Series Watch Cases: Ceramic Watches

Manufacture And Characteristics Of The Housing Material

Fascinating shine, tremendous scratch resistance and a soft wearing feel: these are the characteristics of high-tech ceramics, which can not be imagined without the vision of a watchmaker and the innovation in material research from the watch world. Watch cases are now available in many different materials. In this series of series watch cases: Ceramic watches.

Ceramic Is The Trademark Of Rado

The scratch-resistant watch design is a trademark of Rado. In 1962, the DiaStar 1 was the first scratch-resistant watch in the world. But hardness alone was not enough for the watchmaker; he also insisted on consistency, beauty, brilliance, and skin-friendliness. In the 1980s, the Rado engineers met a material that met all these requirements but had not yet been used for watches and jewelery until this time: high-tech ceramics. At the time, she had already proved her resilience: As a heat shield of the Spaceshuttle, high-tech ceramics protect against the enormous temperatures during the re-entry of the spaceship into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Starting material for high-tech ceramics is high-purity zirconium oxide or titanium carbide powder with a grain size of about one thousandth of a millimeter. This corresponds to about a fifth of the thickness of a human hair. This powder is pressed into corresponding molds (as varied as the watch parts – band members, housing, closure elements or crowns – as diverse as the molds) and subsequently compacted into a scratch-resistant ceramic part in a sintering furnace at 1,450 degrees Celsius.

Ceramic Watches Have A Wide Color Spectrum

The high-tech ceramic parts for Rado watches are developed by the company Comadur in Le Locle, which is part of the Swatch Group. In addition to black high-tech ceramics, it is possible to offer high-purity, high-melting and harmless color oxides to the starting material.Rado has developed a wide range of colors – from white to platinum and gold to yellow, Bordeaux and blue. Its typical luster is given by high-tech ceramics by the final polishing with diamond dust.

The introduction of Rado into high-tech ceramics took place in 1986 with the DiaStar Integral. While this watch was “only” equipped with a band of scratch-resistant ceramic parts, three years later it was possible to produce both the band and the case and crown of a watch made of high-tech ceramics – at the DiaStar Ceramica. In the Ceramica family, Rado has also applied Ceramic Injection Molding (CIM) for the first time. In this process, the ceramic powder is homogenized, prepared into granules and then molded by injection molding.

Rado Is Still A Pioneer In Ceramic Watches

This allows more complex and exact elements to be produced. In terms of material, Rado continued to research and sought the new hardness of a diamond. The coating was applied with tiny diamond particles: Polished hard metal watch components are covered with nanocrystalline diamonds – their size is ten nanometers, ie 0.00001 millimeters – until they are coated with a transparent, homogenous protective shield which ultimately has the highest scratch resistance of a real diamonds.

In 2012, Rado introduced models of extremely light, scratch-resistant silicon nitride ceramics for the first time. The development of this material leads to the modelHyperChrome Ultralight, which was presented at the Baselworld in 2016. The 43 millimeter housing of the timepiece consists of silicon nitride in its simplest version with titanium inserts. This material is particularly light, so the HyperChrome Ultra-Light weighs only 56 grams, and also offers protection against corrosion as well as wear. The ceramic clock costs 3,050 euros.

Also to Baselworld 2016, Rado presented its flat ceramic model True Thinline as a skeleton watch. The True Thinline Skeleton measures 7.8 millimeters in height and 40 millimeters in diameter. The special feature is that the case, the bezel and even the bracelet of the watch are made of ceramic. The drive is driven by the automatic caliber Eta 2892. The Rado True Thinline Skeleton is available for 4,850 euros.

Audemars Piguet Also Manufactures Ceramic Watches

In addition to Rado, Audemars Piguet is one of the first watch manufacturers to use ceramics. 1986 began with ceramic bracelets, 20 years later  the first ceramic bezel was used in the Royal Oak Offshore Rubens Barrichello. Finishing of such a bezel at Audemars Piguet takes up about 30 percent of the total production time since all polishing operations are carried out by hand.

Depending on the model, the Swiss manufactory uses black or white ceramics. Black ceramic is a zirconium oxide stabilized by yttrium oxide and roughly seven times as hard as stainless steel. White ceramic is a zirconium oxide reinforced by alumina. This type of ceramic is much harder than the black one – nine times harder than stainless steel, which is why ten per cent higher costs are incurred in production.

Unlike Rado, Audemars Piguet does not produce its ceramic parts by a pressing or casting process but instead obtains the desired shapes by cutting or grinding. Starting with a ceramic rod which already has the right hardness. In 2011, the company also used ceramic for the case part at the Chronographe Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger the Legacy. Three years later, a Royal Oak Offshore Diver  of white ceramics appeared, which, in addition to the case and the bezel, also had a crown made of this material.

Further Manufacturers Of Ceramic Watches: Rolex, Omega And Seiko

Almost at the same time as Audemars Piguet, Rolex designed a ceramic bezel, called theCerachrom bezel. This drill consists of a ceramic, the basic material of which consists of zirconia or alumina powder. In addition to scratch resistance and corrosion resistance, their colors are UV-resistant. In 2011 Rolex further developed the bezel and presented a Cerachrom monoblock bezel with the Cosmograph Daytona model in 18 karat Everose gold. With a two-color drumming – 2013 in blue and black, in red and blue in 2014 – Rolex succeeded in transferring the bi-color of the original GMT master to modernity.

The Swiss brand produces the Cerachrom bezel entirely in-house: the first-color ceramic ring is produced by a single-colored ring. To convert half of red to blue or blue to black, half of the ring is impregnated with a solution consisting of several chemical compounds. The solution is added before sintering. In the furnace, the ceramic compacted and the added chemical compounds react with the basic substance, resulting in the desired coloration.

With stainless steel case and Cerachrom monobloc bezel, Rolex presented the Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona at Baselworld 2016. The tachymeter scale of the bezel is engraved and is filled with a platinum layer by PVD method. The first steel-daytona with ceramic bezel is available with a dial in black or white, its housing measures 40 millimeters.It houses the Rolex automatic movement 4130. The stainless steel model with scratch-resistant ceramic bezel costs 11,300 euros.

Also, Omega uses ceramics. In 2016, the brand ceramics were used as housings for the first time in the Seamaster Planet Ocean. The Seamaster Planet Ocean “Deep Black” is a diving watch with a second time zone. To make the watch watertight, Omega developed a stable and sealing floor system, which is made of ceramic as well as the bezel and crown.Inside the ceramic clock ticks the internal automatic caliber 8906. The Seamaster Planet Ocean “Deep Black” costs 10.300 euros.

The Japanese watchmaker Seiko uses ceramics in the new, sporty models of the Grand Seiko luxury line. The outer housing and the bezel of the timepieces are made of the scratch-resistant material. The interior of the watches of the Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition is made of light titanium. The manufactory caliber 9R96 allows a stop function, a second time zone and date and gear reserve display. Only 500 copies of the Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition are available, they cost 14.900 euros each.

Gallery

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