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10 Jun

Exploring the Best Materials for Luxury Watches: From Gold to Stainless Steel

Luxury watches have become a popular accessory among men and women, symbolising luxury, status, and personal style. To collectors and enthusiasts, they are more than just timekeeping devices but statements of style, craftsmanship, and status. One of the main aspects that elevate a watch to its luxury status is the material used in it.

While conventional gold and stainless steel remain the most prevalent, many different types of metals and materials are used to make luxury watches that deserve equal attention and appreciation. Each material has its own benefits, functionality, and visual appeal. So, when you hunt for a new piece, it pays to know which one best suits your needs and preferences.

In this blog, we’ll explore some of the best materials used by the industry’s top watchmakers and their characteristics, benefits, and why they all favour them.

Top Luxury Watch Materials

1. GOLD – The Classic Choice

Gold is preferred for crafting luxury timepieces because of its rich hue and natural lustre. For centuries, gold has been associated with luxury and prestige, making it an obvious choice for making luxury watches. Celebrities, world leaders, and members of Royalty have adorned gold timepieces for centuries.

Gold used in watchmaking is alloyed (mixed) with other materials to achieve the desired colour, strength, and durability. High-end watch brands mainly use 18ct gold, which has 75% pure gold mixed with other metals, to make the cases.

Characteristics:

  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Prestigious
  • Luxurious
  • Variety of colours

Benefits:

  • Long-lasting
  • Resistance to corrosion and tarnish
  • Durability
  • Value Retention
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Suitable for a formal and dressy style

Gold is available in various colour variations, each offering its own appeal and unique hue.

Colour variations of gold:

  • Yellow Gold – Yellow gold is the traditional choice for luxury watches, offering a timeless appearance. Crafted with a blend of copper, silver and zinc, yellow gold luxury watches embrace a special appeal that makes them a staple in the world of luxury timepieces.
  • White Gold – White gold is a stylish and contemporary choice, offering a silvery-white aesthetic that appeal to modern watch enthusiasts. Mixed with silver, palladium, nickel, and other metals, white gold provides both style and functionality.
  • Rose Gold—For those seeking a special alternative to white and yellow gold, rose gold is an impressive choice. Made with a blend of gold and copper, it offers a warm, eye-catching hue suitable for discerning collectors who prefer a vintage charm.

Some companies have developed their unique gold alloys to stand apart from others. For example, Rolex rose gold watches are produced from 18ct Everose gold, a proprietary rose gold alloy that remains vibrant indefinitely.

Omega uses proprietary gold alloys: Sedna (red gold), Canopus (white gold), Moonshine (light yellow gold), and Ceragold (an alloy of gold and ceramic).

2. STAINLESS STEEL – The Modern Marvel

Characteristics:

  • Lightweight
  • Corrosion resistant
  • White metal
  • Sporty and casual
  • Highly durable
  • Scratch resistant

Benefits:

  • Affordable
  • Minimal maintenance
  • Versatile appearance
  • Strength
  • Hypoallergenic

Currently, stainless steel is the most popular choice amongst all luxury watchmakers. There is a high demand for stainless steel luxury watches in the market, so steel watches tend to hold their value better. For example, the Rolex Daytona, made of stainless steel, is a sought-after investment piece.

3. TITANIUM – The Lightweight Powerhouse

Titanium has become a popular choice in luxury watches because it is extremely durable. This grey metal is as strong as steel but 45% lighter. The watches provide a unique and contemporary appeal, focusing  on comfort and performance. Luxury watch brands use titanium to design large watches, especially those designed for sports and adventure, to keep them as light as possible despite the big case.  

Titanium is generally alloyed with molybdenum, vanadium, aluminium, and other metals. There are several grades of this material, each with its own benefits. Grades 1-4 are pure titanium and are used for their high corrosion-resistant property. The remaining 23 grades contain alloys due to the high strength-to-weight ratio.

Characteristics:

  • Scratch-resistant
  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Corrosion resistant
  • White metal
  • Anti-magnetic
  • Temperature resistance

Benefits:

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Strength
  • Modern aesthetic
  • Sporty and casual style

4. PLATINUM – The Pinnacle of Prestige

Platinum is often regarded as the most prestigious material in luxury watchmaking. It is 30% rarer than gold and also denser, giving it a distinctive and substantial feel and a cool sheen. Platinum’s distinctive silvery-white colour makes it an ideal material for watch cases and bracelets. Its beauty and elegance are best suited for dresses and high-end timepieces.

Platinum is usually 95% pure and naturally white. It is generally alloyed with ruthenium to form 950 platinum.

Characteristics:

  • Highly durable
  • Rare
  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • White metal
  • Resistant to tarnish and fading
  • Corrosion resistant

Benefits:

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Value retention
  • Low maintenance
  • Long-lasting beauty & performance

5. CERAMIC – The Contemporary Contender

Ceramic has become increasingly popular in the luxury watch market due to its modern aesthetic and appealing properties. Made from zirconium oxide, this advanced non-metallic material is created through a heating and cooling process and has a unique matte finish that differentiates it from other materials.

Ceramic is a relatively modern material and can be produced in a wide range of colours, adding to its versatility and making it an attractive choice for enthusiasts. Brands like Rolex, Omega, Audemars Piguet and Hublot are leading the trend of using this versatile material in watchmaking.

Characteristics:

  • Extremely durable
  • Lightweight
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Heat & cold resistant
  • Resistant to fading

Benefits:

  • Durable
  • Easy to clean & maintain
  • Comfortable on the wrist
  • Hypoallergenic

6. CARBON FIBRE – Sleek Strength

Carbon fibre has become a preferred material in watchmaking for its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio and contemporary aesthetic. Its distinctive texture featuring grainy patterns provides a modern appearance to the watches, which are unique to each timepiece. Because of its various unique properties, carbon fibre is best suited for making sports and high-performance watches.

This material is mainly used for the case, dial, bezel, and bracelet components. Additionally, watches made of carbon fibre can be designed in various colours, including silver, black, and even bright colours like blue and green, to appeal to the crowd.

Characteristics:

  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Contemporary aesthetic
  • Temperature stability
  • Almost unbreakable

Benefits:

  • Hypoallergenic
  • Versatile
  • Sustainable

Richard Mille has long been a pioneer in using carbon composites in watchmaking. The brand developed Carbon TPT, a unique carbon composite composed of stacked layers of dry carbon fibres significantly stronger than carbon fibre. The first Richard Mille Carbon TPT came in a sleek black finish, but over the years, the brand has made multiple colours, including Gold Carbon TPT, infused with gold leaf.

7. BRONZE – Heritage Revived

Bronze has emerged as a popular option in watchmaking due to its unique ageing process, which cannot be forced. The bronze alloy naturally reacts and oxidises, creating nice stains on the metal called patina. Once primarily used for maritime instruments and exploration, bronze has firmly placed itself in modern horology, offering a unique blend of contemporary style and historical significance.

In its purest form, Bronze is a blend of 12% tin and 88% copper. There are numerous variations of bronze with different elements like silicon, aluminium, manganese, nickel, zinc and sometimes phosphorous based on the use and appearance of the item. Panerai was the first brand to offer bronze timepieces, followed by Tudor and many others.

Characteristics:

  • Unique patina
  • Durable
  • Warm aesthetic
  • Robust
  • Corrosion resistant

Benefits:

  • Versatile
  • Resilient
  • Vintage aesthetic

How To Choose The Best Luxury Watch Material?

With so many options, one question is sure to arise: which is the best material? First and foremost, the answer depends on your taste, preference and need.

Bronze with a green patina is not for everyone, and weight can be a crucial deciding factor for many aficionados. Some may prefer the robustness of stainless steel, while some like the glamour of gold. Therefore, no one answer fits all.

When shopping for a luxury watch, consider which material will meet your specific needs. The material of a watch will affect how, when, and where you wear the timepiece, so it’s important to ensure that you make the right decision.

FINAL WORDS

These are just a few examples of the diverse range of materials used in the luxury watch industry, each chosen for its unique properties and ability to enhance the overall performance of the timepiece. Moreover, many luxury watches are made up of more than one material and are popularly called ‘two-tone’ watches.

By understanding the advantages and characteristics of each material, you can select the luxury timepiece that reflects your individuality and stands the test of time.

Whichever material you choose for your watch, you’ll find an unmatched selection at Luxbrokers. We stock the best quality pre-owned watches from the world’s most iconic luxury watch brands, available for sale online and in-store. Check out the full collection here.

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