Choosing ceramics as the prime material for a watch rarely bring you to a breaking-news territory. Ceramic cases, bezels, dials or whatever have been around for quite a while. And yet there is hardly any technique or material in the industry that generates so much controversy, mysticism and blurred knowledge from the owner’s point of view. Let's break some false stereotypes and highlight the facts.
Let's start with the obvious advantages. Ceramic parts are almost scratch-proof, and when you take a timepiece produced some 30 years ago it usually looks completely new, aside from the obvious old-fashioned design-codes. Ceramics does not rust or burn out in the sunlight, it is completely hypoallergenic and even manages to quickly reach the body-temperature when you just put the watch on. Oh, and if you are after some serious bling, rest assured, any such ceramic case or bezel will flash in the light like the goldest of gold.As usual, it also works the opposite way. Resistant to any tiny damages, ceramics still remain vulnerable to a single strong blow. Where the steel or platinum watches get away with a subtle dent, ceramic ones can be destroyed completely. And yes, dropping a watch to the floor may result in dozens of tiny fragments. But again, when was the last time you dropped that pretty steel chronograph you are rocking today?
Formally, the name ‘ceramics’ can go to almost any material that does not relate to either metals or organics, and has been hardened as a result of exposure to high temperature followed by cooling. And yet its the common knowledge that the composites used in the watch industry have little in common with pottery from the archaeological museum.Perfectly understanding its design flaws, serious brands do not aspire to use ceramics in the production of small parts that constantly experience stress or friction. The base rule is very simple: the thicker the object – for example, the bezel or the bracelet link – the greater the force required to cause its critical destruction. Some manufactures try to take the best from several realms, mixing ceramics with steel or even gold. As a result, we’ve got amazing structures with the properties of both.The contribution of one particular brand to the development of global technology should be especially highlighted. The guys at Rado made their first steps in this direction way back in the 1960s with the now iconic DiaStar model. By the end of the 1980s they actually turned scratch resistance and monolithic case-and-bracelet designs into the cornerstone of their aesthetics. Even now, despite their vast and quite diverse catalog, the company is associated first and foremost with ceramics – just like Rolex with water-resistance, and Breitling with the aviation.Other brands, however, also did not stand aside: in the past 40 years, dozens of manufacturers in the range from Omega to IWC have produced some serious milestones of the genre. Can you imagine a classical dressy Da Vinci with a chronograph and a perpetual calendar in total black? Well, there was one, and now its considered an incredible vintage rarity. Huge credit in the popularization of ceramics at the turn of the millennium goes to Chanel J12 collection, which proved that ceramics can be successfully applied to the ladies' market.
When Rolex entered the game in the middle of 2000s, the place of ceramics in the arsenal of modern industry was not to be questioned any more. It turned out that combining different formulas and playing with temperature processing, you can get unique colors and shades. This, for example, explains the attraction of all the latest Daytona and GMT-Master II bezels, including the famous blue-black ‘Batman’ and red-blue ‘Pepsi’. Some latest wins of a color-revolution came from the guys at Hublot –thanks to the Big Bang Unico Red Magic or Big Bang Meca-10.As a rule, the most talked about novelties of the segment come from somewhere from the world of top-tier technologies: just look at the dazzling white Richard Mille RM 11-03 LMC, produced to honor the Le Mans Classic race, or over-the-top Rebellion Predator Chrono Sectorial Second Steel Ceramic. Black tones not only emphasize the texture of ceramic watches, but also give a completely unexpected look to even the most traditional designs. If you are turning to ceramics to surprise everyone, why not take it to the limit, right? Even the classic ‘eight’ layout of Jaquet Droz of the Grande Seconde Power Reserve Black Ceramic Clous De Paris seems almost like something out of this world. This equally goes to the original sporty chic of Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar in black ceramics or its direct competitor Girard Perregaux Laureato.
Sure, when comparing to steel or gold ceramics are much more difficult to process, and even harder to decorate. Its more expensive than the usual steel, and any serious cosmetic damage can not be corrected during a regular routine visit to the service workshop. But people buy luxury watches to feel the ticking of a technological miracle on the wrist, right? Admiration by its nature doesn’t tolerate a half-way. And if its a take-it-or- leave-it situation, we’re definitely in.
Oct. 22, 2018