You may or may have not heard of the term "tropical dial" when some vintage watches are referenced. This phrase can apply to any older watch that this- to be discussed- phenomenon has occurred, but it is mostly used (and valued) when it happens on Rolex and Omega pieces.
Photo Credit Rolex Passion Report
In fact, it can increase the value of said pieces exponentially. A late 60's era Rolex 5513 may fetch $15k+ depending on condition and originality, but if it happens to have that uncommon brown dial, add another 50% to 100%!
But what the hell is a tropical dial? Blatantly put, it is a manufacturing error. A straight up "oops" situation that takes decades to reveal itself. One that, until recently (call it maybe 10-15 years), had no place in the market. In fact, if a dial had this discoloration it was often replaced with a service dial during authorized service. However, all tropical dials started out the same from the factory, typically black, and then ever so slowly patina out to various shades of brown. This happened because a very small portion of the paint used by some dial manufacturers decades ago had issues with its UV protection. And when these uniquely disadvantaged models found themselves exposed to many years of sunshine- hence the term "Tropical"- viola (or cha-ching).
Photo credit unknown
To be fair though, the watches in question didn't need to spend their time only on beaches or sunny islands. UV is UV, so if the dial was made with the error prone paint, it wouldn't matter where on the planet the watch spent its life, as long as it saw sun. But "tropical dial" sounds so much sexier than "UV compromised and now kinda brown dial" right?
I've personally always loved this unique and utterly accidental progression. That is part of the amazing world of watches, they all tell some kind of story. I couldn't afford a real tropical dial piece when I first learned of it in the 90's, so I did the next best thing, and picked up an Omega Speedmaster Professional with a brown dial. I still have it today.
Additionally, I decided to make a very limited number of City Limits Tropical pieces to pay homage to this historically significant dial. These brown dialed beauties with black bezels may not set you back tens of thousands of dollars like a vintage Rolex, but I'm betting they will still put a smile on your face.
Want to learn more? Click here to check out the City Limits Tropical product page.