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Technique  - The heart of the matter

Technique The heart of the matter

During an edition rich brimming with novel features and new models, Watches & Wonders 2021 placed innovative materials back in the spotlight. This is excellent news, as most of them have an impact on how watches feel

A fter an 18-month hiatus, inventing alloys, composites and mixtures of materials has once again become a means for brands to prove their inventiveness and their ability to look to the future as well as to enhance wearer comfort. This is a new way of affirming that watches are sensorial and sometimes sensual objects.

Resisting

Within this context, IWC has created the Big Pilot’s Watch Shock Absorber XPL. An ultra-light aluminum movement is mounted on a spring made of titanium and BMG (Bulk Metallic Glass) – a metal featuring a structure similar to that of glass, allowing extreme fracture-resistant abilities – all housed in a ceratanium case. This titanium-based metal-structured ceramic completes the piece’s proven ability to withstand forces of up to 30,000 g, which is more than double the best existing performance.

The heart of the matter

RM 21-01 Aerodyne © Richard Mille

Appropriating

In the 2000s, many of the new materials – or those imported into the watch industry from other fields where they had been created – had taken on the names of the brands using them. Sometimes representing simple alloys, often provided by suppliers, they had been registered for the exclusive benefit of their users. Purnell has resumed this branding practice with its WPM, for White Purnell Microfiber, which is light, resistant and perfectly white. Montblanc, for its part, has named a yellow gold with a touch of iron Lime Gold 18K, adding a slightly green touch to its 1858 Split Second Chronograph, enhanced with lime-colored hands and appliques.

The heart of the matter

Escape Primo © Purnell

Naming

Conversely, Richard Mille makes a point of referring to existing materials by their actual names, especially if they are intriguing. The new RM 21-01 Aerodyne thus features a baseplate made of Haynes 214. Composed of nickel, chromium, aluminum and iron, this steel-like alloy is used in critical aerospace components subject to extreme temperatures and oxidation such as the RM 21-01 will never endure. Nonetheless, the shape of this alloy, a honeycomb pattern with a slightly stretched profile, provides both structural rigidity and technical desirability. The logic is the same at Panerai, which is pursuing its EcoTitanium experiment, composed of over 80% recycled metal. As for Corum’s Admiral, it is moving upmarket with the use of a multi-layer carbon composite intermingled with gold flakes.

The heart of the matter

Admiral 45 Automatic © Corum

Rethinking

These examples recall a fundamental watch industry leverage factor: the ability to redefine what precious is. Omega has introduced a new bronze alloy for its new Seamaster 300 Bronze Gold.

La matière au cœur

Seamaster 300 Bronze Gold © Omega

It is composed of 37.5% pure gold, supplemented by silver and palladium, making it basically a 9K gold – which is not particularly valuable as this metal goes. The figures are however good on paper when it comes to bronze, which offers the added benefit of a slowly acquired patina.

The heart of the matter

1858 Split Second Chronograph © Mont blanc

Transcending

The problem with silver watches is that this metal tarnishes too much to suit contemporary requirements. A few models had attempted to stage a comeback of this almost precious material, but these efforts were either anecdotal or aborted. Tudor has decided to revive the cold gray gleam of the alloy with the legal fineness 925 for 1000 with its Black Bay Fifty-Eight 925. In the last 75 thousandths, the brand has replaced the traditionally used copper with another metal – kept a closely guarded secret – that protects the Black Bay from the inside.

Staging

Playing with compositions and materials is an art, which does not exclude sleight of hand, as Roger Dubuis reminds us with its Glow Me Up! By day, it is an Excalibur Flying Tourbillon featuring a bezel set with baguette-cut diamonds. But by coating the rail holding these stones with Super-LumiNova, the brand has turned it into a nighttime show starring stones that glow in shades of blue, green, yellow and purple. While some might call it a discostyle approach to precious watchmaking, who would have imagined being able to enjoy the brilliance of diamonds in the dark.

The heart of the matter

Glow Me Up! © Roger Dubuis

As a World Tempus reader, we are delighted to offer you the latest digital version of this GMT magazine that you can download here. Happy reading!

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