Timepieces from the pioneering ceramic watch manufacturer Rado have been popular among watch enthusiasts since the 1980s. The material is renowned for being durable, exclusive, hypoallergenic, and not to mention comfortable, thanks to its light weight.
But the material’s real major breakthrough in the world of watchmaking didn’t occur until 2007, when Rolex used black ceramic for the bezel inlay of its GMT-Master II ref. 116710LN. Omega was about to do the same with their Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M, which also got a ceramic bezel. In 2013, Omega launched their first wristwatch with a case made entirely of black ceramic, the Speedmaster Professional “Dark Side of the Moon” (aka DSOTM). Since then, watch brands large and small have followed suit and added ceramic watches to their catalogs.
Rolex and Omega weren’t the first watch manufacturers to use ceramic, but they’re the best-known. Unlike Omega, however, Rolex has yet to produce a watch with a ceramic case or bracelet.
Today we’re telling you all about ceramic watches and the brands that make them, as well as sharing some of the most interesting ceramic watch models. We’ll also explain how the material is made, and its advantages and disadvantages.
What is a ceramic watch?
Put simply, a ceramic watch is a watch with a case and/or bracelet made of ceramic, either in whole or in part. But what is high-tech ceramic? It’s been used in the watch industry for nearly forty years. But what is it made of? And how is it produced?
Special raw materials like aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, zirconium dioxide, and aluminum nitride go into creating high-tech ceramics. These materials strengthen the ceramic and help it hold up in extreme conditions. The substances are mixed together with stabilizers and ground into a fine powder. The powder is then shaped into the desired form by dry pressing or injection molding. In the case of ceramic watches, the form is that of a case or bracelet element.
The components formed by this process are subjected to sintering, whereby powder particles are fused together at high temperatures. The result is a dense ceramic structure. After sintering, the ceramic components are post-processed, e.g., polished.
Ceramic Watches: Pros and Cons
As with any material, ceramic has its pros and cons.
- Strong and scratch-resistant: Ceramic is extremely scratch-proof and resistant to signs of wear and tear. Ceramic watches therefore tend to look like new much longer than watches made of materials like stainless steel or gold.
- Corrosion-resistant: Ceramic is particularly resistant to corrosion and oxidation. This means you can wear it in salty or humid environments without the risk of rust. Furthermore, ceramic is highly UV-resistant, and thus doesn’t fade, even after prolonged exposure to sunlight.
- Lightweight: Ceramic is lighter than steel, gold, and titanium, which means a ceramic watch is really comfortable to wear.
- Lots of color options: Ceramic watches are available in a wide variety of colors, made by adding pigments or dyes during the manufacturing process.
- Hypoallergenic: Ceramic is hypoallergenic. That means that watch lovers with a nickel allergy, for example, preventing them from wearing stainless steel watches, can turn to ceramic watches instead.
- Brittle: Ceramic is more brittle than steel, gold, and titanium, and can break or splinter in the event of a hard impact.
- Costly production: The production of ceramic watches is complex. It requires special manufacturing techniques and equipment, and is thus associated with higher production costs and correspondingly high sales prices.
- Difficult to repair: When a ceramic watch is damaged, repairs are often more intricate and expensive than for watches made of other materials, since ceramic is more difficult to work with.
Well-Known Brands With Ceramic Watches
Ceramic watches have been trendy for years, which means quite a few manufacturers, even smaller ones, have a ceramic piece or two in their catalogs. Some of the most famous brands and models are:
Audemars Piguet: The luxury watchmaker from the Swiss town of Le Brassus has been using ceramic since the early 1990s. One of the first Audemars Piguet watches with a ceramic bezel, in this case black, was the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph, which debuted in 1993.
The most famous ceramic watches from Audemars Piguet are the Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar, made of white or blue ceramic, and the Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph, made of black ceramic. The former features a ceramic case and bracelet, while the Offshore Chronograph only has a ceramic case.
Chanel: Chanel is known for their elegant ladies’ and men’s watches, which are often made of ceramic. The brand has been using the material for watches since the 1990s. In 2000, Chanel launched the J12, a model that is now one of the most famous ceramic watches in the world. The ceramic J12 is available in three sizes (33, 38, and 41 mm), but only two colors (black and white). Premium models are equipped with a tourbillon.
IWC Schaffhausen: IWC has been using ceramic for their timepieces since the late 1980s. One of the first IWC watches to use this material was the Pilot’s Watch Mark XII from 1993, which features a black ceramic bezel. IWC developed a special ceramic alloy called Ceratanium, which is a mixture of ceramic and titanium. The Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition “50 Years Aquatimer” is one of the most famous IWC watches made of Ceratanium.
The Big Pilot’s collection is home to a particularly impressive ceramic watch, the Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert.” The pilot’s watch has a 46.5-mm case made of sand-colored ceramic. Other ceramic models can be found in the brand’s Ingenieur and Da Vinci lines.
Omega: Swiss watch giant Omega has been using ceramic for their watches since 2013, when they launched the Speedmaster “Dark Side of the Moon” in a case made entirely of black ceramic. Over the years, other Speedmaster variants were added to their line of ceramic watches. For example, the case of the “White Side of the Moon” is made of white ceramic, and that of the “Grey Side of the Moon” is gray.
For fans of diving watches, Omega also offer ceramic divers in different sizes and colors. The Seamaster Planet Ocean 600M is available in diameters of 39.5 and 44.5 mm, whereby the larger version is available in blue and black, but the smaller Planet Ocean only comes in black. Omega also make a Seamaster 300M in black ceramic.
Rado: Rado has been a pioneer in the production of ceramic watches since the 1980s. The brand revolutionized the use of ceramics in watchmaking. Since the presentation of the Integral in 1986, the company has remained committed to the material, and still periodically presents ceramic watches in various collections for men and women, in addition to the Integral series.
While Rado relies on angular cases and a designer look for the Integral, the Captain Cook is a sporty diving watch, offering ceramic models in a number of color and design combinations. Other well-known Rado ceramic watch lines are the HyperChrome, Ceramica, and Diamaster collections.
Tudor: Rolex subsidiary Tudor has only been using ceramic since the early 2010s. The first Tudor watch to feature a ceramic bezel was the Pelagos. Today, the most famous ceramic Tudor is the Black Bay Ceramic released in 2022, which features a black ceramic case and bezel. The model is a 41-mm variant of the Tudor Black Bay.
Ceramic Watch Recommendations
|Royal Oak Perpetual Calendar
|Big Pilot’s Chronograph Perpetual Calendar Top Gun Edition “Mojave Desert”
|Planet Ocean 600M
|Black Bay Ceramic