J.N.Shapiro numerals

The J.N.Shapiro Infinity Meteorite P.01 (image credit: Atom Moore)

Joshua Shapiro is a Los Angeles-based watchmaker specialising in guilloche dials. I was commissioned to create a set of custom numerals for an initial bespoke piece. They subsequently appeared on the limited edition Infinity Meteorite P.01 series, making these numerals the first serially-used Arabic numerals on J.N.Shapiro watches.

The brief as described by the commissioner was to create a unique set of playful and organic Arabic numerals that were heavier than the Roman numerals typically found on the Infinity series. Joshua enlists the skills of Artur Akmaev to engrave the numerals into the chapter ring which informed some of the design elements, moving them towards hand-engraving rather than printing or laser-etching.

The Infinity series follows a traditional structure in terms of its dial design with similarities being found in the work of George Daniels and Breguet. My goal was to find areas to insert playfulness into a more traditional (horological) typographic structure. I also wanted to balance the numerals between the delicate guilloche patterns and the more robust features found in the hands and case design.

(image credit: Atom Moore)

One of the main design features of the set are the curved leaf-shape terminals found on the 2, 3, 5, 6, and 9. Typically ball or teardrop terminals are found in horological typography so these leaf-shaped terminals helped retain some originality in the design. I also added concave curves into the serifed stroke-endings to add to the organic feel. As the numerals would be arranged radially on the chapter ring, the concave curves aided in them not clashing with a curved baseline. The curved baseline also meant that special attention was necessary for two-digit numerals like 10, 11, and 12.

Minor angle changes were made for the digits in 10 and 11, splaying them slightly outwards. The 12 numeral uses slightly altered forms for the 1 and 2 digits.

Left: Unaltered digits making the 10, 11, and 12 numerals.
Right: The ‘corrected’ numerals as they appear on the dial.

The appearance of the numerals changes drastically with their presentation. The P.01 series uses lacquer-filled numerals while the original commissioner’s bespoke watch (below) features the numerals in gold-plating.

(image credit: @doobooloo)