Watch Metals & Materials
Timepieces at their very origin in the 1800’s were crafted in premium-grade metals from luxurious 18K gold and sterling silver to platinum. The very first pocket watches of the era from Graham, Jaeger LeCoutre and Zenith featured cases and accompanying chains in 18K rose and yellow gold, sterling silver and platinum. As wristwatches became more popular in the early 1900’s and gold, silver and platinum became more expensive, stainless steel was introduced in the production of timepieces. Almost a century later, ceramic and titanium were featured for the first time on watch cases and bracelets in the late 1980’s and 1990’ respectively by watchmakers Rado, TAG Heuer and Breitling.
More recently, watches featuring cases and bracelets crafted in manmade materials polycarbonate and tungsten carbide were introduced by popular watchmakers Luminox, Nixon, Glam Rock and Swiss Legend.
A timepiece’s case and bracelet material is in important aspect to take into consideration when selecting a watch, especially in regards to appearance and cost, as well as weight and hypoallergenic qualities.
Stainless steel is the most-popular metal used in the production of watches today. It is extremely durable and is less expensive than gold, titanium, silver and platinum. Stainless steel is also resistant to saltwater corrosion and is one of the top metal choices for diver’s watches.
There are several grades of stainless steel. The lower grades are less corrosion-resistant and magnetic resistant than higher grades which include 316L and 904L, both of which are used in the production of high-end luxury watches.
18K rose, yellow and white gold are featured on the cases and bracelets of luxury timepieces from numerous prestigious watchmakers, including Rolex, Cartier, Ebel, Chopard, Bvlgari and Baume & Mercier. Nothing compares to the lustrous appeal and exceptionally rich feel of gold and wearing a gold watch one will certainly elevate your wrist.
Gold wristwatches are ideal for dressier, more formal occasions. Many high-end watches are presented on premium grade leather and exotic skin straps for more affordability. Many watchmakers also offer two-tone gold and stainless steel styles for their stylish appeal and striking contrasts.
Although gold is one of the most luxurious watch metals, it is susceptible to scratching and is not impervious to sea water.
Titanium is incredibly lightweight and extremely durable metal. It is stronger and more resilient than both gold and steel and is also less corrosive in seawater than either metal as well. It is also lighter and more comfortable to wear on the wrist and is more hypoallergenic than gold and silver.
Titanium is the top choice for both professional and amateur deep-sea divers. Sports enthusiasts and runners prefer titanium not only for its lightweight characteristics but for its ability to not corrode against sweat on the wrist.
TAG Heuer and Breitling were the first watchmakers to feature titanium in their timepiece collections. Today many prestigious watchmakers offer titanium models in their collections, including Invicta, TW Steel, Citizen, Hublot, Seiko, Swiss Legend, MOMO Design, Corum, Oris and Fossil.
Electroplated and Ion-Plated Metal
Today’s high-tech electroplated and ion-plated processes offer a variety of finishes from 18K rose and yellow gold and titanium plate to black, blue and gunmetal ion-plate. The two finishes both involve applying a metal or colored finish to a metal, generally stainless steel through a vaporization process. An actual metal such as gold, platinum or rhodium is used in the electroplated process and is also the more costly of the two finishes. Both finishes also offer an economic alternative to the less expensive genuine metals.
Ceramic watches were first introduced by Swiss watchmaker Rado in 1986 and became widely popular in 2000, when the French fashion house Chanel introduced the J12 Ceramic watch collection. In the fashion that Chanel made the “little black dress,” costume jewelry and women’s trousers fashion mainstays, Chanel is also responsible for making ceramic watches fashion must-haves.
In addition to their fashionable appeal, ceramic wristwatches are virtually scratch-resistant, hypoallergenic and exceptionally comfortable on the wrist. There are several drawbacks to owning a ceramic watch. One is that ceramic is extremely fragile if it hits against a marble, tile or concrete surface and can easily break under such conditions. In addition a ceramic bracelet watch is far weightier than a titanium, stainless steel or gold watch.
Tungsten Carbide is a new and popular choice for wedding rings, bracelets, necklaces and wristwatches. It is a chemical compound powder that is shaped and formed through a heat process into watch cases, bracelets and other jewelry. Tungsten carbide is also used for drill bits and tools, mill rods and road planning picks. Denser and extremely harder than steel, gold and titanium, Tungsten carbide has a high resistance to scratching.
Tungsten carbide offers a richer, weightier feel than titanium and is also considerably more scratch resistant than titanium. Both metals can be highly polished to a mirror bright glow and share a gunmetal gray tone in their natural state. However, white tungsten has a lighter appearance, similar to both white gold and platinum.
Polycarbonate is a man-made substance with an appearance and likeness to plastic that is used for bullet-proof vests, digital music player cases, smart phones, riot shields hard-side luggage and watch cases. It is extremely durable and remarkably lightweight. Polycarbonate can be finished in any color with a matte or glossy surface.
Watchmakers from Luminox, Nixon, Glam Rock and ToyWatch feature polycarbonate watch styles in their collections, many for its incredibly lightweight quality on the wrist.