Watch brands are offering cutting-edge timepieces that utilize bold, new materials to satisfy the needs of forward-thinking men.
FROM TOP LEFT: 1. From Chopard, this Mille MigliaZagoto watch ($9,900) is crafted in DLC-blackened stainless steel and 18k rose gold with a red aluminum bezel. The mechanical self-winding watch is a COSC-certified chronometer. Silver Threads, 308 Galena St., 970-429-4670
2. This 44mmHublot Big Bang All Carbon watch ($21,300) features a case, bezel, and dial made completely of top-quality carbon fiber. It houses a self-winding chronograph movement that consists of 252 components. Meridian Jewelers, 525 E. Cooper Ave., 970-925-3833
3. Created especially for North and South America in a limited quantity of just 30 watches, this Richard MilleRM030 Americas Limited Edition timepiece ($135,000) features a case made of black carbon nanotube material with orange carbon fiber flange. Silver Threads, 308 Galena St., 970-429-4670
4. From Panerai, this Luminor 1950 3 Days GMT Automatic Ceramica watch ($12,800) is crafted in high-tech ceramic and houses a mechanical P.9001 movement inside the 44mm case. OfficinePanerai, 400 E. Hyman Ave., 970-544-1868
As the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Ideas Festival (June 24–July 3) marks its first 10 years by looking forward to the next decade’s developments in science and technology, the world’s leading watch brands also have their eyes cast toward the future in their use of high-tech materials inspired by the automotive, aviation, and medical fields. Steel and titanium have long been the traditional metals of choice for sporty, rugged timepieces, but watchmakers are now experimenting with innovations from the manufacturing sector and science to perfect their time-honored craft.
As watch brands study and test these high-tech materials, they find creative ways to reinterpret them for watch cases, dials, and even straps. Among the new alloys and materials being employed in the timekeeping world are highly specialized ceramics, carbon fiber, aluminum, mixed-material alloys, and more. When steel is used in its non-silver format for today’s sporty watches, it is usually coated or impregnated with black—created in either DLC (diamond-like carbon) or PVD (physical vapor deposit)—that imbues the watch with a strong, sleek ebony finish that will stand up to decades of wear and tear.
Richard Mille is one of the top-notch brands that regularly dabbles in the world of high-tech creativity and unusual materials for both the inside and outside of watches. According to Richard Mille, CEO and executor of the brand that bears his name, “Different people require different needs in their timepieces, which are artistic and technical expressions. So we must open our minds to trying things that can better the performance and efficiency of a watch.”
Just 30 pieces of Richard Mille’s RM030 Americas Limited Edition watch ($135,000) will ever be made.
Mille was the first to use a titanium base plate years ago because of the lightweight yet rugged endurance factors of the material. He continues to utilize unusual elements such as silicon nitride and magnesium alloys. In fact, in his RM030 Americas Limited Edition watch, Mille turns to a black carbon nanotube material to encase the caliber RMAR1. The watch features a bright orange carbon fiber upper flange with index points filled with luminous materials that meet modern safety standards. The crown protector is a high-tech specialty rubber that is manufactured to allow for greater sheen and durability. The highly sophisticated watch boasts a complex automatic movement with double barrel and 55 hours of power reserve. Here again, the base plate, bridges, and balance cock are made of Grade 5 titanium.
Also a pioneer in the latest developments, Hublot has been building watches with carbon fiber elements for years. Under the global direction of Jean-Claude Biver, president of the watches division for LVMH, the brand’s parent company, and also one of the more visionary thinkers in the watch world, Hublot has blossomed in the spectrum of watchmaking thanks to its use of new materials and technology. The Big Bang All Carbon watch features a case and bezel made completely of the highest quality carbon fiber. Thin hairlike fibers of carbon threads are woven together and mixed with other materials that are then heated and otherwise processed to form ultrarugged cases. “It is important that watches be able to go the distance with the athletes and with the everyday consumer—meeting their needs for durability, lightweight comfort, and precision,” says Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot.
Indeed, these high-tech materials have a host of attractive features that make them desirable for use in timepieces. Top among those is the lightweight feel of materials such as carbon or aluminum. Additionally, these materials are often much more rugged, durable, and scratch- resistant. These features, coupled with the cutting-edge technology that accompanies their use, make them totally in tune with the times.