Watch companies over the last century have continuously experimented with watch materials. From precious metals to creating their own “carbo-tech,” watches can be made out of almost anything. One of these unique materials is ceramic. This material can be found in the bracelet, case and bezel of a watch. But what really is ceramic?
What Is Ceramic In Watches
The ceramic material used in watches is different than the typical ceramic that comes to mind. Ceramic is defined as any material that is inorganic, nonmetallic and solid. This high tech material is much different than the fragile ceramic typically found in cookware or pottery.
Brands engineer ceramics using pure materials and compounds of metals to create the durable element found on the watch. Some brands combine the powder with different alloys to create a unique variation of the material.
Brands Using Ceramic
Hublot uses ceramic combined with metals to create their Cermet. They also developed Magic Gold, which is the strongest certified 18k gold material produced. This was created by utilizing the minuscule pores in ceramic and filling them in with pure 24k gold. This molten gold is poured into the ceramic under high pressure, filling the cavities. The Swiss Central Office for Precious Metals Control determined that the Magic Gold is 75% pure gold, allowing Hublot to call it an 18k gold material.
Rolex is another brand utilizing ceramics in their designs. Rolex first produced their “Batman” Black and Blue bezel in ceramic in 2013; Rolex had been using a single-tone Cerachrom bezel since 2005. The “Pepsi” Red and Blue bezel on the standout GMT-Master II in the recent 2014 release of the model is created with the two-toned ceramic bezel. While ceramics are easier to produce in dark colors, it is difficult to produce in light colors such as the red and blue used by Rolex. Their Cerachrom ceramic inserts are far superior to the classic metal bezels used in older models. The ceramic retains the color and is scratch-resistant; this means the bezel will always keep its “brand new” look.
Making the two toned bezel requires a patented process that starts the bezel off as one color and then adding a second before it hardens. Rolex is the only brand known to produce something like this, its so difficult they even patented the process.
Ceramic is one of the hardest class of materials known meaning that engineering the material is extremely hard. On the other hand, because it is so tough, it’s difficult to scratch. Ceramic is pressed into the desired shape. The pre-formed pieces are then baked at an extremely high temperature. After the ceramic is finished cooling, it is milled into the desired shape and polished. During this heating and cooling process, ceramics can be changed into a variety of colors and often get coated with a very fine layer of a precious metal.
Pros Of Ceramics
Ceramic boasts a hardness that is unlike any traditional watch metal, such as stainless steel or gold. It is considered to be scratch proof and to not show signs of wearing, even after years. Ceramic is also unaffected by the ultraviolet rays produced by the sun, meaning that their colors won’t fade. Many brands choose to use ceramics in sport and dive models as it can withstand chemical erosion and is anti-magnetic.
Even though ceramic is strong and looks like it would be heavy on the wrist, it is actually lightweight and rivals aluminum on the scale. The light weight of the material also makes the watch comfortable to wear. You won’t need to worry about your wrist being weighed down!
Almost all ceramic watches don’t contain any sort of coating or metals. This means that even people with sensitive skin can still wear a ceramic case or band on their watch without having to worry about the allergic reaction that may follow.
Cons Of Ceramics
While ceramic is extremely durable and can resist scratches and common damages, due to the molecular structure it is not resistant to shattering. If a ceramic case falls onto a hard surface from a few feet or more, there is a good chance that it may shatter.
Difficult To Work With
While this part doesn’t effect the wearer, the companies do have to work hard to get the ceramic just right. The heating and cooling process is time consuming and difficult to control and machine. Once molded, the ceramic still needs to undergo a polishing to smooth out the surface.
Finding Ceramic Watches
Whether just the bezel, case, bracelet or a combination of them all, many brands choose to use ceramic in a variety of their watch models. You’ll find Rolex using cerachrom, their patented ceramic material, in the bezel of specific professional models. Many brands including IWC and Hublot and Omega use ceramic for their sports models.
Because of the difficult process of producing ceramic materials for watches, this puts the price range in between a stainless steel model and a precious metal model. Regardless, many brands are using ceramics and the material has quickly risen to be one of the trendiest materials found in watches today. The high demand for the contemporary ceramic watch comes out of the durability and availability of colors; this high-tech material seems to be here to stay.