Even as the R&D departments of watch companies work over-time to introduce the industry to cutting-edge case materials, a dominant trend over the last five years has been the use of an ancient material that has been around since pre-historic times - bronze.
As a case material, bronze was first spotted in the watch industry on diver’s watches. Bronze has for centuries been used to make ship fittings and the maritime link seemed legit. Besides, the ability of bronze cases to develop a patina (due to oxidation) over time ensured that watch case would age differently. As its popularity grows, the uses of bronze as a case material has extended beyond just diver’s watches. Here’s a look at six of the coolest examples released this year.
Montblanc 1858 Rattrapante Chronograph
Featuring a 44 mm bronze case, this oversized vintage-inspired rattrapante chronograph has a telemeter and a spiral tachymeter scale reminiscent of military chronographs produced in the 1930s. The inky black dial forms a strong contrast against the bronze of the case resulting in a really handsome-looking chronograph.
While the monopusher chronograph button is incorporated into the crown, a pusher at 2 o’clock is used to start and stop the rattrapante function. The watch is powered by a hand-wound MB16.31 movement manufactured by the erstwhile Minerva manufacture in Villeret.
Price: Approx. $36,500
IWC Spitfire Pilot’s Chronograph
The newly revamped Pilots’ Watch Chronograph Spitfire unveiled at SIHH 2019 is the first IWC Pilot’s Watch chronograph to contain an in-house movement from the company’s 69000 series of calibers.
The self-winding Caliber 69380 has a classical column-wheel design and displays elapsed hours and minutes on subdials at 9 and 12 o’clock, the day and date at 3 o’clock and has a power reserve of 46 hours. The 41 mm case is made of bronze (Ref. IW387902) that will develop a blackish patina as opposed to the green tinge seen on most bronze cases. It is paired with an olive green dial and brown calf leather strap for a retro-chic vintage-military look.
Ulysee Nardin Marine Torpilleur Military Bronze
Ulysse Nardin introduced a limited edition in its Marine Torpilleur Military family that uses a 44 mm wide bronze case. The Marine Torpilleur Military is inspired by the pocket chronometers prized by the sea captains of 19th and early 20th century, and vintage military timepieces.
The watch uses a COSC-certified UN-118 manufacture movement featuring the proprietary Silicium anchor escapement made in-house. It has a power reserve of approximately 60 hours and comes with a Ulysse Nardin certificate, a double guarantee of its performance.
TAG Heuer Autavia Isograph
At Baselworld this year, TAG Heuer unveiled a new Autavia family, which has thus far consisted solely of chronographs. Two of the models in this Autavia family feature bronze cases. Measuring 42 mm in diameter like their steel brethren, the bronze models, whose casebacks are made of titanium.
They are available with either a smoked green or brown dial, with rotating bezels in either black or brown ceramic, respectively. Significantly, the COSC-certified Caliber 5 movement uses a newly developed carbon-composite hairspring. Paired with a leather strap, the models cost $4,300.
Baume et Mercier Clifton Club Bronze
The Clifton Club was first unveiled at SIHH 2017 as a casual sports watch from Richemont's affordable luxury brand. This year, Baume et Mercier presented a clutch of Clifton Club models in bronze cases, imbuing the line with a neo-retro charm.
The bronze models are available in four dial variations (black, brown, blue, green). The bronze case measures 42 mm in width and is 10.3 mm thick. Water resistant to 100 meters, the case has a mix of polished and satin-finished surfaces and is fitted with a stainless steel caseback. These models are powered by the self-winding Sellita Caliber SW200, which has a power reserve of 42 hours and is paired with a calf leather strap. The watch is expected to retail at around $3,500.
Bellytanker BR V2-94 Bellytanker Bronze
Based on a Bellytanker model from 2017, this particular model uses a CuAI7Si2 (Aluminum Bronze) alloy case that is 41 mm wide. “Bellytanker” is a term that is originally borrowed from the world of WWII-aviation when military aircrafts carried a portable fuel tank attached to its belly. After the war, motoring enthusiasts picked up these discarded tanks from surplus yards and turned them into racing machines that were driven on dry salt lake surfaces.
This new chronograph has a screw-down crown and push-buttons with a sapphire caseback. The bronze bezel has an aluminum insert and the Caliber BR.301that powers this watch is a self-winding chronograph movement based on the ETA 2894-2. The bronze case here has a golden hue (although it will develop a patina over time) and forms a sizzling contrast with the black and gold color scheme of the dial. Paired with a black leather strap, the watch is priced at $5,500.