Titanium has been around for almost two centuries but it wasn’t until the last few decades that methods to extract it in sizeable amounts were properly developed, opening up a whole new world for the engineering industry. It has existed mostly in labs and as an aerospace material, but its unique properties have also made it a prized asset in the horological world.
There are many metals in which manufacturers can choose to craft their cases with, but titanium watches excel in terms of strength, toughness and weight. The unique metal has five times the strength of ordinary steel and is only half the weight. Another reason that makes it so lauded in watchmaking is the fact that it’s corrosion resistant. It’s impervious to all acids (except nitric acid — not that you’ll be anywhere close to some), and is hypoallergenic, making it suitable for many people with sensitive skin.
Its remarkable qualities could only be overshadowed by its price. Welding, forging and casting the metal is known to be extremely tricky, and only a select few artisans can manage the intricate workmanship that’s required for titanium watches. However if you can afford it, bragging rights include the fact that your watch is made of the same material as fighter jets.
Here are seven titanium watches to get you started on your collection.
The TAG Heuer Carrera has been a legend for years, and its limited edition iteration is bound to be a collector’s favourite. Housing the 32mm-wide Heuer-02T manufacture movement is a 45mm-wide Grade 5 titanium case. Inside, the Swiss brand has also gone the extra mile to craft the middle section of its tourbillon cage from the precious metal too, alongside a carbon fibre top. This helps keep the watch’s weight down to a minimum, which in turn improves the power reserve and chronometric performance. Only 250 numbered pieces are available for this blacked-out watch, so you’ll have to hurry.
The titanium version of the Type XXI 3810 aviator watch is almost a work of art, thanks to Breguet’s ultra-trained eye for detail. Also craft of Grade 5 titanium, the case houses a new dial design and bezel, with the thin rotation bezel engraved with applied black for a more retro look. The aviator-inspired theme continues with bold white minute and sub seconds ring. Inside, the watch has the same automatic movement that features the time, date, 12-hour chronograph, and AM/PM indicator.
Having spent two years circumnavigating the world, Mike Horn is easily one of the world’s most respected explorers. So we’re on board with whichever watch is accompanying him on his trips. Lucky for us, Panerai has come up with three timepieces for him, and some of his lucky fans. The third of the series is a 500-piece limited edition in titanium. The 47mm is equipped with the self-winding P.9001 movement that features a second time zone display, and the titanium case back is engraved with a penguin and polar bear, each symbolising both poles.
Quartz innovations have been integral to the brand’s aviation-themed Professional line, and for the first time, Breitling will fit its in-house manufactured SuperQuartz chronograph movement within. The flyback chronograph has a 24-hour register that also introduces a center-stop minute counter. A lap function stops the chronograph hands to measure split times, then jumps to resume measuring the total elapsed lap time. Encompassing all these is a well-finished 43mm titanium case, which gives the hardy watch a tough and durable facade.
Bulgari meant every aspect of the words “ultra-thin” when it released its Octo Finissimo Automatique timepiece at Baselworld earlier this year. Its micro-rotor, self-winding calibre BVL 138 Finissimo stands at only 2.23mm thick, earning the Italian label its third world record for the thinnest automatic movement in the world. Equally impressive is its distinctive faceted case, which is crafted out of sandblasted titanium and is only 5.15mm thick to keep the watch as sleek as possible.
If titanium wasn’t precious enough for you, Parmigiani Fleurier has also included meteorite to its Tonda 1950 watch. The new version joins two previous versions of meteorite-dialed watches, only this time the precious rock heralds from Sweden, which delivers a uniquely icy look. The 39mm polished titanium case quietly contrasts the unique face, under which hides the slim PF 702 automatic movement.
Twenty years after the Royal Oak Chronograph was introduced to the world, Audemars Piguet will finally induct a titanium version to the storied series. The 41mm titanium case houses the same calibre 2385 that powers all the other Royal Oak Chronographs up to date. The slate grey dial comprises of blue counters, white gold applied hour-markers and Royal Oak hands with luminescent coating, but the highlight has to be the understated ‘Grande Tapisserie’ pattern that’s now synonymous with the model.