When in Rome: Five Watches with Roman Numeral Dials

Roman numerals are mostly reserved these days for movie sequels and Super Bowls, but they can still add a hint of elegant classicism to a watch dial, as in the five timepieces we showcase here.


Blancpain’s Villeret series, named for the Swiss village where the manufacture was founded in 1735, is distinguished by classical design elements of earlier eras. The three-hand-date version of the Ultraplate embodies this historically inspired aesthetic with its double-stepped bezel; hollowed-out, sage-leaf-shaped hands; central seconds hand with “JB” counterweight (evoking the initials of founder Jean-Jacques Blancpain); and applied Roman numerals at each hour position on the blue sunray dial. Its 40-mm, 18K rose-gold case is just 8.7 mm thick and its sapphire caeeback affords a view of the movement, Blancpain’s self-winding Caliber 1151, whose notable features include two series-coupled barrels, storing an impressive 100-hour power reserve, and an engraved gold rotor with a honeycomb motif. Price: $19,400 on leather strap, $38,900 on Milanese-style gold bracelet

Blancpain Villeret Ultraplate 6651-3640-MMB - bracelet
Blancpain Villeret Ultraplate 6651-3640-MMB – bracelet


Combining a sporty aesthetic with Breguet’s legendary luxurious detailing, the gold-cased models from the maison’s maritime-inspired Marine collection are mounted on bracelets that have been designed to continue the smooth lines of the case and caress the curves of the wrist. Like the cases, notable for their fluted sides, sculpted lugs and fluted flanks, the bracelets are enhanced with alternating polished and satin-glossed facets. The engine-turned dials have crested-wave patterns that add to their nautical character; applied Roman hour numerals with luminous five-minute markers; and faceted, moon-tipped hands with polished finishing. Seafaring visual motifs are also found on the movements (self-winding Caliber 777A in the three-hand-date version pictured), like the special côtes de Genève on the bridges echoing the look of a ship’s wooden deck, and the rotor, shaped like a ship’s steering wheel. Price: $49,100.


Montblanc describes its Star Legacy family as inspired by “the spirit of classical watchmaking,” with recent updates to the contemporary line featuring historical details echoing those on early watches by Minerva, the Swiss manufacture that the penmaker-watchmaker acquired in 2009. The Star Legacy Automatic Date has a pebble-shaped stainless steel case offered in two sizes — 39 mm and 42 mm, each water-resistant to 30 meters and sporting an onion-style fluted crown — and dials with vintage-inspired, black-printed Roman hour numerals and a subtle date window at 6 o’clock. The dial’s blued hands harmonize with the watch’s blue sfumato leather straps, made at Montblanc’s own pellleteria in Florence, Italy. Inside, beating behind a sapphire caseback is the Sellita-based, automatic Montblanc Caliber MB 24.10, which stores a 42-hour power reserve. Price: $2,675.

Montblanc Star Legacy Automatic - angle
Montblanc Star Legacy Automatic – angle


Designed to visually showcase the Japanese tradition of Suigetsu, a celebration of the beauty of the moon reflected in water, this artisanal model from Seiko’s Presage collection of automatic dress watches uses Arita porcelain for its delicate white dial. The material takes its name from a small town in southwest Japan that has been renowned as a porcelain producer for more than 400 years. The special process used to make the dial finishes with a clear glaze that enhances its natural whiteness, intended to evoke the moon’s watery reflection, which provides a sharp contrast with the bright blue of the hands, the Roman hour numerals, and the subdials at 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock, which display the analog date and the status of the 45-hour power reserve, respectively. Seiko’s high-performance, automatic Caliber 6R27 is on display behind the watch’s exhibition caseback. Price: $2.050, limited edition of 2,000 pieces.


Roman numerals have long been a staple of many of Cartier’s most iconic and enduring models, like the Tank and Santos. A more recent addition to the portfolio is the Ballon Bleu, a luxurious timepiece named for the hallmark blue sapphire cabochon in its crown, which is guarded by a gracefully curved arch. For this year’s Ballon Bleu timepieces, the King of Jewelers introduced a new 40-mm case size in a variety of materials and colorways, including the rose-gold model pictured. Like their predecessors, the watches host a ring of Roman numeral hour markers bordering a railtrack-inspired minute circle, an oval-shaped date window at 3 o’clock, and the Cartier-signature blued sword hands. The watch contains the Cartier manufacture Caliber 1847 MC, (the numeral represents the year of Cartier’s founding), which features anti-magnetic nickel phosphorus components and a 40-hour power reserve. Price: $15,100.

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