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Wristwatches and Materials – Which to Choose?

Watches are made of many different types of materials. Some of them are used more frequently than others because of special advantages such as price, weight or robustness.

Other materials are rarely used typically because they are available only in limited quantities and / or are relatively expensive.

This time we will look at both commonly used and less commonly used materials for the production of wristwatches, and their advantages and disadvantages.

1. Stainless Steel.

Stainless steel is probably the most common material used in wristwatches. This is because of its superior anti-corrosive nature and the fact that it looks good.

The material is good at resisting oxidation and because of its hardness strength, it’s also great at keeping its shape even after a substantial impact with a hard surface.

The material is biologically harmless and only rarely causes allergy and / or skin irritation.

Stainless steel is used in many parts of the wristwatch including case, bracelet, dial, crown, complications and push buttons.

Pros
  • Shiny.
  • Anti-corrosive.
  • Hard.
Cons
  • High cost.
2. Titanium.

Titanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ti and atomic number 22. As the low atomic number suggests, the silvery metal is very light.

Titanium is popular and used by many watch manufacturers due to its strength and durability.

It is corrosion resistant and has the highest strength-to-density ratio of all the metallic elements on the periodic table.

Pros
  • Strong.
  • Light.
  • Impact resistant.
  • Less risk of allergic reactions compared to stainless steel.
Cons
  • Expensive.
  • Less shiny
3. Platinum.

Yet another metallic element from the periodic table. Platinum has the symbol Pt and the atomic number 78.

The white to silver-gray coloured material is dense, mallable, ductile and highly unreactive.

Platinum is usually traded at a higher price than gold due to its rarity in nature and the fact that it’s mined much less than gold.

Tolerant to extreme heat and extreme cold.

Pros
  • Highly stress resistant.
  • Hypoallergenic.
Cons
  • Heavy.
  • Expensive.
4. Gold.

In luxury watches gold is and has always been an all-time favourite material, not least due to its high malleability and ductility.

It’s a chemical element with the symbol Au and the atomic number 79, making it one of the higher atomic elements that occur naturally.

Highly resistant to corrosion and oxidation.

Pros
  • Hypoallergenic.
  • Corrosion-resistant.
  • Bright.
Cons
  • Scratches easily.
  • Soft (depending on purity).
  • Expensive.
5. Silver.

Silver is a chemical element with the symbol Ag and atomic number 47.

While it’s more abundant than gold, it is much less abundant as native metal. Most silver is produced as a byproduct of copper, gold, lead and zink refining.

Pure silver is a very soft material and can not be used in jewellery crafting while sterling silver, an alloy usually containing at least 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, solves this problem, but has an unfortunate tendency to tarnish.

This is one reason why silver is not commonly used in wristwatches nowadays.

Another reason is the invention of stainless steel in 1913 that does not share this disadvantageous quality.

Pros
  • Very shiny.
Cons
  • Tarnishes easily.
  • Soft (depending on purity).

6. Aluminum.

Apple is a great believer in this material as they’ve used it in the production of Apple Watch in every series since the official presentation in 2014.

Aluminum (or Aluminium) is a chemical element with the symbol Al and atomic number 13.

As the low atomic number suggests this silvery-white, soft metal is extremely light making it a vital material to the aerospace industry.

Pros
  • Low density.
  • Corrosion-resistant.
  • Inexpensive.
Cons
  • Soft.
7. Ceramic.

High-tech ceramic has several superior properties making it a most suitable material for watchmaking.

It’s lightweight, scratch-resistant, heat-resistant and anti-allergic.

It is said to offer a special feeling when in contact with the skin, a feeling that fans claim to be both cool, smooth and very pleasant.

Unlike what some people think the material is not fragile, but actually ten times harder than gold and highly durable due to the specialized manufacturing process.

Ceramic is a relatively new material in watchmaking, but has become increasingly popular all over the world for the last five years.

Apple, Audemar Piguet, Hublot, Omega and Grand Seiko produce watches made of ceramic.

Pros
  • Light.
  • Scratch-resistant.
  • Heat-resistant.
  • Anti-allergic.
  • Unique feeling.
Cons
  • Expensive.
8. Carbon Fiber.

Carbon fiber is characterized by low weight and high tensile strength. It’s also a very stiff material, chemical-resistant, tolerant to high temperatures and has a low thermal expansion.

Carbon fiber is used in many different types of products including timepieces, supercars, planes, boats, rings, furnitures and musical instruments.

Pros
  • Light.
  • Strong.
  • Environmentally friendly.
Cons
  • Expensive.
  • Hard to repair if damaged.
9. Wood.

Wood is rarely used in watch production and there’s several good reasons for that.

Though eco friendly its main weakness is durability.

Watches made of wood are disposal watches and first and foremost to be considered an original alternative to watches made of more durable materials.

Because of the materials fragility wood watches are usually inexpensive.

Pros
  • Original.
  • Cheap.
  • Eco friendly.
Cons
  • Vulnerable to impact with water.
  • Temperature sensitive.
  • Light sensitive.
  • Soft.

10. Silicone Rubber.

Silicone rubber is an elastomer composed of silicon, carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.

The material has a number of advantageous properties including extreme temperature resistance.

It’s generally non-reactive, stable and easy to shape.

Pros
  • Temperature resistant.
  • Acid resistant.
  • Non-reactive.
  • Easy to shape.
Cons
  • Can feel rough and ‘sticky’.
  • Attracts dust easier.
11. Plastic.

Plastic is not the most popular material for watchmaking due to its fragility and harmfulness to the environment.

However, the Swedish watch company Triwa has specialized in high-quality watches made from recycled ocean plastic.

Both case and strap is made from 100% recycled ocean plastic.

A great way of doing something useful of the ocean waste and raise awareness.

Pros
  • Cheap.
Cons
  • Tends to become fragile over time.
  • Environmentally unfriendly.
12. Tungsten Carbide.

Tungsten, aka Wolfram, is a chemical element with the symbol W and atomic number 74.

The word “Tungsten” derives from Scandinavian and means “heavy stone”.

The material is found in various mineral types, it’s non-expensive and extremely scratch-resistant.

Tungsten carbide (WC) is a chemical compound and in its most basic form a fine, gray powder, but it can be pressed and formed into shapes through a process called sintering for use in industrial machinery, cutting tools, abrasives, armor-piercing shells and jewellery.

Pros
  • Cheap.
  • Extremely scratch-resistant.
Cons
  • Rare.
  • Heavy.
13. ‘Exotic’ Materials.

Some watch manufacturers, like Romain Jerome, specialize in manufacturing luxury watches of highly exotic materials including moon dust and metal pieces from the legendary Titanic passenger liner.

An excellent choice of material type if you happen to be wealthy and slightly ecccentric!

Pros
  • Highly original.
Cons
  • Rare.
  • Expensive.

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Claus

Claus is a laboratory technician, autodidact guitarist, songwriter, music publisher, co-founder of App Division ApS, dad of fraternal twin boys, Sci-Fi lover, incarnated Mike Oldfield fan, pro world peace and an incorrigible coffee addict.

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