I continue to be surprised by the extreme focus some collectors (a minority) have on watch dials to the detriment of other attributes of a vintage watch and the degree of skepticism they bring to folks selling and restoring vintage watches. It seems that some of these collectors have read too much online about the perils of watch collecting and have lost their balance in this hobby.
These watches came-to-be as tools for the people that owned them, not today's coveted collectibles. Those that could afford to have their watches regularly serviced and maintained frequently had dials cleaned, touched-up, and refinished by their trusted watchmakers-- they highly valued a new looking watch. Military watches were maintained by military watchmakers, if they had a spare part or a new old stock dial or correct but different hands available to them, they used it to service a worn watch. A criminal act did not occur here. Likewise, if a watch was hard to see at night, their watchmaker might add luminous to the dial and maybe they left non-luminous hands-- the watch is still easier to read.
Sure, if you are dealing in a Rolex Red Dial Submariner, you better make sure the watch wasn't refinished because the watch's value is almost entirely based on a few words on its dial in a certain color. If a refinished dial is poorly done (often a subjective determination), that can be less desirable. If a watch was faked to be more valuable by changing the dial through refinishing, that's criminal. But many refinished dials are not poorly done and nothing is being faked and they aren't watches that are heavily valued because of a word on their dial. Look at the picture below showing a watch beneath its skin (its dial)-- this kind of damage throughout the watch is not always economically repairable. What's inside the watch matters, all of its components, and its condition. A vintage watch's value is more than skin deep.
This topic has become so important in discussions with collectors that I dedicated an entire page of the website to it. Rather than repeat all of it here in this blog, visit the ClockSavant FAQ web page to read more about my view on vintage watch authenticity and refinished dials.