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No Cap with Queen, Blacked-out Watches
"Black is a real sensation, even if the entire absence of light produces it. The sensation of black is distinctly different from the lack of all sensation." - Hermann von Helmholz
There is a phenomenon about our horology machines that makes murdered-out watches uplifting, dramatic and charming. We are not talking about conventional black dials with black rubber or leather straps but the whole shebang; customized handsets and markers with this nonpareil touch. A blacked-out timepiece is a moniker. Why would we say so and in an emphasized tone? The reason is simple; that blacked-out watches were cool back then, more so currently, and will always be.
Naturally, in the consumer’s world, the color black has often been associated with a type of boldness, mystery, masculinity, luxury, with a hint of soberness. That includes the timepieces we collect and acquire.
We are sure our frequent readers must have noticed our numerous mentions of these descriptions on our site and emails, often with the latest timepieces introduced. You might be reminded subconsciously by these “blacked-out” theme and all-black makeovers that are already in the market, but for us, at Gnomon, these watches are favorable and bonafide tangible.
You might ask, why do we want to mention this genre? The reason behind it is that we care about this paradigm. We realized that we need pay more emphasis and attention to this long forgotten idea and its livery, even more so in today’s time. Therefore, we take this time to share our thoughts and experience to louden the excellency of black watches in terms of their style and design, the lasting oompf about them that appeals to us till now.
This article has no intention to be a definitive guide of sorts. Only hoping to act as a reminder and draw particular appreciation towards watch enthusiasts. Without any further ado, let us get right into it.
Since the 1970s…
Often, one might think that blacked-out watches just surfaced recently in the early 2000s, but in fact it dates back at least three decades ago. In 1972, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the grandson of the iconic 911 designer, released the first-ever recognized mechanical watch coated in full black.
Mr. Alexander launched the Porsche Design Chronograph 1- a stainless steel tonneau-shaped chronograph watch covered in black powder coating, inspired by Porsche’s automotive background. Just like blacked-out cars, the watch radiates a sense of sleek, stealthy yet tough-looking aesthetics. Since then, many other Swiss brands follow suit with their take on the theme, to design their own, where they served mainly as purposeful tool watches.
It has a purposeful beginning…
Often we get the mentality that blacked-out makeover on watches seems to begin as just-another-fashion take. Still, history begs to differ our point of view by illustrating that the genesis of all-black makeovers embodies the “form-follows-function” allure within watchmaking.
Further emphasis has placed in field watches like Marathon’s General Purpose Mechanical watches, done with full-black cases from high-impact fiber material. By having the matte-black appeal, it also removes any source of inessential reflections in this case that comply with military specifications while adding to it’s stealthy and chic appeal when strapped on.
Another worthy example goes to Seiko’s Darth/Ninja Marinemaster Tunas. Both the Tunas feature full blacked-out aesthetics that seems oh-so-right here in their main operating field. Even their ancestors' refs. 6159-7010, 7549-7009 and the SBDS018 gets a partial black-coated outer shroud of different materials, to protect their titanium inner-cores while looking so damn cool. We can see that full-blacked makeovers allows them to be feel both robust and purposeful and executed attractively in terms of styling.
Black will always be “Black.”
The application of a full-black color scheme wields as a double-edged sword for us watch enthusiasts. This “black” effect, on the other hand, helps to boost one’s confidence in appearance with a sense of potential and possibility. We get that sense of customization from a full black makeover, where we seek enhanced personality in our very own watch choice.
Remember, I mentioned earlier where there seems to have certain links between the automotive world with this idea of watches? In this context, with our topic here, blacked-out watches and cars have numerous similarities in terms of design, almost in a parallel manner.
Both bear the same cool traits; sleekness, contemporary while being seriously stylish. This dark design shouts a great deal of individualized personality that never goes out of trend, ever.
For instance, picture the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series of any period. One thinks about its overall vision of cold-cool customized appeal, through which became the ultimate version of its classic C-Class. The color black done on an automative driving machine has demonstrated here to stick out with its sex-appeal that many of us desire to own.
All these traits are reflected in the realm of horology too. Just take a look at Steinhart's take on their classic “panda” Ocean Vintage Chronograph. Their ingenious effort to produce a “tailored” version of it by introducing a DLC black treatment on its case and bracelet, with some dial modifications, proved to be brilliant. Steinhart demonstrated how they successfully took a classic design and pumped up its sleekness and desirability, transforming their cool watch into something even more refreshing.
I would not be writing this article if I do not have a particular passion in this genre. Matter, in fact, my first ever Steinhart watch was a discontinued Ocean One Black DLC (MK 1), where it’s a more personalized piece of the classic Ocean One Black. They kept everything to be reductive in full-black DLC with a matte black dial, only to have the greenish hour markers and handset that place a compelling contrast. Until today, I still rock that Ocean DLC as its versatility works exceptionally well. Likewise, it always brings me absolute joy and cool factor of what seems to be a great alternative from the usual stainless steel divers.
I strongly suggest that one should take some time to try on a full-blacked watch and let it sings it’s sleek yet mysterious persona to you. It does not have to be your daily-beater (though I beg to differ) but to allow one to enjoy a little more than the usual suspects that one has in his or her non-black treated collection as blacked-out watches do not seek to overlaps their naked steel counterparts but come forth as a fresh alternative.
For those who have just become interested in owning one of these blacked-out Ocean divers, afraid not, as Steinhart’s recent release of their Ocean Black DLC Mother of Pearl is the updated variant of my old DLC beater. Steinhart applied what they are good at in the new DLC with black MOP dial variant with some decent upgrades like having a 3D textured black ceramic bezel while allowing owners to pull off, what was once considered feminine, MOP dial confidently.
In more recent times, we do find that more and more brands tend to have their variations of Blacked-out watches in one of their collections. Like for instance, Seiko has recently launched a full-fledged of their staple divers with full black-tone PVD finishing. Even more so where almost all the brands we carry do have at least one in each of their horology stables. We believe that this full black phenomenon seems to be trendy and a winning formula for most brands.
I want to add, nowadays, with additional PVD or DLC protection on your case, it does throw something on top for extra functionality, like a layer of protection on a bare steel or titanium case. Heck, this idea allows brands to even use exotic forms of full black ceramic, high-tech carbon, or even Damascus material for the watch’s case. These watches take that to the next level.
All that said, maybe after this article, some of you are still not giving a hang on the full black makeover idea, but it is alright. Even though I would deduce that it is not for everyone and also does not come forth to be, we should applaud brands to embrace these ideas and having one out there for us watch lovers. Furthermore, one should get hands-on with this atypical horology wrist candies before making the cut. Your attention might be called to their combination of pure coolness and functionality, where they came together with aplomb.