Remember when ceramic, carbon, and black-coated watches were hyped? Not that long ago, a lot of people were searching for black watches, but they ended up customizing their watches via an aftermarket company. A lot has happened in a short period of time regarding black watches. What started out as a trend has grown into being a part of the modern classics. Black watches are no longer hyped because they’ve finally earned their place as a standard color in many watch brands’ collections. Not too strange considering black is always the new black…
Although black is a standard option for many consumer luxury products, it has taken the watch industry some time to also cement a place for black watches within their collections. The color black can be sporty yet understated for a luxury watch or be the base for many bright colors, creating more contrast than will ever be possible with stainless steel watches. Let’s look at the first steps and some examples that have become icons of style within the watch industry over the last decade or so.
The trend towards black watches started out around a decade ago with people customizing their own watches. Customizing existing watch models created quite the discussion amongst watch aficionados. Should you respect the watch as the watch brand has intended it or is it perfectly okay to customize a watch to your liking? It’s a discussion that has no right or wrong answer, but we can see that it is only logical that people are looking for their own personal style. But it’s important to keep in mind that, like classic cars, any changes to a fine watch will reduce its resale value compared to an untouched piece.
Overall, it’s a matter of opinion, but we cannot ignore that the trend of blacking out watches also had an effect on the product offerings of many brands.
There are two ways to go when you’ve set your sights on a black watch. First off, there are stainless steel watches with a black coating, also known as PVD and DLC coatings. Technically, there is a difference between the two, but either way, in the end you have a blacked-out stainless steel watch. Secondly, there are the watches made of black materials like ceramic or carbon fiber (which is more demanding). The second option was adopted by brands like IWC Schaffhausen, Panerai, and Hublot.
Over time more and more brands started producing black watches made from ceramic or carbon. Some brands that have become known for offering ceramic or carbon watches are Omega, Audemars Piguet, TAG Heuer, and Tudor. The two main differences are that 1) prices of ceramic and carbon watches are usually higher than regular steel models, and 2) they are quite delicate.
For now, let’s look at a selection of black watches that could become the new industry classics.
Omega has created a series of watches known as the Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon series. All of the watches in the collection are made of black ceramic and there are different versions available, all with their own story and accompanying look. It began with the watch known simply as the Dark Side of the Moon. The watch salutes the NASA astronauts who were members of the Apollo 8 mission and the first people to see the dark side of the Moon with their own eyes. The watch, made from a single block of black brushed and polished ceramic, is complemented by a black ceramic dial and polished black ceramic control pushers.
The other four models in the collection are also made from a single block of ceramic and are based on the mystique of the earth’s ever-changing nightlight. These models are the Dark Side of the Moon Black Black, Sedna Black, Pitch Black, and Vintage Black. Omega was praised for introducing this series of iconic watches because they show the versatility of the Speedmaster as well as the company’s eye for design by changing elements without touching the base of the design or materials. Any of the Dark Side of the Moon watches can be yours if you have around 6,000 – 8,000 euros to spend. Just choose your favorite – a decision that’s hard enough already.
Tudor has generated quite an amount of buzz over the last couple of years by introducing many models which have evolved into classic brand icons. It propelled the brand from being perceived as the poor man’s Rolex to being identified as a proud member of the Rolex family with its own distinctive timepiece collections. Probably the most popular of them all is the Tudor Heritage Black Bay series. The Heritage Black Bay Series was first introduced in 2012 to celebrate 60 years of Tudor diving watches. The Tudor Heritage Black Bay Dark is the black version of the watch made from stainless steel and is finished with a black PVD coating.
The iconic watch is characterized by its large winding crown, also known as the Big Crown, which stems from the famous 1958 Tudor Ref. 7924 watches and the so-called snowflake hands borrowed from Tudor watches used by the French military in the 1970s. The watch is available with a vintage leather strap or a black PVD coated steel bracelet and whichever you choose, an extra grey fabric strap is included.
The strap is made according to the traditional Jacquard technique mastered by a century-old family business located in the St-Etienne region of France. It shows Tudor’s eye for quality and craftsmanship. The Tudor Heritage Black Bay Dark has become a nice homage to the past by using today’s techniques to create an iconic Tudor watch available for around 3,000 euros.
IWC declared 2012 the year of the pilot’s watch and introduced a full new series of their well-known Fliegeruhren. Part of the Pilot’s Watch collection to this day is the Top Gun series. All models feature black ceramic cases and titanium case backs, crowns, and pushers. The Big Pilot Perpetual Calendar is the ultimate grail piece within the Top Gun series. The watch is very big with a 48-mm case, but the deep black color compensates for its enormous size.
Former head of development and IWC legend Kurt Klaus designed the beautiful perpetual calendar movement that provides the wearer with the time and date, day of the week, month and year, and phases of the moon. The true technical brilliance of the perpetual movement, however, is that the movements’ ability to account for the differing amount of days in each month, as well as leap years. This results in a watch that doesn’t need date correction until 2100. The moon phase also won’t require an adjustment for a remarkable amount of time – 577.5 years. All of this technical wizardry is controlled simply through the watch’s crown. This timepiece is a true icon, thanks to its understated stylish looks and outstanding technical performance.
Audemars Piguet has been a pioneer when it comes to using different materials to produce their watches. The Royal Oak Offshore collection is known to have watches made from a wide range of materials no other watch company has used before: In 1986, the brand introduced a Royal Oak made from Tantalum; in 1999, a black PVD stainless steel Royal Oak Offshore “End of Days;” in 2002, a Royal Oak Concept made from Alacrite 602; in 2007, the first-ever forged carbon case with the launch of the Royal Oak Offshore Alinghi Team; and lastly, in 2010, Audemars Piguet was the first company to use a special composite named cermet. This is just a small selection of timepieces that prove the brand is always searching for new ways to push the boundaries of watchmaking.
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Chronograph Carbon is characterized by a forged carbon case, which houses the Audemars Piguet caliber 3126/3840. Several different materials are used to finish this unique luxury watch. In addition to the carbon case, Audemars Piguet used black ceramic for the bezel and titanium for the push-piece guards. It’s a testament to what feels like unlimited possibilities of materials for producing a watch. The carbon case is ultra-lightweight, with cases typically weighing less than 100 grams. The material feels satiny and smooth, making it unlike any other material used for watches. And maybe even more special is the fact that every carbon-forged watch is unique. There cannot be two identical forged carbon cases due to the meticulous and unique production process. This only adds to the story of owning your own unique watch.
These are just four of the many black watches available made from different materials. They are proof that black is here to stay and will probably become even more prominent as the search for lighter and stronger materials continues. If you are considering buying a black watch, dive into the different materials available and the stories behind them and the watches. You will find out these stories are where the future of watchmaking is leading us…
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