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Why Titanium Watches? A Guide to Titanium for Beginners
Stronger and lighter than stainless steel. This may be the most appropriate way to describe titanium watches in a brief. Some even say that titanium is superior to stainless steel in terms of corrosion resistance, light weight, and strength.
Titanium was discovered by a German chemist in 1793. Since this silvery material is very strong, the chemist named it ‘Titanium’ after the mythological Greek Titans. Throughout history, Titanium was widely known as plane material until Citizen launched the world’s first titanium watch, X-8 Chronometer, in 1970.
The innovation made by the Japanese watchmaker Citizen gave a significant impact to the watch industry. It can be seen by how many watch brands now utilize a titanium watch case and bracelet for their collection, Grand Seiko for instance.
It does not feel right to talk about the benefits of titanium without weighing up the downsides. Compared to stainless steel, titanium is harder to make, therefore the watches mostly cost higher.
Moreover, while people know it as being stronger-than-steel, it is also softer. It means titanium is prone to scratch. Fortunately, this worry can be left behind since a special treatment for titanium has now existed in order to outperform the hardness level of stainless steel.
So does it mean that titanium is better than stainless steel as a watch material? You tell me. But, don’t jump to the conclusion yet, because we are just starting. First thing first, get to know the grades of titanium that are commonly used in the field of watchmaking.
Grades of titanium watches
If stainless steel amazes the watch enthusiast with its 316L and 904L, then titanium plays it well with its Grade 2 and Grade 5. Grade 2 titanium is a commercially pure titanium that is lightweight and extremely corrosion resistant. This grade of titanium can be found in many watch brands, one of them is Omega Seamaster 007 Edition. Sad to say that Grade two is not as strong as Grade 5. To work the issue out, watchmakers usually treat it with a tough scratch resistant coating.
Grade 5 titanium is another way of saying Ti 6Al-4V. Grade 5 titanium is alloyed with 6% aluminum and 4% vanadium. These components result in a stronger titanium, more resistant to corrosion, scratches, and heat. With a higher price, you would better expect grade 5 titanium.
Although these two grades have different hardness levels and are considered below stainless steel, it needs to be highlighted that titanium has the ability to heal itself from scratches because it oxidizes over quickly. It won’t remove the scratches, but they will disappear slowly.
What’s so special about titanium watches?
Several benefits of titanium watches have been mentioned earlier. But, let’s dig deeper about it.
I’ve read some comments on the watch forum about how they do not find the dark grey in titanium attractive, but I do. I think the grey on this material is characteristic. Not to mention the distinctive appearance it provides for the sport watches.
If you crave for a titanium timepiece but cannot tolerate the dull gray which I love, then you can choose one with a kind of polishing or finish that makes it not look like a titanium watch. For example, Seiko Prospex 200M Automatic Titanium Shogun Black. You don't really know it is a titanium, except the bezel, until you pick it up and hold it. If you think it is stainless steel and you feel there’s something wrong with it, that’s because it is titanium not steel.
We choose a titanium watch for different reasons, but the light weight is certainly something that we all seek in this timepiece. At first, you may get a little bit shocked to have a titanium watch on your wrist, especially if you are used to a heavier stainless steel watch. It is because titanium is 40% lighter than stainless steel.
Honestly, I don't really care about the strength of a titanium because obviously all watch materials such as stainless steel are strong enough to withstand any damages. But, I am glad to know that titanium, specifically grade 5, can handle more stress in comparison to stainless steel. That’s why this material is used in the aerospace industry.
Warm and comfortable
Titanium watch owners should agree on this benefit of a titanium watch. It does give you a warm feeling even after a cold night, and is still comfortable to wear for several hours of sunbathing (not recommended though because the skin under your watch cannot evenly tan meaning you will have wristwatch tan lines).
The oxide layer on the surface of titanium watches does not react to the human body, your skin is not exempt. It is because titanium lacks nickel. Nickel is one of the alloying elements that is mostly found in stainless steel (316L) to make it corrosion resistant. In other words, titanium is extremely hypoallergenic. It is a solid option for you who have a nickel allergy.
Titanium is not going to rust. With all the modern steel and its corrosion resistance, it is still likely impossible for steel to beat titanium. This explains its use for diving timepieces. Salt water has never been a titanium watch owner’s fear.
If your watch often runs faster than it should, perhaps this is because your watch is not titanium. Automatic movement is subject to magnetization. It will run fast if it is magnetized. So, make sure to pick a titanium watch to have an accurate time-teller.
After all the traits above, there’s nothing wrong with giving a shot at a titanium watch. It is great for daily wear since it is light and comfortable. Plus the warm feeling that is offered by a titanium timepiece is another value that you might never get from the other watch materials.