With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it’s time to look back at some of the remarkable things that happened in 2023. Additionally, it’s fun to look forward to the year ahead. One of the recurring topics of conversation is the dial color of the year. Without a doubt, the dial color of 2023 was ice blue. But what about next year’s color of choice? I have a feeling that it will be a glorious year of dark brown dials. But in good watchmaking (or perhaps marketing) tradition, never call a dial “brown.” Keep your eyes open for chocolate, coffee, mahogany, tobacco, chestnut, and mocha dials in 2024.

To quote the famous Coco Chanel, “The best color in the whole world is the one that looks good on you.” While an industry might try to influence the colors we gravitate toward with its offerings, the final choice is always highly personal. Both in terms of simple preferences and what looks good on me, I’d like to think that the industry does not influence me that much. That’s why I generally do not take the color of the year all too seriously. Having said that, as a design enthusiast, I love the impact of colors on a design. So this article is a lighthearted look back at our color of the year 2023 and a prediction for 2024.

Is ice blue the new green?

As The Mountain Goats put it in their 1993 song “Ice Blue”: “I thought that I knew what colors were before I saw you / Ice blue.” Exactly three decades later, ice blue is our dial color of the year. But that’s not because we here at Fratello think that it is the most popular color with watch fans, not at all.

Tissot PRX

But it is the color that watch brands have used a lot for their dials in 2023. Call it ice blue, summer blue, or simply light blue; the color was hard to miss in 2023. No matter where you looked this past year, small and big brands released one or multiple watches with beautiful ice-blue dials.

Norqain Freedom 60 Chrono 40mm Ice Blue

The more interesting question is whether ice blue is the couleur du jour or a more permanent addition to brands’ collections. As we have seen with green dials, they have become a standard in the repertoires of brands alongside the ever-popular white, black, and dark blue dials. My first thought is the light blue color probably won’t have the staying power that dark green has simply because it is less neutral.

Immediate associations are, funnily enough, more with warm, summery situations rather than the icy name would imply. Even if the dial’s finish is truly icy, the tone of the color brings pools and sunny beaches to mind. But as it is a brighter color, it seems more likely to become a temporary trend.

An avalanche of ice-blue dials

So, what are some of the most remarkable ice-blue dials? Let’s go over some of the releases we have seen in 2023. I’ll start by saying that we at Fratello are guilty as charged. The first of our two collaboration pieces with Aquastar featured a beautiful ice-blue dial and quickly became a fan favorite. The second immediate pick would be the new platinum Rolex Cosmograph Daytona. The watch now has a display case back and updated movement and design. But it still has that beautiful light blue dial that has long been associated with Rolex’s platinum models.

Another great example is the duo of Zenith Defy Skyline models in 36mm and 41mm cases that came out in June of this year. Omega also released its series of Summer Blue editions for the 75th anniversary of the Seamaster line. Among them are three Aqua Terra models with beautiful light blue dials.

The list continues with the Norqain Freedom 60 Chronograph with a nice blue and black panda dial. And Fratello’s own Lex fell for the Tissot PRX Powermatic 80 with an ice-blue dial. After seeing the watch on Lex’s wrist, I added a third PRX to my wish list.

Earlier this week, Seiko added the Seiko Prospex Speedtimer SSC937 to its collection. Bell & Ross added the BR 05 GMT Sky Blue to its lineup, and a final example I want to mention is the Seiko Prospex Save the Ocean Limited Edition SPB385, which has a blue dial that truly feels icy. This is just a small selection of the ice-blue dial we have seen, but you probably understand why this was the color of the year.

The fumé phenomenon

Another phenomenon that I want to touch upon is fumé dials. Back in May, Thomas wrote an article asking whether fumé was the new green for watch dials this year. While I feel that ice-blue dials take that place, there was no denying that fumé, dégradé, or vignette-style dials were all the rage in 2023. As the months went on, we got more confirmation that watch brands were all about the smoky dials this year.

Streamliner Centre Seconds Smoked Salmon

It became somewhat of a running gag in the Fratello offices when a watch arrived with a fumé dial simply because the stream did not seem to stop. Yes, it was all in fun as we love a nicely executed fumé dial. But in all honesty, we could do with a bit more creativity and fewer smoky dials in 2024.


brown dials Fratello × Fortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax Umber Brown Capsule Edition

The dial color for 2024 is dark brown

This brings us to the color of next year, and it won’t be surprising since we’ve seen quite a few examples already. But I can say that I am looking forward to seeing more dark brown watch dials in the upcoming year. There is one problem, though: brown has always seemed taboo for many watch brands. Well, not necessarily the color but the word “brown” itself. That’s why we often see terms such as chocolate, coffee, mahogany, tobacco, chestnut, hickory, or mocha. While all these are shades of brown, essentially, they are dark brown dials.

brown dials Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Golden Brown

And once again, we are guilty as charged. Together with Fortis, we introduced the new Fratello × Fortis Flieger F-43 Bicompax Umber Brown Capsule Edition. Not only did we release a brown dial, but we also used “umber” to describe the shade of brown. In my book, though, it doesn’t matter what you call it because a dark brown dial is often stunning. The right dark brown dial has the immediate power to add sophistication and depth. It’s a stylish color that works well with yellow- and rose-gold tones, so high-end brands often combine them for stunning results. The Laurent Ferrier Grand Sport Tourbillon Golden Brown pictured above is a fantastic example.

brown dials King Seiko SPB365

But we have seen some amazing releases with brown dials from various brands. Some that come to mind are the King Seiko SPB365, the Baltic Aquascaphe Bronze Marron, the two-tone Tudor Royal with its chocolate-brown dial, the Serica 8315-2 GMT, and the Frederique Constant Highlife Worldtimer Manufacture that celebrated the 35th anniversary of the brand. Lastly, there was the trio of Nomos Club Sport Neomatik 39 “Indian Summer” models. The version with the beautiful dark brown Tabac dial is my favorite among them.

brown dials Nomos Club Sport 39 Indian Summer

Brown has potential

As you can see, brands have already released quite a few watches with dark brown dials in 2023. For some reason, though, it is not a standard color, which is somewhat surprising. We all know and love the brown tropical dials. Panerai models with a coffee-brown dial have abundant charm and style. More proof that brown has potential came with outgoing Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias’s parting gift that he created with popular rapper Travis Scott, the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Openworked “Cactus Jack” Limited Edition.

While I am not a huge fan of integrating the Cactus Jack signature graphics, the overall brown aesthetic of the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar Openworked “Cactus Jack” looks stunning and perfectly proves that brown works beyond dials.

brown dials Vacheron Constatin Overseas

Image: Mr. Watchley

But we were talking about dials here. My last example is the Vacheron Constantin Overseas 4500V with its dark brown dial, which was the best of the current-generation standard Overseas models. Okay, that is a highly personal opinion. Yes, the Overseas 4500V is a perfect example of a watch that we often see with a black, blue, or white dial. Admittedly, this regular palette of colors works well for the Overseas.

Vacheron Constantin Overseas brown dials

Image: Mr. Watchley

But the transformative powers of the brown dial show why this color should be part of that standard palette. That’s why I would advocate that the first step is to make dark brown the dial color of 2024. Soon after, brown dials should become part of any brand’s standard palette of dial colors. Whether chocolate, coffee, mahogany, tobacco, chestnut, mocha, or umber, dark brown dials are here to stay.

If you’d like to see more dark brown dials in 2024, sound off in the comments. And if not, let us know what color you hope to see reign supreme next year!