The trend away from enamel watch dials in favor of metal dials began in the early 1900s. By the end of the 1920s, most watches manufactured by American factories were fitted with metal dials.
Metal provided an inexpensive way to manufacture watch dials with intricate embossed designs and figures, typically in the fashionable art deco style.
In the February 1926 issue of The Watch Word, the Elgin National Watch Company described the process used at the factory to manufacture metal dials.
“The foundation of the metal dial is a composition of brass. The metal is blanked out in the Spring department. The first operation in the Dial is that of punching out the center and fourth holes. The metal is sent to recessing machines to recess for dial feet holes. These holes are drilled only partially through the dial because the face of the dial is used for the finished article. On the staking job the dial feet are staked on. A silver ring is brazed to the dial feet and dial when the metal dial is used because of the fact that were a brass ring used the brass on the dial itself would melt more rapidly than the ring during the brazing process, whereas the silver fuses nicely. When the ring has been placed on the dial feet the dial is dipped in a hot borax solution, then soldered on in a rotary furnace. Then it is acidized the same as in the case of the copper dial. On the swedging machine the feet are cleaned and straightened, then the sawing machine slots the feet. On the recessing job a recess is made for the bit, in the case of the metal dial the bit being a part of the main dial. The depth of recessing varies in different sizes and styles of dials from .008 to .01 of an inch. The recessing is done on only one side and a high grade steel tool is used. This leaves a highly polished finish.”February 1926 issue of The Watch Word
[To Be Continued.]