Carbon, ceramic, graphene, cobalt – these are just a few of the modern materials used to create watches in recent years. On top of that, many watch brands have been working to come up with their own patented materials. It’s safe to say that the future of watches offers plenty to get excited about when it comes to materials. However, there’s one alloy we’ve known about for ages that manufacturers have recently rediscovered for themselves: bronze. Ever since the first modern bronze watches debuted a few years back, the number of bronze timepieces has exploded. This may lead you to wonder: What makes this alloy so special, and what are some of the most eye-catching bronze models?
First, there’s bronze’s overall aesthetic. While most of the new materials being used create an overly technical look, bronze is the one material that has a very vintage feel to it. Watchmaking history is full of great designs, and bronze fits many of the retro pieces here incredibly well. But for an alloy that humans have been using for millennia, bronze didn’t appear on the watch scene until relatively recently. It mainly started popping up in the second half of the 20th century, and even then, it was almost exclusive to diving watches.
Bronze has been a material of choice in all kinds of maritime applications thanks to its high level of corrosion resistance and ability to withstand marine conditions. This is one of the reasons why manufacturers used bronze for some of their best divers in the past. Stainless steel ultimately prevailed in this category, mainly because of one specific bronze quirk: the patina.
A patina is a result of the natural oxidation process, which creates a unique layer to form on the surface of materials like bronze. With watches, other signs of aging may include the dial color changing color, faded luminous material, and various scratches and scrapes. Bronze’s patina effect is well known, and watches made of this alloy begin to form a patina just about as soon as you take them out of the box. Bronze is also a rather soft material, so it scratches quite easily. That means the more you wear your bronze watch, the more nuanced and aged its appearance becomes. Some people love this because it creates a personal, one-of-a-kind connection to your timepiece. Others hate it because a watch should look exactly the way it did the very day you bought it, even years down the road, right?
Whatever your preference, there’s no denying that some people love the patina of a bronze watch. In an industry dominated by vintage-inspired timepieces, the success of bronze watches makes sense. So, let’s explore some great and iconic bronze timepieces.
Tudor Black Bay Bronze
The first is the Tudor Black Bay Bronze. Ever since Tudor introduced the Black Bay series, it has become increasingly popular among enthusiasts. The most well-known model of all of them is the Black Bay 58. However, the collection contains other interesting picks, including the Black Bay Bronze. At 43 mm, its case is larger than that of other Black Bay models. This bronze watch also features a so-called “Explorer” dial named after the eponymous Rolex timepiece. Such dials feature Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, giving the watch a more adventurous aesthetic. At around $4,600, the Black Bay Bronze is a great alternative to regular steel Black Bay models.
Oris Big Crown Bronze Pointer Date
A second bronze watch that enjoys widespread popularity is the Oris Big Crown Bronze Pointer Date. Oris has introduced a number of great bronze watches over the years, such as the limited-edition Divers Sixty-Five Carl Brashear Chronograph and the Oris Divers Sixty-Five Chronograph with a bronze bezel. The most popular bronze Oris by far, however, is the Big Crown Bronze Pointer Date. You can choose between a 40-mm version that costs around $2,300 or a 36-mm version that sells for just under $2,200. Both are incredible pieces and quite affordable.
Panerai Submersible Bronzo
What conversation about bronze watches would be complete without this Panerai? In 2019, Panerai introduced the 47-mm Submersible Bronzo with a ceramic bezel as a permanent addition to the Submersible series, a collection of hardcore diving watches. The bronze case’s retro looks combined with the brown bezel and matching brown dial are stunning. With a list price of $16,500, it’s clearly not the cheapest bronze watch out there; however, what you get in terms of looks and history of bronze as a watch material is worth every penny.
IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Spitfire
Inspired by vintage pilot’s watches, the iconic IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Spitfire has always struck me with its timeless design. Although defined by its history, it still maintains a contemporary look. That being said, seeing the watch with a bronze case and a dark green dial renders it a true retro stunner. Its outstanding readability only heightens this timepiece’s beauty. With a list price of $6,500, the IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Spitfire not only looks the part; it’s also one of the best-designed chronographs out there.
Rado Captain Cook Bronze
One final watch I want to highlight is the Rado Captain Cook Automatic Bronze. The Swiss watchmaker introduced this model in 2017. It takes its look from a Rado diving watch from 1962 and has proven a winner for the brand. The Captain Cook Automatic Bronze is a line of great-looking watches, offering the choice of a green, blue, or brown dial. At $2,600, it is a fantastic and affordable way to add a bronze watch to your collection.
Those are just five of the many beautiful bronze watches. Shop around and discover some of the other amazing bronze timepieces out there. A couple of my personal favorites are the IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Expedition Charles Darwin,” the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special, the TAG Heuer Autavia in bronze, and the spectacular Oris Hölstein Edition 2020. I had the pleasure of trying on that particular Oris, and as a fully bronze edition of the brand’s iconic Divers Sixty-Five Chronograph, it’s simply stunning. It has all the visual power of a gold watch, minus the bling – and I mean that as a compliment. I think that’s what makes bronze such an appealing material: It feels special without being flashy. And maybe best of all, over time a bronze watch will tell your story as it ages. It’s a powerful connection to have with a watch, and that’s why I think bronze is here to stay.