Vintage watches: Rolex Shantung dials for Asian markets

Vintage watches: Rolex Shantung dials for Asian markets

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Despite having collected watches for over two decades, I never noticed these Rolex dials. They are very interesting and attractive. I found some information out there which I like to share.

A look at shantung dials, a.k.a. mosaic dials: silk-covered dials from the early 1970’s, exclusive to Asian markets

Shantung a.k.a. mosaic dials, mostly made in the early 1970’s, seem to be one of the lesser-known oddities of the Rolex world. Shantung (named after the Chinese province, now spelled “Shandong,” where the technique was invented) is a woven silk fabric with an interesting texture. Rolex’s shantung dials have silk threads painstakingly woven horizontally. They were apparently only made for Asian markets; some say Rolex Japan made them but I can’t verify that.

Most owners of shantung Rolexes are unaware that their dial is actually covered in woven silk, and even major sellers like Bob’s Watches regularly sell them with seemingly no idea what they have.

I’ve seen serials that span from about 1968-1978 (2.3-5.5 mil serial range), although the bulk of them seem to have been made around 1973. If anyone has seen original papers for a shantung/mosaic dial I’d love to see them–particularly if the watch was sold outside Asia. On with the pics:

1500 with silver shantung dial
1005 with silver shantung dial
1503 with silver shantung dial
1500 with blue shantung dial
1603 with blue shantung dial
1514 with brown shantung dial
1503 with brown shantung dial
1005 with gold shantung dial

“Aren’t those linen dials?” some of you might say. But no, linen dials have visible crosshatches, i.e. lines going up and down. There are no vertical threads on shantung/mosaic dials! But many, many sellers incorrectly list shantung dials as linen dials. Poring through images of supposed linen dials is how I found most of these pics of shantung dials.


Shantung is a silk fabric woven to create an interesting texture. Rumor has it that for the Japanese market in the 70’s, these were crafted by weaving silk threads over the dial. These are often confused with the linen dial where the horizontal and vertical textures are visible, so if you wish to pick up your own, try searching for linen dials as many sellers do not know what they have.


The so called shantung dials have been discussed some some time ago here

A couple TRF members stated the actual part number for the dial as 13/16008-8 . Google was unable to turn up anything with the part number alone.

Someone with the Rolex parts catalogue from that era might have more details.


The dial was an order-able one as part #13/16008-84 for the 36mm TT DJs.

The Shantung nomenclature is less certain…like names we use for Sub’s Serti dials, etc…


(Picture source:



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