Under a red blood dial

How a unique dial in Maurice de Mauriac’s collection was inspired by an iconic U2 album – and the jersey of legendary Portuguese footballer Eusebio at the 1966 World Cup.

From Miguel Seabra
 

I like to think that I’m immune to trends and fashion swings, but we all should be aware that subconsciously we can be more affected by what’s going on around us than we realise – and that’s quite valid for the watchmaking scene. I came to that conclusion looking back 10 or even 12 years: I have to admit that at the time I was more open to bigger watches than I am today and I especially fancied the dark sophistication of blackened monochromatic timepieces; today, I’m back to wearing classic timepieces that a decade ago I considered too small and am more and more attracted to dials featuring colours other than my favourite silver-black-blue chromatic palette.

Yes, I had never been quite interested in having green dials on my collection; now I proudly own a couple of timepieces in that dark greenish hue known as British Green (or British Racing Green). I also had never really wanted a watch featuring a red dial, but on the back of my mind I always thought that burgundy could be a great option for certain timepieces due to its vintage aura. I am mainly a blue kind of guy, being denim blue probably my favourite colour. And I especially like the combination of black and royal blue or black and orange on chronographs – whereas the Swiss tradition in sports timepieces leans more towards the combination of black and red or black and yellow. Yet that image of a red dial persisted…

But not just any red dial. More precisely, a gradient dark red dial inspired by the blood colour – the same colour made famous worldwide by the name of U2’s first live album: ‘Under a Red Blood Sky’, from 1983, which includes the theme ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and made quite an impression on me in my adolescence. Also because somehow I always associated that ‘Red Blood’ title with the colour of the jersey on the Portuguese national team that finished third in the 1966 World Cup played in England.

Back then, Mozambique-born Eusébio was a huge star that had helped Benfica win the Champions League and was considered the best footballer in Europe; the so-called ‘Black Panther’ was the top scorer on that World Cup and couldn’t hide his disappointment after a 2-1 loss against hosts and eventual champions England in the semifinals. Images of Eusébio crying on his dark red jersey conjured blood and sweat – at least in my mind, even though I wasn’t even born at the time. But those tears captured the imagination of the world and became a part of Portuguese sporting folklore for a long time… until the ‘Seleção’ got back to the top, first led by Luis Figo’s generation and afterwards via Cristiano Ronaldo. Coincidentally, Portugal became European champions in 2016, exactly 50 years after that memorable run in 1966. The outfit was a bit different and the red much lighter… yet that red blood hue from the past was present on the sleeves of the contemporary jersey.

So, I had been thinking about a dark red gradient dial and singing ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ when I mentioned it to Daniel Dreifuss, the Maurice de Mauriac founder and a friend with whom I often share ideas. Maurice de Mauriac had launched its L2 Diver series designed by Fabian Schwaerzler the year before; and when Daniel came to London for his usual Wimbledon visit and to meet me at the All England Club with his son Leo, he surprised me with an L2 Diver Bronze… featuring the dial I had dreamed of! I was quite happy with the outcome: a gradient sunburst dial going from almost black on the perimeter to burgundy and red blood on the centre. My first reaction was thinking that the dial was perfect and embodied all those combined memories of a U2 album cover and a vintage football shirt. My second thought was more practical than emotional: I somehow imagined that such a striking reddish dial would shine even better on a ‘colder’ steel case than on that ‘warmer’ bronze case. So I asked Daniel if we could try it on a steel case… and voilà – I could sing ‘Even Better Than The Real Thing’ and the rest is history, as they say.

Since then I’ve been wearing quite often my L2 Diver Deep Red – or ‘Red Blood’, as I call it. And, as a strapaholic, I’ve been regularly changing straps for various looks in different circumstances. The original strap accompanying the watch is a thick burgundy strap that matches the dial; the black bezel makes it easy to wear it on a black Maurice de Mauriac strap, especially the black waterproof perforated calf for a sportier look. NATO straps also fit in nicely and I’ve got a couple that mix black and dark red as well as the watch itself.

Maybe dark red is not a very commercial colour – I’m pretty sure Maurice de Mauriac is selling more L2 Diver versions featuring a black or a blue dial, or even the brown and khaki dials. Yet the red blood dial is more special – at least to me! – than any other dial on the L2 Diver series. It commands attention due to its unusual hue and is highly photogenic. Besides, the story behind it makes it a great conversation topic. Especially if there’s a U2 tune playing in the background…

Miguel Seabra is a journalist specialized on watches and tennis. He is the editor of Espiral do Tempo magazine and an Eurosport commentator. He is based in Cascais, Portugal.