While uncommon, black enamel dials were offered on American pocket watches as early as the 1870s. The deep black enamel color was created using peroxide of manganese and cobalt, providing a beautifully stark contrast with the white enamel markings.
In the 1880s, black dials were marketed an accessory to compliment mourning rituals. The March 1887 issue of the Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review draws attention to this trend:
“Quite new in way of watches for mourning are those in semi-hunter cases of gold, enameled with black, and having black dials on which appear the numerals in white.”March 1887 issue of the Jewelers’ Circular and Horological Review
Decades later, black dials made a resurgence with practical use on military watches.