Last year, Borro Blog took a brief look at the rise in the use of ‘new watch materials’: Kevlar, carbon billets, sapphire cases, and silicon in abundance are so ubiquitous, detractors of such novelty are clamouring to proclaim these avant-garde practices dull as dishwater. But are they justified in doing so? Is the idea of new materials getting old fast?
Beauty is Skin Deep
As true as it is that the predominant industry trends this year seem to be the use of bright colours (blue dials are still a big crutch for many brands scrabbling around for ideas), the reversion to more classically sized and styled watches, and a renewed interest in truly original design, the use of unusual materials is not going anywhere any time soon.
A lot of well-known, more risk-averse brands are leaning on the malleability of alternative watch materials to release ‘new’ versions of old watches with a different case material, relying of course on the established following the updated models given this treatment already enjoy.
SIHH saw a large number of classic models reimagined in new watch materials, most notably ceramic, titanium, and bronze. All three materials offer a vastly different appearance, while not requiring any fundamental design changes.
There are advantages to all three from an aesthetic standpoint, but each requires vastly different tooling to machine. Consumers should also note the difference in longevity between these watch materials and the more established use of steel and gold.
Steel is still, by far and a way, the best long-term prospect, but titanium comes in ahead of gold in terms of wearability. That said, of the three modish materials mentioned her, titanium was the first to the party by many, many years. So much so, in fact, that it’s hard to view it as a ‘new’ material: It is only new in terms of its application to classics that have otherwise been crafted from the industry staples.
In short, there is still a place for a variety of materials used in myriad creative ways in watchmaking. Sometimes they are intended to shock their audience into a passion-driven purchase (if you remember the stampede of Speedy lovers, who found themselves suddenly and inexplicably blown away by the Omega Dark Side of the Moon, you’ll know what I mean).
A classic reborn for a modern audience is an attractive prospect. Whether these novelties will ever have the same collectability or investment potential of their antecedents remains to be seen. Keep your eyes peeled, though: If one of these new kids on the block finds a loyal following, the first iterations of its kind could become classics in their own right.
About the Author: Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.