Carmakers for some time have been using the properties of steel, aluminium and magnesium and mating them with composite materials to make stronger, lighter and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Indeed, they are constantly searching for new methods and materials. Same with the watch industry. But only a handful of watchmakers have invented their own alloys and the like to make stronger, lighter and more scratch-resistant substances.
American watch magazine Watch Time takes a look at six brands that invented their own alloys by combining different metals.
It spent years developing Ceragold, a material blending ceramic and 18k gold and used to create ceramic bezels with gold numbers that are smooth to the touch, as in the Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Ceragold.
The Omega Constellation Sedna (top) features a case crafted in 18k Sedna gold, an alloy developed by the Swatch Group. It blends gold, copper and palladium for a long-lasting reddish hue.
The alloy requires a minimum gold content of 75 per cent, along with a precise portion of copper, to create the vibrant red color, while the palladium strengthens the material’s luster and makes it longer-lasting.
“Sedna” is the name of a Trans-Neptunian object — i.e, a body in space that orbits the sun at a greater average distance than the planet Neptune — whose surface has been described as one of the reddest in the Solar System.
One of its inventions is Rolesium, a combination of 904L stainless steel superalloy and 950 platinum. Rolesium was used in the 40-mm diameter Oyster case of the Rolex Yacht Master pictured here.
Rolex also developed Cerachrom, an extra-hard, corrosion-resistant ceramic used on the bezels of the Rolex Submariner and the 50th Anniversary Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, the chronometer synonymous with the 24-hour motor race in Florida.
The movement of the 50th Anniversary Daytona also features a hairspring made of blue Parachrom, an alloy of niobium, zirconium, and oxygen uncommonly resistant to magnetic fields and said to remain stable through temperature variations and be 10 times less susceptible to shocks.
As part of its “fusion” philosophy, Hublot has developed several of its own materials. Among them are Cermet, which mixes ceramic and metal, and Hublonium, an alloy composed of magnesium and aluminum.
The brand also created a hard, scratch-resistant gold alloy known as Magic Gold. Made of 75% pure gold, Magic Gold is made by a process in which gold is melted and fused with ceramic (which is porous and harder than gold), resulting in a harder gold. An example is Hublot’s Big Bang Ferrari Magic Gold.
The Japanese company spent five years developing a special alloy called Spron 610, which has greater resistance to shocks and magnetism than standard alloys.
It’s used in the hairsprings of several of its in-house movements, including Caliber 9S86 in the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36,000 GMT model.
The brand developed another alloy, Spron 530, for use in the caliber’s mainspring. Spron 530 enables the spring to withstand the stronger torque required by the movement’s high-frequency balance and contributes to the watch’s impressive power reserve of 55 hours.
A. LANGE & SOHNE:
The German company developed a proprietary alloy that it calls “Honey Gold,” whose composition is a closely guarded secret and which resembles warm, shiny brass.
Lange CEO Wilhelm Schmidt has said that because of the difficulty in machining cases in this scratch-resistant material, it will be used only in very small quantities and in very special pieces, such as the limited-edition Lange 1815 Moonphase “Homage to F.A. Lange,” pictured here.
Its PowerLite alloy is composed of five elements — aluminum, magnesium, titanium, zirconium, and ceramics — and specially engineered to provide for a wide palette of color treatments.
PowerLite reacts much better than other aluminum alloys to anodizing, the surface color treatment used in vehicles, aircraft and architecture, and weighs half as much as steel but is twice as hard.
Maurice Lacroix uses PowerLite for the colorful cases and bezels of its sports watches.