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All About Watches: Metals

Here are the most common metals used to make watch casings.

Marcus Cagleby Marcus Cagle

Watch casings are predominantly made from one or several types of metals. But which ones exactly? Some are precious no-brainers, others are lesser-known options, while others still may come as a surprise all together. Each ultimately has its own characteristics – cost included. These features are worth bearing in mind before deciding to look for a watch for yourself or as a gift to someone else.

STEEL

steel-watch

The cheapest of the metals used in watchmaking, stainless steel is the standard issue material of the industry. Stainless steel watches are subsequently less expensive than watches made using other metals. The kind of steel blended for watchmaking can incite an allergic reaction, however, so it’s not a material for everyone. Steel is also prone to scratching, however it’s also the easiest to refurbish second to platinum.

SILVER

silver-watch

Believe it or not, but true silver watches are practically non-existent. Why, it’s not exactly certain, but it may have to do with how easily silver tarnishes. Instead most people looking for silver-colored watches wind up with stainless steel (see above,) white gold, or platinum (see below.) Many gold offshoots require silver to be mixed into the alloy – white gold surprisingly enough is not one of them, while yellow and rose gold do in fact call for silver.

TITANIUM

Omega Planet Ocean watch worn during filming of James Bond movie

Lighter than steel but slightly more expensive, titanium is a growing favorite among watchmakers and wearers for its durability, unique color, and ability to be alloyed with aluminum or palladium. The downside to these features are that the metal can scratch easy despite its strength, the dark-gray hue can seem dull to some, and even though it’s almost half the weight of steel, titanium is heavy to wear on the wrist.

GOLD

gold-watch

The many varieties of gold dominate the high-end watch market. Pure gold casing is rarely sought after, but it’s out there. Most people prefer pure gold alloyed with silver and copper to produce yellow gold, or combined with nickel, copper, and palladium to make white gold. A growing favorite among watch collectors are pieces made from “rose gold” – a mix of gold with copper and silver. The downside to all these options? The hefty price tags subject to sudden change thanks to the ever-dramatic gold market. Oh and the heft in general: gold is one heavy metal.

PLATINUM

platinum-watch

The most precious of all precious metals, platinum casing is highly sought after by high-end watch collectors and casual wearers with the means to afford the metal. Not only does it fill the niche silver is mysteriously absent from, platinum is magnificently durable. Unlike other metals, where scratches and constantly brushing against surfaces causes bits of the watch casing surface to break off, platinum is only moved a little by these impacts. Thus platinum watches can always be made to look like new again. Being the most sought after of all metals on Earth – 30 times harder to find than gold – platinum watches are usually the most expensive timepieces on sale.

Watches are made from an assortment of materials, but metal remains the traditional choice for casing. Varying from very common to incredibly rare, the metals most often used in the making of watches each have their own traits. Depending on taste, everyone has their favorite.