Innovative Materials in Watchmaking

Buyer Advice and Information

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What is your favourite watch made from? There are many different materials used in watchmaking, from the common to the unique, each with their own particular aesthetic and practical characteristics. Whilst watchmaking is a highly traditional art, the materials used are often technologically advanced, and highly innovative.

Hublot are a brand known for this kind of innovation, beginning with their very first timepiece. The rubber wrist strap may be quite common today, but in 1980 it was a groundbreaking achievement, the result of three years’ research.

The brand’s founder, Carlo Crocco, was not only an expert watchmaker but also an avid sailor; this was to be his inspiration. He wanted to create a watch which would look as good in the boardroom as it did on the deck of a boat, but found the metal bracelets and leather straps available at the time unsatisfactory. He developed instead a third option – rubber. It was unconventional, and met with some scepticism at the time, but it has become the material of choice for many different sports watch collections. Today, you will find many luxury brands offering rubber wrist straps on their timepieces.

One of the most popular materials used in high-end watches is, of course, gold; a material which has been sought after since time immemorial for its beauty.

However, just as all that glitters is not gold, not all gold is the same; watchmakers make use of a variety of different gold alloys to create unique and attractive results. Gold is mixed with pale metals such as palladium or silver to create white gold, or with warm coloured copper to create rose gold. Even the traditional yellow gold is an alloy; pure gold would be too soft and prone to damage, so it is alloyed with stronger materials.

Hublot’s exclusive, scratchproof Magic Gold alloy is produced in their own foundry, the result of work by a dedicated metallurgy department, but they are far from the only brand conducting such research. Chopard also operate their own foundry, producing five different 18ct gold alloys for use in their watches and jewellery. Omega’s in-house metallurgists work with Swiss gold manufacturers and use the services of sister companies in the Swatch group to produce their unique in-house alloys, such as Sedna Gold and Ceragold.

When we speak of ceramics in watchmaking, we are naturally not talking about the same material you might find in your crockery; instead we refer to materials like zirconium oxide or titanium carbide. These materials are exceptionally hard; they are also found in aerospace applications and in the tools used to cut metals, which means that a ceramic watch case is difficult to scratch. However, they can be more vulnerable to impacts than metals. Ceramics also offer the advantageous aspects of being very light, and because they are inert they will not cause allergic reactions.

Like other materials, many watch manufacturers are innovating with ceramics, too; it is an important element in Hublot’s Magic Gold alloy, and they have created new colours, including a striking bright red ceramic.

When you choose a new watch, it’s important to consider all aspects of your desired timepiece, from the materials to the movements to the design, to ensure that you get a watch you can be proud to wear on your wrist. At Banks Lyon, we are more than happy to advise you on your options, so please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01524 381020 or visit us in our Lancaster store.