Among the bevy of hot new watch drops announced this week in Switzerland was a very tasty version of the Rolex Yacht-Master in white gold with a polished falcon’s eye dial. For those who didn’t get deep into geology during the pandemic, falcon’s eye (aka blue tiger’s eye, hawk’s eye, or just plain ol’ silicified crocidolite) is a semi-precious stone with a funky striped effect (hence the name), and it’s part of a long tradition of polished gemstone dials on luxury watches. Piaget kicked off the trend in the 1960s, experimenting with lapis lazuli, jade, and onyx versions of its ultra-thin Altiplano, and by the 1970s other top-tier brands were on it, too. The appetite for this style of dial eventually waned, however, leaving anyone looking for a hard stone dial with few modern options, and even fewer affordable ones.
Fortunately, with all things 1970s trending hard in the watch world, watchmakers are bringing limited runs of stone dials back into production. While most of these come from elite brands like Omega, A. Lange & Sohne, and F.P. Journe, a new edition of the Shinola Runwell 41mm boasts a dial made from polished Petoskey stone—and costs just $700. Unlike tiger’s eye or lapis lazuli, Petoskey stone isn’t a big name in the gemstone world, but as the official state stone of Michigan it’s the perfect choice for this Detroit-made watch, and an excellent way to get a high-quality stone dial on your wrist for under a grand.
Anyone who’s spent time in Michigan in the summer is probably familiar with the unique look of Petoskey stones, which are a common sight on beaches in the state’s lower peninsula. The stones get their unusual six-sided pattern from the fossilized remains of coral that thrived in the area some 400 million years ago (which, if you’re curious, makes them about 200 million years older than Nic Cage’s infamous T-rex skull).
For Shinola’s designers, ever in search of new ways to share their midwestern pride with the world, these fossils are the perfect way to add a new sense of place to the Runwell. “There are stones that convey color, or they convey attitude, or they convey a narrative, and Petoskey really fits in with our narrative of being based here in Michigan,” says Brandon Little, the brand’s Vice President of Product Design. “It’s a big part of the memories that people have from here, and it just so happens that it has a very interesting texture as well.”
The new Runwell 41mm features a painstakingly cut and polished 0.6 mm wafer of Petoskey Stone set inside a sandblasted PVD gunmetal case and paired with an American-made leather strap in a matching shade of British tan. Because each stone is different, however, no two dials are the same, adding another element of exclusivity to an already unique piece. Who knew rock collecting could be so much fun?