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rado captain cook

Alternative Case Materials In Watchmaking: Beyond Steel and Gold!

Steel and gold are ubiquitous when it comes to watch cases, and that’s not surprising—they are excellent, versatile materials for crafting high-end cases. For most people, steel represents the perfect balance of toughness, affordability, and performance while for those looking to add some sauce to their wrist-game, gold is the go-to luxury material. True watch aficionados, however, know that there are several other alternatives to steel and gold that yield truly unique watch cases.

Bronze Gold

Metallurgists in ancient Greece created an alloy of copper, gold, and silver known as Corinthian Bronze, which was thought to be as precious as gold itself. The master watchmakers at Omega have crafted their own exclusive, one-of-a-kind alloy— that transcends the work of those ancient metallurgists. Omega’s Bronze Gold was specifically developed to produce a pleasing aesthetic and soft pink hue, with superior corrosion resistance. Without verdigris-oxidation, it ages slowly and retains its natural, beautiful patina over a longer period of time. Bronze gold can be found in several Omega pieces, including the Speedmaster Chronoscope.

omega speedmaster chronoscope


Ceramic makes a superior watch case material due to its amazing hardness—three to four times harder than steel, in fact. Despite that hardness, ceramic is surprisingly light, which makes it ideal for comfort on the wrist. Ceramic also has excellent wear resistance, and is not prone to scratches. The ceramic used for the Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver has a sleek, luxurious look and feel. There’s a common notion that ceramic is prone to chipping or cracking but modern ceramics – specifically formulated to resist this problem – would require a serious blow to be damaged in this way.


Sapphire Crystal

Possibly the most mind-blowing case material of recent years is sapphire crystal. Transparent, lab-formulated sapphire began replacing various plastics commonly used for watch crystals in the 1980s. Recent years have seen watchmakers experimenting with sapphire beyond crystals, endeavoring to make entire watch cases out of the stuff!  These sapphire crystal watch cases have a particular brilliance that must be seen to be believed. As the second-hardest material known to man (surpassed only by diamonds) sapphire is nearly scratch-proof. While sapphire crystal is a stunning material to work with in the creation of watch cases, it is also an extremely complex and time consuming process. As an example, the case of the Girard Perregaux Laureato Absolute Light requires an astounding 170 hours of complicated, intricate work to complete.


While titanium is 30% stronger than stainless steel, it’s only about half as heavy, which makes it extraordinarily well-suited for watch cases. It’s also hypoallergenic, non-magnetic, and extremely corrosion-resistant. The hypoallergenic properties make titanium perfect for those prone to skin allergies, and that corrosion resistance makes titanium an excellent material for underwater use, such as diver watches. Titanium also has a unique look and color that stands out from other watches. Titanium, like steel, can be brushed or polished giving it an elevated profile for those who prefer a more dynamic look to their watch case.


Carbon Fiber

One of the more exotic materials used in watch case making is carbon fiber. A relatively new addition to the world of advanced cases, carbon fiber can be difficult to work with. Thus, few manufacturers have ever dared to attempt using this fickle stuff. Extremely durable, it requires high temperatures and exact processes to form. Because of it’s unforgiving nature in its creation, many carbon fiber cases are one single piece! The appearance of the material however is wholly unique, and hints at the space-age attributes of this lightweight, scratch-resistant material.


The singular beauty and luster of platinum’s silver-white color makes it a stunning material for luxury watch cases. As the rarest precious metal with properties suitable for watchmaking, platinum has a value that exceeds that of gold (it’s actually 30 times rarer). Platinum does not fade or tarnish, is highly durable and scratch resistant. Also, much like titanium, platinum is hypoallergenic. Additionally, to the untrained eye, platinum looks like steel meaning you can fly under the radar, without overly broadcasting that you’re wearing a precious metal!


Discover these and other luxury watches at Feldmar. Browse our online store or stop into our flagship location.

About The Author: Tom Roth


Born in Washington state, Tom developed an interest in photography during college at University of San Diego. There, he got started in music journalism, interviewing artists and taking photos at concerts. A life-long tinkerer and collector, it wasn’t long before Tom became fascinated with fountain pens and watches.

Those interests collided in November 2020 when Tom started at Feldmar Watch Company where he lives out every watch geek’s dream: photographing and writing about timepieces. When he’s not tinkering with his watch collection, Tom can be found traveling, biting his nails while watching PNW sports teams, and taking flying lessons.

Read more from Tom Roth

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