If you’re reading this blog, chances are you a luxury watch fan. And if you are, you will have no doubt noticed the increased use of ceramic as a material on high-end timepieces. From Rolex to Hublot to Audemars Piguet to Omega to Chanel to Richard Mille, ceramic is just about everywhere. But why is ceramic the latest must-have material in the luxury watch space? Read on to find why ceramic luxury watches are becoming increasingly popular.
Why is Ceramic Used on Luxury Watches?
Ceramic as a material (zirconium oxide to be exact) is prized in modern watchmaking for several reasons. Not only does it look awesome–especially when it comes in bright colors like red, green, and blue–it’s a tough material that is scratch resistant. As anyone who wears an expensive watch can attest, getting a daily watch scratched and dinged is part and parcel of wearing one.
However, ceramic is pretty much scratchproof, so in theory, a ceramic watch will retain its fresh looks longer. Plus, ceramic is also resistant to fading, which makes it an ideal material to use on sports watches and dive watches. Think of vintage Rolex Submariner watches and how faded the aluminum bezel gets after decades of being out in the sun. That just doesn’t happen with ceramic bezels.
Engineering ceramic to use in watches is not easy, especially when working with different colored ceramic alloys. This is why ceramic watches are typically more expensive than let’s say, stainless steel watches. Some brands also mix ceramic with other materials, such as gold, to create interesting alloys. For instance, Omega combines gold and ceramic to produce their patented “Ceragold” material, while Hublot created their patented “Magic Gold” material, another patented formula for mixing gold and ceramic. Remember, gold is a soft material that scratches easily. so mixing it with ceramic is a clever way to keep scratches at bay.
Rolex Ceramic Watches
While Rolex does not produce full ceramic watches, they do make plenty of watches with ceramic bezels. But this being Rolex, they don’t use just standard ceramic, but in fact, their own patented ceramic alloy, which the company has named Cerachrom.
Cerachrom as a Rolex material made its debut in 2005 on the then-new 18k yellow gold GMT-Master II ref. 116718LN. When Cerachrom was first introduced, Rolex was quick to admit that because it was such a tough material to work with, it would be impossible to make a bi-colored ceramic bezel. This was, of course, disappointing to hear since the bi-color bezels of the GMT-Master pilot watch–blue and red “Pepsi,” black and red “Coke,” and brown and gold “Root Beer” bezels–are just as famous as the watch itself. However, Rolex did eventually make ceramic bezels in two tones and even launched a new stainless steel GMT-Master II Pepsi just this year.
Since its release on the GMT-Master II in 2005, the scratchproof and fade resistant Cerachrom ceramic bezel has found its way on other popular Rolex sports watches, such as the Submariner, Sea-Dweller, Yacht-Master II, and of course, the Daytona. In fact, the stainless steel Daytona ref. 116500LN with the Cerachrom ceramic bezel quickly became the hottest watch release of 2016 and is still almost impossible to get.
Hublot Ceramic Watches
With a tagline that states, “The Art of Fusion,” Hublot clearly positions themselves as a watch brand that combines innovative materials and mechanical mastery. So it comes as so surprise that the Swiss watch brand would use plenty of ceramic in their bold watch designs. At Baselworld this year, Hublot released the Big Bang Unico Red Magic–with a watch case made almost entirely in red ceramic.
While their red ceramic watch made headlines, Hublot has been a fan of using ceramic on their watches for a while. Take for example this Hublot Big Bang King ref. 22. lm.100.RX, which a massive 48mm palladium case topped with a black ceramic bezel. Or this ladies’ Hublot Big Bang Tutti Frutti Black Rose with a black ceramic case embellished with 48 baguette-cut pink sapphires. Or this limited-edition Hublot F1 King Power the brand made to celebrate their partnership with Formula One with a black ceramic case. The choices of Hublot ceramic watches are certainly varied.
Chanel Ceramic Watches
While there were other watch brands already using ceramic, when Chanel launched their J12 timepiece in 2000, their ceramic watches became the must-have luxury watch to own–particularly for women. In true Channel fashion, the first unisex J12 watch was an all-black version. The full ceramic watch was applauded for its use of the tough material, as well as its sporty vibe and clean lines.
Following the success of that inaugural Chanel J12 watch, the brand went on to release other versions of the J12 including chronograph models, white ceramic J12 watches, and lavish diamond editions.
It’s clear that the use of ceramic in luxury watches shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, more and more high-end watch brands are experimenting with different varieties of ceramic alloys, whether that’s offered different colored versions or blending them with other materials. To that, we say the more the merrier because we love a solid yet luxurious ceramic watch!