The horological industry hasn’t seen as much diversity as the last few decades, as companies all over the world finally start boldly experimenting with different materials, hoping to create something that’s extraordinary, practical and ultimately, luxurious. Over the years, precious metals have been used and alloys have been concocted, but ceramic remains one of the most unique materials in the market for having properties that are perfect for watchmaking and wearing.
Engineering ceramics — which are used in watch manufacture — are vastly different from the ceramics we know in daily life, otherwise used in bricks, tiles, and tableware. Unlike earthenware, they’re made of pure ingredients that usually consist of oxides, carbides, and the like. Engineering ceramics are extremely hard. In fact, they’re the hardest class of materials known, usually more than three or four times harder than stainless steel. It’s virtually scratch-proof and its inert qualities mean it’ll never rust or corrode either.
Ceramic watches are also unaffected by ultraviolet rays produced by the sun, so you can count on your favourite timepiece to never fade. Many brands, in particular craft their dive and sport watches in the material for its anti-magnetic properties. The best part is that despite all the benefits, ceramic watches are actually extremely lightweight, making it perfect for watchmaking.
Here are seven of the best ceramic watches you can find today.
It’s extremely complex for a diver’s watch, yet we didn’t expect anything less from IWC’s 50th anniversary special. Made of the new Ceratanium — a new titanium alloy that combines ceramic with titanium — the 49mm watch case is light, corrosion- and scratch-resistant with a matte black finish to closely resemble ceramic. Unusually, the perpetual calendar watch indicates the date, month, and leap year digitally, with a flyback chronograph at 12 o’clock, and subsidiary seconds dials at 6 o’clock. Like all Aquatimers, this limited edition version also features IWC SafeDive, an ingenious system that rotates the internal bezel simultaneously thanks to some clever gearing.
Recognisable by its polished octagonal bezel, this architectural Laureato Skeleton finally takes a walk on the dark side with a blacked-out ceramic upgrade. Entirely skeletonised with black PVD-treated and satin-brushed bridges to match the case, the movement within is accented by an 18K pink gold rotor. This visual and tactile contrast plays on light, and while it’s not the most legible, the broad pointed luminescent hands still contrast well against the blackened facade. Within, the GP 01800-0006 movement offers a commendable 54 hour power reserve, which also powers a discreet small seconds indicator at 10 o’clock.
Originally introduced with red or khaki accents on the dial in 2013, Tudor resurrects its Fastrider Black Shield model, this time sans colour. The stark monochromatic watch is inspired by the all-black Ducati XDiavel cruiser, with a 42mm black ceramic case to match the matte black dial. Made via a process called “sintering”, which sees ceramic powder heated in a mould to create a dense and strong mass, the case and bezel are a single piece that can withstand hard knocks and scratches. The chronograph watch is powered by the self-winding Valjoux 7753, which is widely known for its robustness.
Introduced as part of the Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe range, the Blancpain Ocean Commitment II is crafted entirely from blue ceramic. Yes, including the case, back, crown, pushers and bezel. The 43.6mm watch is a dark matte blue that’s made via sintering — a first for the brand and in support of its longstanding commitment to marine conservation. Inside, the calibre F385 movement is automatic, and comes with an adjustable mass balance wheel, column wheel and vertical clutch for the chronograph — the typical bells and whistles of a Blancpain manufacture. The watch is a limited edition of 250 pieces, and a portion of the proceeds will go towards the cause it’s created for.
As TAG Heuer’s best-selling chronograph, it was only a matter of time before the Carrera Heuer-01 saw a ceramic version. Entirely made with smooth, sand-blasted black ceramic, the time-favoured watch is kept visually identical to its earlier iterations made of steel, titanium and gold. Its skeleton dial is also made of ceramic, exposing the movement within, especially the chronograph gears and date mechanism. Within, the same self-winding Heuer-01 movement, and its red lacquered column wheel are visible under the sapphire caseback.
Grand Seiko watches have long been lusted for its traditional approach to styling and quality. With the new Spring Drive Black Ceramic limited edition though, the Japanese watchmaker is hoping to up the contemporary factor with a new school of design termed “Neo Seiko style”. Significantly more complex than a regular Grand Seiko, the limited edition watches are made of zirconia ceramic clad on an inner case made of Bright Titanium. The result is a scratch-proof case that’s also seven times harder than stainless steel, but a quarter of its weight.
Pristinely white with polished 18K red gold accents, this Grande Seconde watch is worlds apart from its other blacked-out counterparts on the list, but no less impressive. The 44mm timepiece sees a dial elaborately adorned with white clous de Paris guilloche, punctuated with overlapping subdials — also made of white ceramic — that indicates the time and running seconds. The self-winding Jaquet Droz 2663A is handsomely decorated with traditional côtes de Genève, circular graining, and polished surfaces, and with a respectable power reserve of 68 hours.