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A Guide to Different Watch Materials: What I See in Them
Don’t judge a book by its cover, one said. However, first impressions matter, don’t they? This happens to a wristwatch. If you have been in a watchmaking circle for a long time, you know that watch materials represent the watch itself. Materials are significant to indicate whether the watch is worth buying or not.
Back to the time when I used to see watches as watches, unless they have appealing color and design. At that time, I was not aware of the materials for watches until I was told by my friend, a veteran in the watch world, that materials should be your focus of timepieces. Why? Because they determine the watch’s longevity. The more robust the materials, the longer the timepieces will last. Thanks to my friend, now I see watches differently. They are not yellow, green or black watches anymore, instead they are stainless steel watches, bronze watches, titanium watches, and etc.
However, since a lot of brands manufacture high quality watches, in the end it is all about preferences. That’s why my collection is filled with titanium watches. Not because the other watch materials are bad, once again it’s just my preference. But, for you, which one do you like better?
Stainless Steel: Builds up your timeless style
First, stainless steel watches. Stainless steel for watches was found in the early 1930s when a watch manufacturer was looking for a more affordable material instead of precious metal such as gold and silver. Unfortunately, after it was found, there wasn’t a machine that could shape stainless steel into a watch case. This material was harder than gold and silver, and there was no way that it could be done by traditional manufacturing. Great news, in 1943, a modern and powerful machine was invented to produce stainless steel watch cases. Until now, stainless steel has become the most common material used by watchmakers.
I personally like this material. It definitely would win my heart if it were lighter than titanium. Stainless steel has a strong hardness, oxidation resistance, and is super durable. For the aesthetics side, I usually see it is modified with various finishes such as satin-brushed and gloss polished.
Because of those advantages, lots of luxury watch brands use stainless steel for their products. One of my favorite stainless steel timepieces is the Combat Ref. GL0337 by Glycine. The watch is presented in a 36mm diameter stainless steel case with the popular 316L stainless steel bracelet. What makes me interested in this watch is that it is hand-finished in satin-brushed on the top of the lugs and the side of the case which makes the watch look fine.
Titanium: The lighter, the better
This one is my all time favorite. It began its popularity in 1970 when Citizen created the first titanium watch called X-8 Chronometer. Titanium is famous for its characteristics which are extremely strong, lightweight, and bio-compatible. If we compare it with stainless steel, titanium is 40% lighter than stainless steel, but it is as strong. So, why would I need a heavier one if the lighter version exists. Plus, I think it is more beneficial since titanium watches do not cause allergic reactions that stainless steel often does to some people. This material is not the enemy to my sensitive skin.
However, there’s one thing that is considered as its weakness. Titanium is easier than stainless steel to scratch. The scratches in titanium watches are even more noticeable than the scratches in stainless steel watches. It has never been my concern though, since it is still pretty scratch resistant. Another perk of having a titanium watch is it is antimagnetic, resistant to heat and can be exposed to saltwater without corroding. It is always perfect for beach o’clock.
Among my collection, Steinhart Ocean One Titanium is my current go-to watch. It seamlessly blends rugged style with timeless elegance. Its grade élaboré premium titanium case offers durability while being lightweight on the wrist. What’s more about this timepiece is that it's got great value for its money.
Bronze: The return of ancient material
Some people love bronze because it captures a lot of beauty. Dating back to the mid-fourth millennium BC, bronze is an ancient material utilized by prehistoric humans in Mesopotamia to craft several tools, while most of the tools at that time were made of stone and wood. Now, among the watchmakers, this component has recently surged in popularity after Panerai launched its bronze watch, the Bronzo.
While you might be admired by the timeless vintage looks, this timepiece case material actually has reached beyond function by offering anti-magnetic qualities and non-corrosive due to its acquisition of an oxidized layer. With all of these traits, it has largely been used for dive watches.
I am actually not really into bronze watches because this material looks similar to gold, and I don't fancy gold watches. But, I am impressed with the natural process of patina, which makes every bronze watch different, meaning no two identical looking bronze watches.
Carbon Fiber: The lightest among others
Carbon fiber is lately getting famous among the watchmakers since it plays the main role for the lightweight case construction. If titanium is 40% lighter than stainless steel, carbon fiber is 50% lighter than titanium. This material has a strong lightweight game. Despite being light, I am more attracted to its unique structure that is easily recognizable as a carbon fiber timepiece. Not to mention that carbon fiber is as durable as other watch materials and corrosion-resistant. I think I am going to give this material a try for my next watch purchase.
Ceramic: Hard and a UV-resistant
If the color of your watch is fading, it is probably not a ceramic watch. Ceramic is unaffected by UV rays produced by the sun. It keeps the colors pop up for years. The history of ceramic in watches began when Rado released the first ceramic scratch-proof watch in 1962. And years after that, many watch brands created their own innovation with ceramic. Just like the other watch materials, there are also pros and cons with ceramic watches.
Besides being resistant to UV and scratches, turns out ceramic watches are lighter than stainless steel and titanium. This material is also known hypoallergenic since it doesn’t contain metal. Apart from it, ceramic is fragile. If it hits a hard surface, the watch may shatter. It is also quite expensive because ceramic is difficult to make.
Well, I have found my cup of tea in titanium watches, what’s yours?