It is the material equivalent of floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. Charmingly industrial and fashionably futuristic, carbon fibre is having somewhat of a hot minute at the moment, joining the likes of ceramic and titanium as the new it-material for luxury timepieces.
After all, be you a watchmaker or be you meeting carbon fibre for the first time, it’s difficult not to flirt even just a little. There’s a jovial juxtaposition between feather-lightness and superhero sturdiness, made complete with a strong, technical aesthetic and versatile character. Carbon fibre watches are comfortable to wear and easy to move with; they’re interesting in conception, and they’re very, very durable.
Yet they aren’t for everyone.
For starters, you have to like black (like, a lot) if you’re looking to get a carbon fibre watch. You have to have a small flair for sports, as they normally come as dive or race timepieces. You have to like subtle geometric patterns, for they naturally occur in the material. And you have to be a-okay with an all-carbon watch being a rare distant dream, as carbon normally features largely as a single bezel, case, or lugs.
This checklist is extremely particular, and it’s apt, considering that carbon fibre watches are the kind that are made for extremely particular kinds of people. Like with most things, they’re impeccable when done right, and from classic to experimental, here are our sleek seven favourites that really hit the spot.
Featured and hero image credit: Bell & Ross
TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T
Famously the creator of the iconic Steve McQueen Monaco timepiece, TAG Heuer has long proven itself to be a watchmaker for those who love a life in the fast lane. Inspired by motor racing, the Carrera Calibre Heuer 02T (approx. THB 683,915) follows on a similarly racy tangent, featuring carbon lugs and a fixed bezel made of carbon. The dial boasts a black skeleton with rhodium-plated luminescent indexes, and an eye-catching flying tourbillon with a carbon and titanium cage. The watch displays a serious aura of speed and strength, and proves that black on black need not always be sleek and simple, but can be powerfully sporty, too. A robust timepiece for both on and off the tracks.
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Richard Mille RM 07-01 Ladies’ in Carbon TPT
Who said carbon fibre watches were only for men? Not Richard Mille. For their latest hot release, the Swiss luxury watchmaker has unveiled a new RM 07-01 Ladies timepiece (approx. THB 7,763,800), featuring a new carbon TPT bracelet from bezel to folding clasp. Long recognised for their affinity for watch straps and bracelets, it’s a bold yet deeply characteristic move for the brand, aptly and aesthetically fitting with the classic tonneau case and dial. Architecturally complex, the bracelet weighs a mere 29 grams, and is made up of 200 parts each held together by 44 signature spline screws. A beautiful balance between intricacy, strength, and seeming weightlessness.
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Bell & Ross BR-X1 Carbone Forge
There is plenty to admire on the Bell & Ross BR-X1 Carbon Forge (price on request). For one, it’s a timepiece with a round dial within a square case, already tugging at conventional style laws. The watch face sits behind grey-tinted sapphire crystal, and features metal indices with SuperLuminova inserts, alongside a metal skeleton and an aluminium 30-minute chronograph timer disc. The 45mm case is made with carbone forge, titanium, and ceramic, bringing together one killer combination of materials. All in all: a timepiece that was born ready for adventure.
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Ulysse Nardin Freak X
There’s a bit of a stereotype around carbon fibre watches, and it springs largely from the idea that the technical material may only find a home in a sports, race, or dive watch. Going against this stream a little, the Ulysse Nardin Freak X (approx. THB 755,725) houses a carbonium (which is used in airplanes, no less) and titanium case, with a flying carrousel movement rotating around its own axis within the dial. It is an elegant and mechanical timepiece, that intriguingly would not look out of place paired with both a dive suit or a tuxedo. The Freak collection gets its moniker from being Ulysse Nardin’s most audacious line to date, yet it’s a real charmer on this model – even after you notice that it doesn’t even have hour hands. Freaky!
Available for pre-order from Ulysee Nardin
G-Shock G-Steel GSTB100XA-1A
If you never thought your horology-loving heart could be shocked by a G-Shock timepiece, think again. The digital analog brand that is more famously known for its affordable and outdoorsy watches, really rocked the industry for a second when it unveiled the G-Shock G-Steel GSTB100XA-1A (approx. THB 19,100). Showcasing a variety of rugged materials, it’s the first time that the G-Steel features a carbon bezel, giving the model a rigid yet fashionable design, and high-end edge. This is further enhanced by the G-Shock signatures: a layer guard structure, solar powering, a mobile Bluetooth link function, and dual world time display. Curious, and very cool.
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Cartier Ballon Bleu de Cartier Carbon Watch
Can carbon fibre belong on a dress watch? Cartier knows and shows the answer. The 42mm Ballon Bleu de Cartier Carbon watch (price on request) features a beautiful steel and amorphous diamond-like carbon case, complemented by a fluted crown, black guilloché dial, and contrasting Roman numerals. It’s a classic watch in almost every sense of the word, yet still manages to keep it contemporary by way of its elegant material combination. After all, if you’re going to wear any kind of carbon with your gala dinner suit, make it amorphous diamond-like carbon with your gala dinner suit.
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Panerai Submersible Carbotech
If there’s anyone that can really pull off carbon true to its character, it is likely to be Panerai. As spotted on the Panerai Submersible Carbotech, the Italian watchmaker famously noted for its dive watches knows how to employ the material in a way that stays honest, rigid, and raw. Available in the classic size of 47mm (THB 666,800) or in a smaller 42mm size (THB 648,200), the timepiece is made with carbotech; a material that is lighter than carbon fibre, yet just as strong and highly resistant to shocks and corrosion. The matte black appearance gives it a unique character, with contrasting SuperLuminova hour markers for greater readability. Tough and dependable, it’s carbon in all its athletic and aesthetic glory.
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