There’s always been an unquenchable thirst within the horological world for material innovation. The arms race in this new material age has spawned countless alloys — each outdoing the other in terms of strength and durability — over the last few decades. When even that got boring, the periodic table was plundered for the next exotic metal alternative to gold and titanium. Which brings us to today’s bizarre material of choice: Tantalum.
Tantalum watches are exceedingly rare, and for good reason. Also known as element “Ta” on the periodic table, the transition metal was discovered in 1802 in Sweden, and takes its name from Tantalus, the son of Zeus and father of Niobe. It has an occurrence rarer than that of gold and an unusually high melting point, making it notoriously expensive to mine and even more costly to machine. Milling tools can rarely be used again, making it highly uneconomical for watch manufacturers to dabble with.
Yet they still do. With a characteristic blue cast that lurks beneath the lustrous silver overtones, tantalum often provides watches a stealthy lustre that other metals fail to achieve — even titanium. The allure of the “murdered-out” monotone is accompanied by its corrosion-resistance and hypoallergenic properties, making it suitable for those with skin sensitivities.
Essentially, tantalum ticks all the boxes you’d have for an everyday high-end timepiece. You can expect the same premium wrist pull as platinum, while veering far from the ostentatiousness of gold. It also bears the same muted sophistication of ceramic and carbon, while being corrosion resistant and hard enough to last the ages.
Here are five of our top tantalum watch picks.