Check out what I found in a mall in Bangkok. Being a watch-lover living in Thailand, for me it’s pretty cool.
Watches with numerals other than Arabic or Roman are not popular even in their home markets. I am an American, and having lived in Asia for many years (Japan, China, and now Thailand), I’ve found it strange just how rare watches are that use numerals other than those we are all familiar with. A watch with Chinese numerals, for instance, would be meaningful to me as a horophile and as someone who feels close to those countries and languages. Admittedly, that is a pretty niche market. But I have actively searched and among the few examples I’ve found, even fewer were appealing.
Non-western numerals on a watch face remain mostly relegated to cheap souvenirs, toys, and gimmicks. That association may be part of what keeps them from being a legitimate option for more mainstream watch design.
Israeli watchmaker Itay Noy’s Identity collection has themed watches with dials that use the numerals for Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, and Roman.
Even high end brands that do it seem like they were designed by Westerners with an eye to the “exotic.” As if to say, only a “foreigner” would ever want to use Chinese numerals. For Chinese, it’s so passe. Here is a Bovet that uses the characters of the 12 zodiac signs as hour markers.
But why must that be? Why does a watch with Chinese numerals, for example, have to be a “Chinese-themed” watch?? For me, it doesn’t. It does not need to have bamboo or dragons or something on it. It does not need to emphasize the use of those numerals. That is the problem with almost every such watch design I have seen, and the result is usually just corny. It’s a lack of creativity and confidence.
This post has largely focused on Chinese numerals on watches. I predict that as China’s wealth and therefore prestige grows, we will see more. As for other number systems on a watch, I’m less hopeful.
Oh, and there’s this watch for Muslims from russian watchmaker Konstantin Chaykin.