Watches made of metal have been evolving throughout the history of Haute Horlogerie. Ideations of the use of new materials always and will always appear. The moment I thought that I’ve learned everything, there are always new creations of watches with completely fresh or exotic materials. I guess, the creativity of watchmakers can’t be stopped.
The word “metal” seems completely unfamiliar to me as I’m someone who delved into language and literature. Yet, not anymore. My curiosity leads me to, again, remember the periodic table of chemical elements. I can’t deny that the charms of science and watchmaking are intertwined with each other. It does pique my interest that technical advances in watchmaking have no end.
Is metal for watches good?
The metal used for watches is known for its durability, though several metals have different levels of toughness. For instance, it’s clear that titanium is a better metal than white gold, for titanium has a Mohs hardness of 6 while white gold scores at 4. Despite the difference in hardness, metals are of a good quality material that they are resistant to wear and scratch.
Types of metal for watches
As my previous remark, metal for watches covers a good number of metallic objects. How many are they? There are more than dozens of them. Here’s a list of several metal elements found in watches with each distinctive characteristic.
Gold is the most common material in jewelry and coinage. Most people also invest in gold for its value in currency. The shiny golden look plays the part, too. It makes someone feel confident wearing a gold watch. In addition, this material is also resilient against chemical damages above ground or underwater, thermal fluctuations, and oxidations. It neither will rust nor corrode.
As it’s popular among the wealthy, it’s no wonder that gold is mainly found in luxury timepieces. Of course, with the price that costs quite a fortune. Omega De Ville Tourbillon Co-Axial Master Chronometer is one of the high-end timepieces. It combines two gold alloys in the making: 18k Sedna gold and 18k Canopus gold.
Sterling silver mixes 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other metals. Due to silver’s softness, it needs other metals to be tougher. The combination may result in discoloration when it makes a seriate contact with air, water, and sulfur.
Yet, sterling silver has a beautiful white shininess, economical price, and easy maintenance. Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925 takes a sterling silver case with satin finishing. The treatment delivers a greater supple shine to the watch.
Aluminum stands out for its lightness, corrosion resistance, and reflectivity. It’s the best possible metal for a watch that conducts heat better than steel. This one notably withstands the sunlight in summer and thermal loss in winter.
Although, it isn’t really durable which will undoubtedly scratch. Yet, Bvlgari Aluminium GMT won’t break that easily. The watch uses aluminum-titanium alloy which combines 95% the former and 5% the latter. This thin and light watch is a good pick as a dive watch for its high resistance to corrosion underwater.
Stainless steel is the most common material used in high-quality watches. No wonder it’s vastly in-demand; the material has excellent resistance against heat, impact, and corrosion. It is durable and not susceptible to brittleness.
Watches for military purposes mostly use stainless steel due to previous reasons. Also, this material with PVD coating makes beautiful black metal watches. One example is Hamilton Khaki Field King. To give another note, the coating improves the hardness, corrosion resistance, and comfortability of a stainless steel watch.
Platinum is the material for luxurious accessories including watches. It has a high resale value due to its undeniable beauty, scarcity, and exclusivity. What’s more, platinum is extremely durable and immune to tarnishing. The material is hypoallergenic, meaning it’s versatile to the majority of skin sensitivities. Truly, it’s a nice material to have for metal watches.
Still and all, platinum is not a hard metal. In a sense, it’s more prone to scratches, heavier yet far costlier than 14k gold. Because of the softness of platinum, it requires other metals to improve its hardness. Vacheron Constantin Traditionnelle Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar is one that uses a polished 950 platinum for the case.
Titanium watches were first brought to the public in 1970 by Citizen. Titanium is far stronger than steel yet lighter. The high resistance to corrosion makes this material stand well against seawater, sweat, and acid. It is anti-magnetic and hypoallergenic which gives comfort to most skin types. These are the reasons why the material can gain the interest of many.
With such benefits, titanium is, however, a more expensive and difficult metal to cast. Still, I can say it’s the best metal for a watch with the intent to withstand rugged adventures. The case of Seiko Prospex 200M Diver Automatic is made of titanium with Seiko Dia-Shield. The coating increases the material resistance to scratch.
Not only limited to metals, now several watch brands have thought of a means to use recycled ocean waste. Ocean pollution is no laughing matter. One way to raise the populace’s awareness is to bring this up to the surface. Alpina recycled watch, the Seastrong Diver Gyre Automatic Ref. AL-525LNSB4VG6‘s case uses 70% of plastic waste from fishing nets of the Indian Ocean. Another 30% is fiberglass to strengthen the watch’s durability of impact. The blue Nato strap is made from recycled plastic bottles while the black leather strap is from recycled apple waste. This idea might not end ocean pollution but it’s enough for Poseidon to take a breather on his home turf.
There’s more to the types of metal used for watches not included in the list. You can find the combination of various metals to create something new. Though they are a great, fresh material to work with watches, each has its advantages and disadvantages.