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What’s a Tropical Dial?

In almost every collecting hobby, there is something called an error, which is usually very valuable because it is very rare. For example, a postage stamp with an upside-down picture (The Inverted Jenny) is worth thousands of dollars. Baseball cards that mismatch player names with pictures can be valuable. If the errors are never corrected, there is no rarity. They’re interesting but essentially not all that valuable. We call them manufacturing defects rather than errors and they are less valuable rather than more.

And then along comes Rolex. Because Rolex is constantly improving their manufacturing process, there are often stumbling blocks along the way. Such is the case with what is known as a tropical dial. This is a result of a poor material choice (surprisingly designed to prevent discoloration of the dial) and certain environmental conditions such as heat and humidity. In fact, conditions you’ll find in the tropics lead to a color change. Thus, the term is the tropical dial.

For any other manufacturer, this might be treated like a manufacturing defect. For Rolex fans, it’s a collectible error.

Because the color change is gradual, it took many years to see the error. However, since not all dials experience the conditions that lead to the change in color, it is still relatively rare. Like most Rolex variations, people get excited and tropical dials are very popular. If you ask the average Rolex fan what color a tropical dial starts at, you’re likely to hear black, which turns to a lovely brownish color.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Blue dials have turned purple, turquoise, or even gray. Brown dials have turned greenish. White dials have become cream.

So, how about for you? Is a tropical dial any color specifically? What do you think?


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