Designer Shares Deep Dive Into History of Classic Apple Watch Faces

Designer Arun Venkatesan today shared an interesting deep dive into some of the classic watch designs that inspired various watch faces for the Apple Watch, detailing how Apple took design cues from well-known watches from companies like Rolex, Breitling, Heuer, and others.

apple california watch face
Venkatesan delves into the California watch face, the Chronograph and Chronograph Pro watch faces, the Count Up watch face, and the GMT watch face.

The California watch face, for example, was inspired by a dial design that originated in World War II. The mix of Roman and Arabic numerals was thought to make the watch face more readable in low visibility.

Originally called the "error proof" or "high visibility" dial, it adorned the fronts of "bubble back" Rolexes -- so-called because of the bubble-shaped back that gave the watches a thin appearance. Strikingly, the indices are set both in Roman and Arabic numerals where other watches would stick to one or the other. It's thought that mixing numerals aids both the wearer and his brothers-in-arms in reading the watch in low visibility conditions.

The GMT watch face, meanwhile, was based on classic watches able to track two time zones at one time, while Count Up is based on classic dive watches.

Unlike the previous faces, the name Count Up, refers to a type of bezel, not a dial or complication. Also known as the diving bezel, this rotating bezel, when coupled with the minute hand, helps measure elapsed time in minutes.

The count up bezel can be traced back to a monumental year in the history of the dive watch -- 1953.

Apple's Chronograph watch faces are built on a long history of chronograph watches that date back to the early 1800s and have become some of the most popular watch face types. Venkatesan says that his research led him to be impressed with Apple's dedication to design, as it's clear that Apple took the time to study the history of many of the classic watch faces that are available in a digital format on the Apple Watch.

As I researched and wrote this essay, my respect only increased. With the watch faces, Apple could have taken the easy way out by merely mimicking existing watch archetypes at a surface level. Instead, they intensely studied each one's history. When designing each face, they took into account that history and the constraints and opportunities afforded by modern technology.

For those interested in the history of the Apple Watch and those who want to know more about the classic watches that have inspired Apple's designers, Venkatesan's article is well worth reading through.

Top Rated Comments

AvisDeene Avatar
22 months ago
Just something about a round watch that makes it more appealing than the Apple Watch. I hope apple decided to come out with two form factors in the future.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mcfrazieriv Avatar
22 months ago
"Here's an image of an old watch. My process of designing the new watch face: copy & paste. TA DA!"
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
AvisDeene Avatar
22 months ago

As I've never liked round watches, it would be nice for people to have a choice.
I don't know you but I already like you. We need more people like you in the world, who don't bash on others for their difference in tastes. I know this comment was probably something trivial to you, but you made my night, thank you.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jonnyb098 Avatar
22 months ago
Brilliantly done! The last couple versions of WatchOS show how Apple is still dedicated to the timekeeping history of watches while brining it into the future.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HiVolt Avatar
22 months ago
I truly wish that there was an app store for watch faces. Apple is limiting the usefulness of the smart watch, IMO. Every year they add a few faces that are more artsy fartsy, rather than functional.

There hasn't been a truly new useful watch face in 3 years, that being Infograph from the Series 4. It's still what I use, because the others all have less information. And they still can't figure out how to allow all complications on all the watch faces.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HiVolt Avatar
22 months ago

You'd think apple would capitalize one that -- more money to be made with a watch face store
Yeah, I definitely thought we'd see it by now, 6 generations into it and 7 OS versions.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

apple watch series 7 green

Apple Executives Discuss Optimizations for Larger Apple Watch Series 7 Display, Lack of Third-Party Watch Faces

Tuesday October 26, 2021 8:01 am PDT by
watchOS on the Apple Watch Series 7 is optimized for its larger display. Now, Apple executives Alan Dye and Stan Ng have explained some of the rationale behind watchOS's tweaks for the Series 7 in an interview with CNET. Alan Dye is Apple's vice president of interface design and Stan Ng is the company's vice president of product marketing. They explained that Apple chose to increase the...
apple watch abc action news

Apple Watch Saves Woman's Life With Feature She'd Never Heard Of

Wednesday March 23, 2022 1:59 am PDT by
An Apple Watch has been credited with saving a woman's life after it contacted emergency services when she fell, leading to a lung cancer diagnosis, ABC Action News reports. 71-year-old grandmother Raylene Hackenwerth, from Saint Petersburg, Florida, fell in early March, triggering her Apple Watch's Fall Detection feature. The Apple Watch's Fall Detection feature can tell when a wearer has...
Apple Watch Red Yellow Green Feature 1

Black Unity Braided Solo Loop Available at Select Apple Stores Starting Today

Tuesday February 1, 2022 4:30 am PST by
The new Black Unity Braided Solo Loop for the Apple Watch is available starting today at select Apple Store locations around the world. Priced at $99 in the United States, the special edition Black Unity band is compatible with the Apple Watch Series 4 and later. In addition to Apple Stores, the band can be ordered online through Apple.com or the Apple Store app for a limited time....
apple watch series 7 aluminum colors

2022 Apple Watch Lineup Rumored to Include New Apple Watch SE and 'Rugged' Model for Sports

Sunday December 5, 2021 8:22 am PST by
Apple is planning an entire revamp of its Apple Watch lineup for 2022, including an update to the Apple Watch SE and a new Apple Watch with a rugged design aimed at sports athletes, according to respected Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman. Writing in the latest installment of his Power On newsletter, Gurman said that for 2022, alongside the Apple Watch Series 8, Apple is planning an update to ...
image 40

iOS 15.4 and watchOS 8.5 Allow You to Restore an Apple Watch Using an iPhone

Monday March 14, 2022 1:25 pm PDT by
Apple today published a new support document indicating that iOS 15.4 and watchOS 8.5 allow an Apple Watch to be restored with a nearby iPhone. The support document states that if an Apple Watch running watchOS 8.5 or later displays an animation showing an Apple Watch and iPhone being brought close together, customers can follow the steps below to initiate the restore process:1. Make sure...
Apple watchOS8 international AUS BEL BRA 3up PF 062921 big carousel

Apple Announces New Apple Watch Sport Loop Bands Representing 22 Countries

Tuesday June 29, 2021 6:04 am PDT by
Apple today announced a new set of Apple Watch Sport Loop bands with colors representative of 22 countries around the world, alongside custom Apple Watch faces for each of those countries. The full list of the countries represented within Apple's new "Limited Edition International Collection" can be found below: Australia Belgium Brazil Canada China Denmark France Germany ...
google logo

Google's 'Pixel Watch' Planned for 2022 Launch to Compete With Apple Watch

Friday December 3, 2021 6:59 am PST by
Google is planning to launch its first smartwatch next year, according to a new report from Business Insider, signaling Google's expansion into creating smartwatch hardware rather than just software. Google has so far only developed wearOS, an operating system that the company has partnered with Samsung and others to implement into smartwatch offerings. Next year, however, Google is planning ...
applewatchseries4falldetection

Automated Apple Watch Feature Saves Unconscious Man's Life

Monday February 7, 2022 3:08 am PST by
The Apple Watch has yet again been credited with saving a man's life, after the device automatically called 911 when he fell off an electric bike, Fox 11 reports. The Apple Watch's Fall Detection feature. On January 22, Hermosa Beach Police Department officers in California responded to an incident after an Apple Watch initiated an emergency 911 call and advised that the "owner of this watch...

Popular Stories

apple watch ultra hammer test

YouTuber Tests Apple Watch Ultra Durability With a Hammer: Table Breaks Before the Watch

Sunday September 25, 2022 2:27 pm PDT by
A YouTuber has put Apple's claims for the durability of the Apple Watch Ultra to the test by putting it up against a drop test, a jar of nails, and repeated hits with a hammer to test the sapphire crystal protecting the display. TechRax, a channel popular for testing the durability of products, first tested the Apple Watch Ultra by dropping it from around four feet high. The Apple Watch...
tim cook spring loaded event

Six Major Products to Expect From Apple in 2023

Sunday September 25, 2022 10:57 am PDT by
As we approach the end of a busy product release season for Apple with only new iPads and Macs left to be announced over the next month or so, we're also setting our sights on 2023. Apple is rumored to have several major products in the pipeline for next year, including new Macs, a new HomePod, a VR/AR headset, and so much more. Other than new iPhones and Apple Watches, which are expected...
Tim Cook Apple Event

Gurman: New iPads and Macs May Be Announced Through Press Releases, No October Event

Sunday September 25, 2022 6:50 am PDT by
Apple may decide to release its remaining products for 2022, which include updated iPad Pro, Mac mini, and 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, through press releases on its website rather than a digital event, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. In his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman said that Apple is currently "likely to release its remaining 2022 products via press releases,...
AirPods Max 2022 Colors

Ten Things AirPods Pro 2 Tell Us About AirPods Max 2

Saturday September 24, 2022 1:00 am PDT by
Upon the release of the second-generation AirPods Pro, the AirPods Max became the oldest current-generation AirPods product still in Apple's lineup. Introducing several new features like Adaptive Transparency and the H2 chip, the second-generation AirPods Pro may provide some of the best indications yet of what to expect from the second-generation AirPods Max. Almost two years later, rumors...
iPhone 14 Pro Sports Scores Dynamic Island

iPhone 14 Pro Features Live Sports Scores in Dynamic Island on iOS 16.1

Monday September 26, 2022 7:52 am PDT by
Earlier this month, Apple announced that iOS 16.1 will enable a new Live Activities feature that allows iPhone users to stay on top of things that are happening in real time, such as a sports game or a food delivery order, right from the Lock Screen. On the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, Live Activities also integrate with the Dynamic Island. Premier League match in Dynamic Island via Paul Bradford ...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

Some iOS 16 Users Continue to Face Unaddressed Bugs and Battery Drain Two Weeks After Launch

Monday September 26, 2022 7:34 am PDT by
Today marks exactly two weeks since Apple released iOS 16 to the public. Besides the personalized Lock Screen, major changes in Messages, and new features in Maps, the update has also seen its fair share of bugs, performance problems, battery drain, and more. After major iOS updates, it's normal for some users to report having issues with the new update, but such reports usually subside in...
iPhone 14 Pros in Hand Black Background Feature

Verizon iPhone 14 Pro Customers Reporting Cellular Connection Issues

Monday September 26, 2022 6:23 am PDT by
iPhone 14 Pro customers on the Verizon network in the U.S. are reporting issues with slow and unreliable 5G cellular connections and calls randomly dropping. Several threads on Reddit (1,2,3) and the MacRumors forums chronicle issues faced by Verizon customers and Apple's latest iPhone. According to user reports, signal strength on the iPhone 14 Pro is unreliable and weak, while other...
iphone 14 pro max deep purple

iPhone 15 'Ultra' Could Replace Pro Max Model Next Year

Sunday September 25, 2022 7:02 am PDT by
Apple is gearing up to possibly replace its "Pro Max" iPhone with an all-new "Ultra" iPhone 15 model next year, reliable Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman said today. Writing in his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman said that for the iPhone 15, Apple is planning a revamped design alongside USB-C and a potential name change. Apple could replace its "Pro Max" branding, which it started to use...
apple watch ultra deuglify 1

Apple Watch Ultra User Mods Titanium Casing to 'Deuglify' Design

Tuesday September 27, 2022 8:05 am PDT by
An Apple Watch Ultra user has modified their new device's casing to add a brushed finish and remove the orange color of the Action Button in an effort to make it more visually appealing. The Apple Watch Ultra offers the first complete redesign of the Apple Watch since the product line's announcement in 2014, and while the design has been met with praise from many users, some have criticized...