Ceramic vs Stainless Steel Watch Bezel Material

luxury watches

Watch Bezel Material: Ceramic or Steel?

Over the last century, a bevy of materials have been used to create watches, not just to improve their aesthetics but to increase their robustness as well. For bezels, the most common materials used are aluminum, steel, and most recently, ceramic.

If you’re about to start your watch collection, or simply have not considered bezel material, we break down the pros and cons of each option:

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Watch brand Rado is often credited as the first to use ceramic in their watches with the Diastar (1962), but it was actually Omega Seamaster Cermet aka The Black Tulip that was the first ceramic watch (1981). The watch was too expensive to produce and did not see mass production. Over the next two decades, ceramic watches would be released by IWC and Chanel, finally going mainstream when Rolex launched the Cerachrom in 2005.
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The use of ceramic has become more popular over the past decade, and Rolex being Rolex, they did not just settle for any ceramic. They patented their own ceramic material called the Cerachrom (“chrom” being the Greek word for color). The tough watch component is scratch-proof and virtually resistant to fading.

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It was first featured in the GMT Master II of 2005, followed by Submariner, and then YachtMaster. Colors have eventually included blue, black and green, helping the use of ceramics become widespread.
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Rolex had previously announced that creating a dual-color ceramic bezel would be impossible, but they ended up proving themselves wrong with the GMT Master II 116710or more popularly known as the “Batman” (seen above).
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PROS

  • Very strong, robust material that won’t scratch
  • Aesthetically appealing. In dual-color ceramic bezels, the two colors help the wearer distinguish between day and night. The material also varies in color – going from sleek to muted depending on the lighting.

CONS

  • Material may chip, crack or shatter if enough pressure is applied
  • More expensive to replace compared to aluminum and steel
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Stainless steel is by far the most popular material used in watches today. Not many people realize that it is the product of many decades of testing and improving – it wasn’t until the 1970’s that stainless steel watches became the norm.
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The extremely hard material was ideal for tool watches given its strength and waterproofness, but it was also very heavy – initially, it was used for diver, pilot, and military watches and taken off after work in exchange for a lighter gold watch.
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Audemars Piguet made history by launching the Royal Oak as the first stainless steel watch 1972. While in the middle of a financial crisis, the company was on the lookout for a disruptive launch. With feedback of the Italian market’s interest in steel watches, they tasked Gerald Genta, the most famous watch designer at the time, to be responsible for its design.
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Today, brands like Rolex and Audemars Piguet put a lot of importance on using specific kinds and combinations of stainless steel to make high quality wristwatches.
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PROS

  • No contrast between the watch case and the bezel, so the watch looks more streamlined
  • Is robust and won’t chip or shatter

CONS

  • Is susceptible to discoloration and scratching. This is why many vintage and pre-owned watches have faded details and discoloration.
  • Less costly to replace than ceramic bezels

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CONCLUSION

There you have it. Both ceramic and stainless steel has its own pros and cons, and the bottom line is to pick one that is practical to maintain depending on your lifestyle, and one that you find aesthetically pleasing as well. Sometimes, a watch’s bezel just looks great as well depending on the overall look of the watch.
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