Metallic Watches

by Time&Style Staff

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The gold standard in watches isn’t always necessarily gold. 

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Black on Black

The very first black-coloured metal watches debuted in the 1970s, and they’ve been pure sport watches ever since. To this day, the most popular technique for fusing black to steel is a process that chemically bonds particles to a base using what is known as physical vapour deposition (PVD). For ultimate scratch resistance, opt for something with an ultra-hard ceramic case or bezel, increasingly available in a wide array of colours.

Carrera Calibre 36 Flyback “Racing Edition” ($8,900) by TAG Heuer; HyperChrome UTC Automatic, with ceramic monobloc case, ceramic bracelet and titanium and ceramic three-fold clasp ($3,300) by RADO; Classic Black Automatic, with PVD-coated steel case ($3,800) by David Yurman. Available at David Yurman Yorkdale boutique.

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Heavy Metal

The classic measure of a wristwatch was weighing it in your palm. Gold weighs more than steel, and it was thought that the better a watch, the more it weighed relative to its size. Many of today’s gold watches would fare well under such traditional measures of value. A solid modern 18-k or rose-gold watch isn’t something you’ll forget you’re wearing on your wrist.

Aqua Terra RG/RG annual calendar silver dial, with 18K red-gold bracelet ($35,900) by Omega; Marine Chronometer Manufactured with 18-karat rose-gold case and bracelet ($55,500) by Ulysse Nardin.

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Alloy Allure

Dress watches, a sleek combination of elegance and tradition that feels historical without looking old, should be both physically and visually light. Animal-skin straps such as calf leather or alligator are good choices for a dress watch to wear with a suit. Perhaps surprisingly, one material very rarely used for watch cases is sterling silver. The less expensive cousin to gold is a precious metal that you’ll mostly find inside watches used as a base for dials. Silver is both a soft metal and prone to tarnishing. Unlike gold, silver alloys are rare. One exception that has recently found its way into watches is the silver alloy Argentium, which is stronger and more wear-resistant.

Dressage Chronograph in steel with Havana alligator strap ($8,750) by Hermès; WW1 Argentium with grey alligator leather strap ($5,900) by Bell & Ross.

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Gold Plus

It used to be that your watch was typically either gold or steel, but today it has become popular for watchmakers to mix a range of materials into a single case design. Some brands call it “fusion,” and it isn’t uncommon for watch cases to be proudly touted as made from three or more materials. A popular mix is black-coloured PVD steel and 18-k rose-gold (such as in this Concord C1 Chronograph), or titanium and gold. You’ll sometimes find rubber or ceramic elements—including new proprietary alloys— mixed in as well. Zalium anyone?

C1 Chronograph with 18-k rose-gold case, black ceramic accents and black rubberized alligator strap ($37,900) by Concord.

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Classic Steel

Be it a chronograph or a simple threehander, a good steel watch on a bracelet has no comparison when it comes to wardrobe versatility. No wonder they represent the majority of watches sold. Scared about scratches? Chanel’s ceramic compound called Chromatic comes close to looking like metal but is lighter and more wear-resistant.

Grantour Chrono Fly-Back, with polished satin finish steel case and black-lacquered steel bezel ($4,730) by Tudor; Timewalker with ceramic and steel case and bracelet ($6,935) by Montblanc, Available at Montblanc Toronto boutique; Gc-1 Class X90004G5S watch, with 316L stainless-steel case ($850) by Gc; J12 Chromatic watch with titanium ceramic case and bracelet ($6,600) by Chanel; Freelancer, with stainless steel case ($3,150) by Raymond Weil, Available at European Jewellery; Tambour eVolution GMT with steel bracelet ($7,950) by Louis Vuitton.