s almost seems like a rite of passage, where lessons are learned from rushed decisions that turned out to be bad mistakes. With plenty of hindsight, it almost seems impossible to fathom you ever made such a “simple” mistake.
But in reality, spotting a “re-dial” is not simple.
Many Polerouters have suffered the unfortunate fate of having their dials repainted. In my experience, the majority of these are particularly poor quality jobs, and only recently I have noticed the very occasional dial that needed very close attention to discern its unoriginality. Perhaps this is clutching at straws, but this gives collectors a small advantage in that most Polerouter redials are relatively easy to spot… for now. So, here is a short summary of main “re-dial” characteristics to look out on a Polerouter dial:
1. Print Quality
Repainted dials usually show poor quality painting or printing. Tell-tale signs are when the printing is too thick, or has badly defined edges, with bleeding of the paint into the rest of the dial. Remember, Universal Geneve were making some expensive, top of the line wristwatches, in their prime. They had high quality movements, cases, and dials, and what seems like an excellent quality control. If the printing looks sub-standard, theres an extremely good chance that the dial has been repainted.
2. Dial colour
The best way to check for this is over at the Reference Galleries. Dials often age differently, and some have turned from black to brown, and aged lacquer can turn silver or white dials into a slight yellowish colour. This ageing is rarely perfectly uniform on polerouters, and most of the time these odd colours raise a red flag. Is there even a reference with a bright pink dial? Did Mickey Mouse ever appear? If you cant find another exactly like it, there is probably a very good reason…
3. Dial Text and Lume
This can be anything from blindingly obvious spelling errors to partial omissions of text, or the incorrect text for the model. Paying attention to both the model reference and the dial characteristics can help to spot some incorrect details that dial re-printers could have missed. Again, the Reference Galleries can help a lot here. For example, was the De Luxe ever made in gold-capped or steel case? No. Was there ever a Polerouter Date without a date window? Of course not. Remember to also pay attention to whether the dial should show Swiss, Swiss T or Swiss Made, and at what location on the dial.
Polarouters and some early Polerouters used Radium lume, before later switching to Tritium. The ageing of these has caused most lume dots to develop a patina, which has become anything from a caramel colour to almost black. Original lume dots are never bright green or white, and never slopped on haphazardly or inconsistently in either size or location. A poor quality re-lume should always make you look a bit closer at the rest of the dial details to see if it has been repainted.
Finally, there are some absolute shockers with spelling mistakes such as like “PoreRouter”, “OysterRouter”, and “Polerrouter”. Perhaps these major errors aren’t quite something to “pay close attention to”, but more of a bit of entertainment…
4. Fonts and Layout
There are some specific fonts that Universal Geneve used for Polerouters, and for their watches in general. Compare the font on your dial to the reference it is supposed to be in the Reference Galleries, and/or check a few examples of the same reference elsewhere, on forums, or general image searches. These fonts evolved throughout the Polerouter production, and even some minor variations/evolutions can be seen for some small serial batches within the same reference. So comparing to dials with serial numbers as close to yours as possible, is usually the best bet. It is important to remember that despite the minor changes/evolutions over the production period, the high print quality remained consistent.
5. Crosshairs, Lines, and Logos
Should this reference dial have a horizontal line, or a crosshair? Is there a line where there shouldnt be, or is there a line missing where there should be? Has the metal logo, metal indices, or metal date window frame been painted over? Is this the correct type of logo for this dial/reference? Should it be steel? Should it be painted? Is the vertical line supposed to cut through the text on this reference? and what about cutting through the logo? These are all questions to ask in judging whether the lines and logos are correct on a Polerouter dial. As with the text variations mentioned above, crosshairs and lines cutting text also varied, even for some small serial batches within the same model reference, for example in the 1st and 2nd executions of Polarouters. But in general, you have only the choice of a few possibilities to choose from. Again, the odds are that if you cannot find another dial like it, then its unlikely to be original.
Watch collecting and trading is now a very international hobby, and so judging whether the dial of a Polerouter (or any watch for that matter) has been repainted, is usually done by looking at photos. Sometimes these photos can be poor quality and hence misleading. For example, a heavily scratched plexiglass can make it look like there are either marks on the dial, or can even make the printing look thick and possibly non-original. Viewing a few photos from different angles usually helps with this, and if in doubt, just ask the seller for more/better photos.
It is also important to remember that the dial is only one component of the whole watch, and although in general “…the dial represents 90% of the value…”, remember that it is always best to review a Polerouter (or any watch for that matter) holistically. That is, first look at the entire watch, and not just its individual components. Does it give off the feeling that it has been messed with recently? Then look at the case, the reference numbers, the logo, the lume, the movement, the consistency of condition of difference components of the watch, and the dial. Take this all into account, as a whole.
Head over to the Polerouter Galleries to train yourself in spotting Repainted Dials and Frankenwatches! Remember to always check the Reference Galleries and Reference Tables, (or download the Polerouter App at the App Store or Google Play) all of which are updated regularly with new photos, new references, and more information.