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Dynamic Dial Design

Wessex Watches bridges the gap between hand-engraved and stamped dials.

While so many new and experienced collectors search for watches with movement “X” inside, the reality is that in almost every case the dial is the first thing on a watch that grabs your attention – or the attention of those around you.

This is where Wessex Watches has staked its claim. Founded by Jamie Boyd, Wessex Watches, from Wiltshire, England, has mastered a new manufacturing technique that bridges the gap between individually hand-engraved dials that can cost thousands of dollars each, and mass-produced dials stamped out by the thousands for pennies apiece.

Handsome to the naked eye, Wessex dials create the impression that they are hand engraved. And they are even more impressive under closer scrutiny.

While the overall patterns and depth of engraving look great at first glance, break out your loupe and you’ll be able to not only appreciate the finesse of the engraved images or patterns, but you’ll also see miniscule variations similar to a truly hand-engraved example.

A custom Wessex watch.

Clearly these are not the result of a 5,000-pound press stamping some faux guilloché pattern into hundreds of dials per hour. Crafted from brass, bronze or solid silver, each Wessex dial is in fact individually crafted. For those who desire the next level of personalization, they can also be embellished with enamel for added panache.

Wessex offers custom enamel work as well.

“I defined and formulated the method for creating the dials myself and to my knowledge the method I have created is unique in the watch industry,” explains Boyd. “For this reason I will only refer to the automated part of the job as the 'micro-machining process'. Basically I program a CNC machine to relief engrave highest quality vector graphics on to precious or base metals in a way that replicates the micro hand engraving process, but on an even smaller scale. The result is stunning fine detail.”

After the initial time to program the design, each dial takes approximately three to four hours to produce, according to Boyd. Process time for each dial includes machining (up to two hours) and another two hours or so of hand finishing.

The result of all this work is an exceptional, high quality, hand produced engraved dial normally found on watches costing thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars. Currently, most of Wessex’s collection retails between $500-$1,500.

A custom Wessex watch with manual-wind movement.

If you’re going to these great lengths to come up with a new way to make dials, it’s probably a good idea to fit a mechanical movement under the hood. So if you do hold a Wessex up to your ear, more often than not you can expect to hear the stately pace of the ETA (Unitas) 6497 or ETA 6498 ticking at 18,000 bph. Typically these are in the form of the higher-level Elaboré version, but even here you can work with the company to customize not only the dial, but also the movements inside. Additional options, such as using an automatic movement (the STP1-11 caliber from Swiss Technology Production) are available.

Wessex manual-wind models use either the ETA 6497 or ETA 6498 inside. Automatic options are available.

Most of Wessex’s watches are in the 43mm to 44mm case diameter range and are water resistant to 50 meters with a sapphire crystal back. There are a few variations on the crowns currently offered so if you are really keen to bring your own watch to life, Wessex can work with you on the details.

Now, I almost never say this, but Jamie Boyd is not charging enough for his watches. If you like the type, the time to buy is sooner rather than later as I have little doubt that once Wessex Watches establishes a name for itself in the watch world the prices are bound to go up.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of About Time.

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