Ceratanium? Carbonium? They’re Not Metals From the Marvel Universe—They’re in Watches

(Bloomberg) -- Choosing a case material for a watch used to be fairly simple: gold or steel, or a combination of both, with the occasional foray into titanium. Then came ceramics, carbon fiber, and DLC and PVD coatings, and the next thing we knew, dozens of watchmakers began creating their own proprietary metals and materials. We saw lots of these on display at the recent SIHH watch salon in Geneva, with increasingly zany made-up names—from Carbon Glass to Ceratanium. Here’s a rundown.

Carbotech and BMG-Tech – Panerai

Ceratanium? Carbonium? They’re Not Metals From the Marvel Universe—They’re in Watches

This year Panerai launched the Submersible as a standalone collection, independently of its parent Luminor family. Two of the leader models used high-tech materials. The first, Carbotech, which Panerai introduced to watchmaking in 2015, is formed by compressing thin carbon fiber sheets, stacked at angled layers, at high pressure and temperatures and binding them with a high-end polymer. The resulting tough, corrosion-resistant, lightweight material has a distinctive wavy surface that makes each case unique. Another material, BMG-Tech (the initials stand for “bulk metallic glass”), has the look and properties of titanium but is actually a glasslike composite of copper, aluminum, titanium, nickel, and zirconium, fabricated under high temperatures and pressures, then rapidly cooled so that the atoms don’t crystallize but instead congeal into an amorphous structure for extreme hardness and corrosion resistance.

Ceratanium and Sand-Colored Ceramic – IWC

Ceratanium? Carbonium? They’re Not Metals From the Marvel Universe—They’re in Watches

IWC expanded its Pilot’s Top Gun series with a new, jet-black Double Chronograph model whose case is made of Ceratanium, a patented composite material that combines the light weight and strength of titanium with the hardness, scratch resistance, and hypoallergenic properties of ceramic.

Ceratanium? Carbonium? They’re Not Metals From the Marvel Universe—They’re in Watches

Also emerging from the Top Gun collection is the “Mojave Desert” edition, whose sand-colored ceramic case, made from blending zirconium oxide with other undisclosed metallic oxides, evokes not only the landscape of the titular desert where the U.S. Navy’s largest base is located but also the uniform colors of its pilots.

Titalyt – F.P. Journe

Ceratanium? Carbonium? They’re Not Metals From the Marvel Universe—They’re in Watches

When traditionalist F.P. Journe finally resolved to create a dedicated ladies’ model, he thought outside the box. He equipped that new watch, the élégante, with a specially designed electromechanical movement boasting an eight-year power reserve with an energy-saving automatic standby mode, which allows the microprocessor to continue measuring the time while the hands are stopped until a built-in motion detector resets them. This year, Journe also introduced a new material for the élégante cases: Titalyt, created by exposing titanium to an electro-plasma oxidation treatment to improve its hardness and resistance to wear and corrosion.

Quartz TPT and Carbon TPT – Richard Mille

Ceratanium? Carbonium? They’re Not Metals From the Marvel Universe—They’re in Watches

Richard Mille has long been known as a trailblazer in incorporating ultramodern materials from the aeronautics and automotive industries. This year, two such materials made their way into the playful and somewhat controversial BonBon collection. The unique, striated look of Quartz TPT (“Thin Ply Technology”) comes from weaving together micro-thin quartz fibers that have been impregnated with colored resin and heat-and-pressure-treated for an enhanced strength-to-weight ratio, hypoallergenic qualities, and resistance to UV rays. Carbon TPT—used in racing yacht sails, airplane fuselages, and Formula 1 cars—is yielded from a similar process, using tiny carbon filaments—600 layers’ worth—subjecting them to intense heat and pressure, and weaving the resin-impregnated, specially angled layers on CNC machines. Both TPT materials are used to impart a high-tech allure to this year’s ticking confections.

Carbon Glass – Girard Perregaux

Ceratanium? Carbonium? They’re Not Metals From the Marvel Universe—They’re in Watches

Girard-Perregaux introduced a sportier, avant-garde companion to its 1970s-inspired Laureato collection, Laureato Absolute, including a concept piece that ushers into the watch world another new material, called Carbon Glass. Its major advantages include being stiffer than steel by a factor of 100 and its unprecedented impermeability: With a density close to 1 (compared with 4.5 for titanium and 8 for steel), the cases are more airtight than those made from any other carbon manufacturing process and also allow for a variety of colorways through the use of colored glass fibers.

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