A lot comes to mind when considering a new timepiece like the price or style. However, watch materials should also be right up there on the list. So, what should your watch be made of? Well, let’s delve into this watch guide for distinct types of watch materials that go into making high-quality watches.
Most Common Watch Materials Used
1. Stainless Steel for Lasting Durability
If you’re looking for a watch, you’ll likely be browsing a bunch of steel models, as stainless steel is the most used material in watches today. One big reason for its popularity is durability, as stainless steel has a serious ability to resist corrosion. It’s lightweight and more affordable than gold. Stainless steel eclipsed when it came into wide use at the dawn of the 1930s. With polished or brushed finishes, stainless steel watches do have slight downsides. They can scratch and dent more easily than some other more-durable materials. But stainless steel is still plenty tough!
A popular material for dive watches, stainless steel is found in some of the most legendary timepieces designed for undersea exploration. While the Rolex GMT Master II and the Rolex Daytona are both popular stainless steel offerings, the Rolex Submariner is particularly tied to stainless steel as it owes its heritage to the Rolex Perpetual Oyster, the world’s first hermetically sealed steel watch. From the Omega Speedmaster on the high end to more-affordable selections such as the Seiko Prospex, stainless steel dive watches are things of beauty that literally stand the test of time.
2. Gold and its Many Mixers
These days when on the hunt for a stylish gold watch, you can choose from either white, yellow, and rose gold. What’s the difference you ask? Well, white gold looks a lot like steel because pure yellow gold is mixed with steel or the silvery-white metal palladium, as well as possibly zinc or nickel. It’s not hard to tell Rose Gold at first sight, as the copper that gets mixed with the Yellow Gold gives it a rosy hue. On the plus side, you get a warm and elegant coloring that goes great with dress watches. But there’s the negative in that since Rose Gold can scratch and dent more easily than other alloys.
Yellow Gold, as you can probably guess, has a traditional golden color that’s a common sight with luxury watches. But it’s usually not pure gold, as 24 karat gold is too soft to make a durable watch. So, it’s mixed with copper, much like Rose Gold. The difference is in the copper content, as the more copper you put into the mix the more red, or rose, coloring emerges.
The number of options for high-end gold watches can be dizzying, from the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Chronograph to the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date or the Omega Speedmaster 57 and so on. If you’re looking for something affordable, you can consider steel watches with gold platings. Tissot, Seiko, and Invicta are great brands to look into if you’re in the market for an affordable watch that gleams in gold.
3. Titanium for Twice the Toughness
This lightweight alloy came onto the scene in the early 1970s. That’s when many thought the days of stainless steel were numbered. Titanium has nearly two times the strength of stainless steel and half the weight. It’s also highly resistant to corrosion. Perfect, right? Well, sort of. Titanium is also more expensive than steel and, perhaps most importantly, its duller finish just doesn’t gleam like stainless steel. Titanium settled into an esteemed spot in the watch world as a go-to material for dive and similar tool watches.
The Citizen Promaster Diver is a great example of a fine titanium dive watch, as is the Tudor Pelagos with a titanium case that’s water-resistant to 500 meters. Some other great titanium timepieces include the TAG Heuer Formula 1, the PVD-coated Hamilton Khaki Field Titanium Auto, and the Seiko Presage SARX055, an atypical titanium dress watch.
Watch Materials, An Ancient Art Goes Modern with Ceramic
While it may seem strange, ceramic watches are made of exactly what they sound like — they are hardened clay. It’s the same technique that’s been used in making pottery for centuries, with some help from today’s modern science to create super-durable compositions of zirconium oxide.
But despite its long history, ceramic is a relative newcomer with watches. It didn’t really go mainstream until the debut of the IWC Da Vinci Ceramic in 1986. Before that, Omega had dabbled with ceramics in the early 80s for the special-order Seamaster Cermet. And even earlier, the Rado DiaStar broke ground in the early 60s with its tungsten carbide ceramic case. But it wasn’t the case until IWC hit the market with its zirconium oxide case that we got the kind of material that’s used in today’s ceramic cases.