When buying a watch, most customers go through a mental checklist of pros and cons, likes and dislikes. This is both very typical and wise. Why not make sure you get exactly what you want? One question buyers often ask themselves is “What metal should I buy?” While the answer to this is almost always subjective to ones personal tastes, it also depends very much on the purchasers budget. I hope to explain just a little bit about the different types of metals used in the watch industry and the pros and cons to each kind.
The most common metal used in the watch industry, and used for a vast majority of the watches being produced is stainless steel. It’s used in everything from your simple Timex to some of the world’s most prestigious luxury brands like Patek Philippe, Rolex, and Ulysse Nardin. There is, at times, a bit of confusion involving this silver colored metal with the metal silver. Many first time watch buyers ask for a “silver watch” which usually means they are looking for the silver color as opposed to the gold color. Nevertheless, there is a demand in the industry for non-stainless steel watches because of certain metal allergies, especially to nickel.
(Stainless steel in the watch industry [by both the Japanese and the Swiss], is alloyed with nickel and for some people they can develop skin allergies that prevents them from using their watches. Luckily, there are other metals out there that won’t give you skin allergies that I will cover a bit later in this post!)
Let’s look at stainless steel and its benefits when buying a watch. First, because it’s so common, stainless steel prices are usually the lowest of any metal on the watch market. Therefore, whether you’re buying a Fossil or a Franck Muller, compared to other metals, steel is the price point metal for all brands. Steel has the characteristic to be refinished fairly quick and easy. You can find reputable jewelers and watch retailers who have the proper compounds to refinish your watch once it experiences significant wear and tear. Often times, stainless steel can be refinished back to 90%-95% of original condition!
Certain things to look out for with steel are allergies to nickel, personal preference to color and weight, and it’s ability to scratch easily. I covered the nickel allergy earlier, so I will move on to color and weight. Again, this is part preferential, as it will be with all the other metals I cover.
Some people don’t like the silver color and prefer a black, gold, etc case color. Steel can be coated with applications of PVD (physical vapor deposition) that give it a different color, usually black or gold! This PVD process is very common among watch companies today and you see black watch cases in just about every watch segment in the industry. DLC (diamond-like carbon) is also a finish used over steel watches that is a very hard, scratch resistant coating often used in tooling equipment. PVD isn’t as expensive as DLC, but it’s also not as scratch resistant either. Both DLC and PVD processes cost more than a standard steel case, but you get a completely different look than any with a silver stainless steel watch.
The weight of the watch is also a matter of personal choice. Steel watches can be very heavy, sometimes weighing over a half a pound! The Breitling Super Avenger on a bracelet weighed in at 270 grams. Not all watches are this heavy in stainless steel. If the watch has small or hollow band links, then the weight is significantly reduced.
Gold is the metal that almost all high-end Swiss manufacturers use to showcase the luxurious nature of their brand. Gold, is beautiful, it’s rich and warm, and it’s the metal of luxury and wealth. Gold is a yellow, precious metal that is used throughout the watch and jewelry industry in a variety of ways. Today, rose and white gold are the most popular alloys in the the watch industry. The Swiss watch industry standard karat value (or fineness of the metal) is 18 karat, or an alloy of 75% gold and 25% other metal. For example, 18kt white gold is usually an alloy of 75% yellow gold and 25% palladium or platinum. Gold naturally is very ductile and malleable. Gold, as a yellow metal, does not fade in color over time.
The preciousness and ultimately the cost of gold is determined by the rarity of it (economic concerns that have put upward pressure on commodity prices, too). Currently, gold as a raw material and a commodity is very, very expensive, at all-time highs of over $1,500 an ounce. Historically gold has gone up in price pretty steadily but recently, especially in the last five years, we’ve seen gold prices go through the roof; up over 160% or nearly $950 an ounce.
Because of the volatility of gold prices, a gold watch can be very costly! In many brands, it’s not uncommon to see price difference of gold versus steel to be nearly four times as high in a model to model comparison. The price of gold is the single biggest draw back to people spending their money on a watch they really want.
Gold is also very dense and can be very heavy on the wrist if you get into some of the larger watch cases or if you add a solid bracelet. The weight of a gold watch, comparing it to a like model in steel, is going to be significantly more.
Gold, like steel, is relatively easy to refinish and usually can be refinished to like new condition if the polisher is good at what he or she does.
With gold, the good aspects are: it’s a precious metal, easy to work with from a jewelers perspective, very luxurious, can come in several different colors because it’s alloyed with other metals. The bad: it’s expensive and can be very heavy.
Platinum and palladium are two natural white metals that are used in a small capacity in the watch industry as a stand-alone metal. Platinum is used more than palladium as a stand-alone metal right now but palladium is being used by companies like Ulysse Nardin and Moser & Co for cases and bracelets! Platinum is very expensive, even more so than gold, an it’s used by the ultra luxurious companies like Ulysse Nardin, Patek Philippe, F.P. Journe, etc. Platinum represents the creme de la creme of rare metals being used today.
Titanium is a metal that is getting more and more traction in the watch and jewelry industry. Titanium is much less expensive than gold, platinum and palladium, but depending on the brand and the model, most titanium watches are more expensive than their steel counterparts. Titanium is a dark grey metal that is extremely strong and durable while being quite a bit lighter than steel. Titanium also provides a great alternative to steel for those individuals who have allergies to nickel. Titanium comes from the watch factories either in brushed finishing or a high polish finishing. The high grade titanium that is used by the bigger watch companies is very appealing visually and combined with all the benefits of it, makes it a popular choice in today’s market. The downside to titanium is that it can be a bit dull at times with it’s dark grey nature. If you like a heavy watch, then titanium probably isn’t for you. Titanium is also very difficult to refinish, especially polishing it. While titanium is very hard, it still scratches, so don’t look for a titanium watch to be “scratch proof”, no matter what anyone tells you!
Ceramic and tungsten are two very new materials to the broader watch industry. Rado has been using ceramic for quite a while, but almost all of the rest of the watch industry is just recently joining the party. Tungsten isn’t used much at all, but we represent Lum-Tec, and they use tungsten as a case metal for a few of their models. I grouped these two materials together because they have very similar characteristics. The most important property both ceramic and tungsten share is a high scratch resistance.
Ceramic can come in all kinds of different colors and is very fashionable. Tungsten is a dark grey metal that has considerable weight to it, similar to that of gold. Both materials also have a tendency to “break” when they are dropped or otherwise experience a large traumatic force. Tungsten is brittle, unless completely pure. Ceramic is a nonmetallic, inorganic solid that is produced through heating and cooling. It can be a glass like substance. It, too, can be brittle as it’s commonly found in pottery or other artisan products, but it’s also used at high level capacities such as performance breaks for sports cars. The costs of ceramic and tungsten are hard to gauge but usually are more expensive than steel and titanium. Both materials are hard to find except for exclusive brands right now.
When purchasing a watch, one must go through a few steps when determining if a piece is right for him or her. The two major concerns of case metal is price and aesthetics. How much is A going to cost compared to B? How do I like how A looks compared to B? Once these are determined, then customers should ask themselves how the watch they like feels on the wrist: Too heavy? Too light? Perfect? Customers should also weigh the benefits and concerns each metal presents with regards to durability: Will it hold up to my lifestyle? Is it going to be easy for me to get this piece refinished when it gets beat up? If you are comfortable answering these questions then you are one step closer to purchasing you next timepiece!
Good luck on your next purchase, I hope this helps!
*As a bit of a disclaimer, I do want to remind you that Picciones’ is an authorized dealer for all the brands we carry, therefore we are prohibited from selling watches online. With having clarified that point, the purpose of this post is to convince you that purchasing a new - and to a lesser extent pre-owned - watch from an authorized dealer is safer and smarter decision than making a purchase off the web.
Are you guy or gal considering the purchase of your first nice watch? Perhaps you’re a seasoned watch collector looking for a handsome deal on that one piece that you’ve been after for some time now. Or, you could be that person who needs to - or wants to - get a really nice gift for someone, so you’re kicking around the idea of buying a nice watch. Chances are if you are searching for watches, no matter who you are, you’re probably going to start your search online. Why not, right? The Internet has made shopping extremely convenient and it’s become so resourceful that millions of people are using sites like eBay and Amazon to purchase just about anything! Plus, along with all the shopping sites there are tons of great forums and informational resources are your disposal.
If you are currently at the purchasing stage in your decision, we would like to pass along a note of caution when dealing with the purchase of watches off the web. While it may seem convenient - or even the most cost effective choice - there certainly are some scary pitfalls to keep in mind when buying online.
The most important aspect to this entire purchasing process is to remember that almost all Swiss watch company do not allow internet sales, therefore they usually have a warning on their own website explaining to consumers of the danger in purchasing watches online from non authorized agents. This is to protect both the brand and the consumer. So if you go to a website that has prices posted, it’s extremely likely that this online store is a “grey market dealer” - (GMD). Grey market dealers may or may not be reputable. They may or may not have product that’s genuine. They may or may not have product that features any sort of guarantee when you purchase from them. For example, if you have an issue with the watch you purchased, how will they take care of you? Even worse, will they even take care of you at all?
This can be a risky operation if you aren’t careful. Your money is at risk when you purchase from unauthorized dealers and even worse, if the site you are dealing with is a complete scam, your livelihood can be compromised to identity theft.
The biggest reason people say they shop with grey market dealers is the pricing. Yes, chances are you will get a steeper discount from grey market stores than authorized stores. But deeply discounted pricing alone shouldn’t be the only reason you buy a watch, anyway.
Now I would be speculating if I lumped together all GMDs and said “this is exactly how they all operate in regards to after sales service,” so I won’t do that. But I will explain what we can provide you being an AD. First, we allow you to visit our store and actually try on the watch! That tends to be rather helpful when you ready to buy a watch. Chances are, you wouldn’t by a car online without going to test drive it first right? Why would you spend potentially thousands of dollars on a purchase of a watch if you didn’t know how it looked or felt in person? Also, we can answer any questions you might have and if we can’t help with an answer, we will get in touch with someone from the company who can answer the question. Second, we provide you with a warranty and the piece-of-mind that your purchase will be 100% authentic as we provide all the proper boxes and papers you need! And last, we provide after sales service, such as the warranty repair service, in-house polishing, strap and bracelet sizing and swapping, and battery cell replacement.
What you think you might be saving in money up front can actually end up costing you more in the long run. I had a customer come in just this week and tell me how he bought what he thought was a genuine Rolex offline for a pretty decent price. The only problem…it wasn’t a genuine Rolex. He said something that I thought was apropos for the many people we’ve dealt with personally who get burned by bad online deals. “I spend $4,000 dollars on watch that wasn’t worth $200. If I wouldn’t have taken the watch to get it appraised I wouldn’t have had any clue it was a fake and made in China.”
Unfortunately, for a lot of consumers this happens quite a bit when shopping online. So our advice, make your shopping experience a safe one by visiting and purchasing from an authorized dealer.
If you’ve just purchased your first automatic wristwatch or are planning on purchasing your first automatic piece, we’d like to remind you of a few basic instructions and tips. If you purchased your watch through a reliable and trustworthy source then there’s a good chance you’ve probably been explained how automatic watches work. It has been our experience, however, that many people who own automatic watches have never really been shown how to operate them properly. Picciones’ will post blogs from time to time with tips to help you with your automatic watch!
There are three basic types of watches: automatic, manual wind, and quartz (of course, there are specialty quartz pieces like atomic and solar powered) where the first two kinds are mechanical in nature and the quartz is electronic in nature. The first thing you need to know about automatic watches is that the term “automatic” is a little misleading. Automatic watches aren’t automatic in the sense that they operate without any real effort by the person who is wearing it - in fact, quartz watches are a better example of that. Automatics - the industry term used to descibe automatic watches - are pieces that have the mechanical capability of holding a wind for as long as the watch has sufficient power to the mainspring.
Sure that may sound like it’s complicated but it’s really not. Basically, an automatic watch features an oscillating weight - called a rotor - and by wearing the watch, the rotor simply maintains the energy that the watches power source (called the mainspring) has available at any particular moment. So as you wear your automatic watch throughout the day, and as you move your arm, the rotor will spin, providing enough energy to the mainspring to maintain it’s current level of power. When you wear your watch you don’t actually wind the watch, you just maintain the level of power that is currently one the watch! With this rule in mind, if a watch has no power and you put it on your wrist, it might wind enough to start running and last throughout the day but when you take it off, it will stop again.
So if your automatic watch is completely stopped, before you put it on you should wind the crown (clockwise) thirty to forty turns to give it full power. If you wear the watch everyday, you can literally wear the watch months and months on end without needing to wind it again. For those individuals who don’t wear their watches everyday, we suggest getting a watch winder that you store your piece on to keep it wound. (Note: watch winder isn’t they best the best term either, it’s more of a watch-power-maintainer box!”)
So tip one: Wind your watch! If you have experienced problems with a new watch and it’s consistently stopping, before you send it off to service, be sure you’re winding it properly and getting enough juice on it! This tip should save you a BIG headache in the long run.
We often get asked the difference between the terms chronograph and chronometer. While the terms are not mutually exclusive there certainly is an important difference. Many times we have customers who use the terms interchangeably, and it is wrong to do so. We hope this post will help clarify any confusion.
A chronometer is a highly accurate watch that is measured rigorously over the course of 16 days by an independent Swiss agency - COSC. Watches that are certified as a chronometer are accurate within a certain variance daily, which at a minimum is -4 seconds or +6 seconds. Only a small percentage of watches coming out of the Swiss industry are certified as chronometers. If the watch movement passes the certification, it is engraved with a serial number. You will also receive a document in your paperwork that is the actual certificate indicating you’re movements performance.
A chronograph, on the other hand, is essentially a stop watch. These watches have the ability to measure time in intervals. I will cover chronographs in greater detail a little later, but this is the general definition. Chronographs can be chronometers but not all chronographs are chronometers.
My, how the time flies! Ten years ago we started our journey as a one of the country’s largest fine Swiss watch retailer. It was at that time when Dave met and worked with Patrick Hoffman at Ulysse Nardin. Everything clicked, Dave got his shot and U.N. was our first top-tier Swiss watch brand. Much has changed since 2001, especially how people use the Internet and how the web influences and shapes the watch industry. When we first started with watches, we were renowned throughout the country for having modem-burning images on our website that seemed to take forever to load. Oh, the days of dial-up. Regardless of loading times, people from all over the country said we had the best watch website around.
We’ve continuously tried to build upon that reputation. It’s been a difficult challenge but an exciting one, no less. We are changing and developing our online strategy so that we are better prepared and able to serve our customers. With the development of online and mobile based social media utilities, reaching out to customers is easier and more effective than ever before. I want to take a second and thank our loyal customers and all those of you who might be using this blog as a reference. If we can help you in any way, we’d be honored to do so. Again, we hope you find this blog insightful, resourceful, and hopefully you can visit often.