We’re all familiar with the most popular materials for watch cases — steel, rose gold, titanium, et cetera. But what about Rolesium, Ceragold, and Powerlite? While many watch brand take great pride in making their own cases, movements and dials, only a handful have gone the extra mile and actually invented their own materials, mostly for use in cases, but sometimes even for parts inside the watch. Many of these have come about as watch brands invested in developing new alloys in an effort to make stronger, lighter, and/or more scratch-resistant substances. Below we take a look at 11 brands that have invented their own alloys by combining different metals.
One of the metals developed by Rolex is a material known as 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 seen here.
Rolex also developed Cerachrom, which it has used on the bezels of the Rolex Submariner and the 50th Anniversary Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, which was launched at Baselworld 2013. Cerachrom is an extra-hard, corrosion-resistant ceramic; Cerachrom bezels have engraved numerals and graduations coated with a thin layer of platinum via a PVD (physical vapor deposition) process. Rolex has also used Cerachrom for the bezel of its redesigned Daytona, which debuted last year.
The movement of the 50th Anniversary Rolex Cosmograph Daytona also features a hairspring made of blue Parachrom, another Rolex-exclusive material that is uncommonly resistant to magnetic fields. Hairsprings made of Parachrom, an alloy of niobium, zirconium, and oxygen, are said to remain stable through temperature variations and be much less susceptible to shocks, remaining, according to Rolex, 10 times more precise in case of shocks than a traditional hairspring.
While it’s not a metal per se, we’re giving an honorable mention to Rado’s plasma high-tech ceramic, from the Swiss watchmaker most associated with popularizing the use of ceramics in high horology. The company uses a patented, cutting-edge process to forge this colorful, metallic material, which starts out as standard, finished white ceramic, in an oven at extreme high temperatures — with gases activated at 20,000°C to raise the temperature of the ceramic to 900°C, imparting a warm, shiny metallic glow and allowing it to change its surface color. The process changes the chemical composition of the surface without altering its structure, so the other favorable properties of the ceramic — hardness, scratch resistance, lightness, and hypoallergenic character — are unaffected. Rado uses plasma high-tech ceramic for watches in its DiaMaster and HyperChrome families, including for the bezel insert of the recently introduced Captain Cook (above).
This article was originally published in 2013. It has been updated with new photos, information and links.