A watch is made out of multiple materials, depending on the model and the brand. If you think that isn’t important, think again. A watch’s material actually determines its longevity and also its aesthetics. It also lets us know how durable a watch can be, based on its exposure to the environment around us.
So, what type of watchmaking materials are commonly used for making our favorite timepieces? Let’s find out together as we go through some of them for you in this article.
Most Common Watch Materials
1. Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is the most commonly used watch material around. It is composed of an iron-carbon alloy, which includes a mix of penny and chromium. Stainless steel is tough to scratch since it’s durable and lightweight and really tough on the outside. As such, the material is resistant to corrosion and can maintain its shine for several years, or even decades. And the watch is able to do all this while maintaining its robust strength at the same time.
Stainless steel watches come with two types of finishings: brush or polish. Polish finishings result in a shiny surface. On the other hand, brush finishing gives the surface a rugged look and is more appropriate for outdoor activity watches. Despite being a durable material, the watch is prone to dance, smudges, scratches and can be damaged with ease. So, you’re going to handle stainless steel watches with care when you wear them.
Rolex utilizes the 904L, which is stronger and more resistant to rust than your basic stainless-steel material.
Titanium is a relatively new material that was introduced to the watch market in the 1970s. That was the time when Citizen released its first-ever titanium-based watch known as the X8 Chronometer. Compared to stainless steel, titanium excels in numerous aspects.
Titanium is a lot tougher and more muscular while also light as well. Its strength makes it highly resistant to the elements of nature before it gives away. Its toughness is measured against impact, which is quite high for this material. It’s also lighter than stainless steel as it weighs less than half while maintaining the same level of strength.
Brands like Seiko and Citizen use the best titanium material for their watches. It makes sense why their brand of watches is the most popular one when it comes to this material.
Before the 20th century, watchmakers used to incorporate natural jewels. They would be used as the bearings for the watch’s wheel trains and other elements. Like the escape lever, these elements would be given special treatment as they are vulnerable to the most wear and tear. The jewels help increase accuracy and reduce friction. Auguste Verneuil developed a method in 1902 to make synthetic rubies or jewels that are still used to this day.
Another common material used in watchmaking is plastic. It may not be well known for its durability, but it still brings visual appeal. Plastic happens to be so profound because it’s synthetic and can be produced at a cheaper rate. This offers watchmakers an advantage as it won’t be affected by natural resource price swings like steel and wood.
Since plastic is human-made, it can be molded into any shape per the maker’s choosing, thanks to additives. As such, the quality of plastic material can range from weak to impressive shock-absorbing capabilities. Plastic can be used in several aspects of watchmaking. For instance, an affordable, low-end watch will use plastic mainly for its casing, movement housing, and internal components. This offers the watch advantage in terms of its lightweight, and can, in various colors.
Plastic can even be used to make watch crystals, especially the acrylic crystal type.
Compared to stainless steel and titanium, ceramic is the one with the highest resistance to scratches. Despite not a lot of research being done on this material compared to stainless steel, we keep getting positive results.
It can be used in a variety of ways and is valued by owners as it can come in several colors. Due to this, people get top-quality watches that make just about anyone happy. What’s more, this material’s hypoallergenic property allows it to prevent its wearers from suffering an allergic reaction.
Another precious metal that’s had the honor of being part of the watchmaking process for centuries is gold. Available in various types – red, rose, white, and yellow – gold has been crucial for several parts of a watch. The most common area where you’ll find gold on a watch is its case. Up until the start of the 20th century, gold was arguably the most popular casing material. In the earlier watchmaking days, manufacturers would often use gold in a watch’s movement.
Like titanium, tungsten is also a relatively new material in the watchmaking industry. This material is still being researched to see whether it makes for a viable watch material. However, we do know that it is incredibly resistant to scratches and is ideal for outdoor activities. Besides that, tungsten sports an attractive design that is a bit darker than the usual stainless steel.
One of its more distinctive traits is its darker grey hue. And seeing as how it’s one of the most scratch-resistant watch materials, it’s almost similar in strength to ceramic. Tungsten-made watches are typically expensive due to their hard-to-find materials and minimal production.
We may have missed some, but this is our list of the most common materials used for today’s watches. As we said earlier, a watch’s material indicates its capacity to withstand the forces of nature. Besides that, each of these materials comes with its own set of pros and cons. Therefore, choose whichever you think offers the most aesthetic value and long-term benefits of telling time and functionality.