Top ten unusual materials used for wristwatches

Apart from gold, silver, steel, titanium, aluminium, mother-of-pearl and precious stones, some watch brands feature materials that on the face of it don’t seem to have much to do with watchmaking. Usually the strange materials are included to provide a new talking-point and a theme that can be used for marketing the watch. Often the nature of the materials used makes each piece different, corresponding to the contemporary trend towards objects that are absolutely unique. Here is a selection of some of the more unusual materials, in no particular order.

1. REC Watches, Morris Mini
REC Watches is a very new company, launched in February 2014 in Denmark. The REC of its name means RECover, RECycle, REClaim, and this is what it does in all its watches. Their latest timepiece is the Minimalist, which incorporates metal from a Morris Mini in the dial. It has a quartz Ronda 762 movement, and its size of 40 mm makes it suitable for both men and women. The watch has a soft suede leather strap, and the identification number of the recycled car engraved on the caseback. The dial shows traces of the original machine-working, along with the oxidation caused by the passage of time, and so each piece has its own individual character. More info from The watch costs 1,899 Danish Krone, about €255.





2. Cartier, flower petals
In the Ballon Bleu de Cartier Floral-Marquetry Parrot watch, Cartier paints a picture on the dial using flower petals. The petals are coloured, and it is mainly their texture that contributes to the unique look of the piece, with their delicacy contrasting with the emerald used for the eye and the onyx for the beak. The dial itself is in rhodium-plated white gold, with a diamond-set on the bezel. This is quite large, at 42 mm, for a women’s watch. It has a white alligator strap. The movement is an automatic Cartier Calibre 049 movement. The watch is a limited edition of 20.




3. IWC, carbon fibre
IWC has an agreement with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One team, and so its Ingenieur collection, presented at SIHH in 2013, featured a lot of carbon fibre, the material typically used to make race cars. This year, their drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg presented their own watches, and Hamilton’s Ingenieur Chronograph Edition watch (IW379062) has a carbon fibre dial, pushers, crown and crown protector. This dark grey material contrasts with the titanium used for the case and bracelet. On the caseback,. There is a medallion of carbon fibre which comes from one of the racing cars used by Mercedes AMG Petronas.

Lewis Hamilton's Ingenieur watch, with titanium bracelet and carbon dial

Lewis Hamilton's Ingenieur watch, caseback with medallion of carbon from a racing car, under a sapphire caseback with the driver's logo


4. Parmigiani Fleurier, wood
Tonda Woodstock by Parmigiani Fleurier is one of its pieces made using wood marquetry to create the dial. Over 50 pieces of wood veneer are dyed, cut and assembled with meticulous precision so that the final dial is perfectly flat. The jigsaw cutting is the crucial phase: the craftsman, Bastien Chevalier from Sainte Croix, stacks ten identical sheets of veneer, glues the pattern onto the top, and then cuts the pieces: of the ten pieces made, he selects just one, the piece that looks best. The tourbillon becomes the opening on the front of the guitar, which in this version is decorated with the American flag. Another version, the Woodrock, has the British flag. At the top of the dial there is a power reserve indicator. The watch has a hand-wound PF 510 movement. The case is 42 mm in diameter, 11.5 mm thick, in platinum. Strap in Hermès alligator leather. Price about €255,000. Other brands that use wood on the dials include Ralph Lauren and Lowell.


Cutting along the tracing line


5. Rado, ceramic
Many brands use ceramic in their watches, but Rado have made it one of their hallmarks, developing new, extra-hard types of ceramic that are used for the case, bezel and bracelet. In their Rado Esenza L Quartz Touch Jubile, four sensors inside the bezel enable the use to adjust the watch by touch alone, eliminating the need for the crown wheel. This women’s watch has a case 33 mm wide and 42 mm high, with a quartz movement. Price about €2,300.


6. Jaeger-LeCoultre, asteroid
Most asteroids burn up as they plummet to earth through the atmosphere, becoming shooting stars for the last few milliseconds of their existence. A very few reach the ground, testimonials to the epoch in which the solar system was formed about 4.6 billion years ago. Once cut into veneer-slim pieces, they have an interesting crystalline structure. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Calendar Meteorite Dial will be presented at the SIHH watch fair in January 2015. Read more here.

two versions


7. Romain Jerome, coal and steel from the Titanic
T.OXY3_.11BB.001-350x415Romain Jerome are masters of the steampunk style in watches, and the bezel and case of this piece contain a small amount of rusted, stabilized steel from the Titanic, along with more from the same shipyard where the unfortunate ship was built. The black dial contains coal recovered from the Titanic. It is a large piece at 46 mm, with an automatic mechanical movement. Several editions of this watch were made, and all were limited editions of 2012 pieces. They all sold out. The piece here is the Romain Jerome Titanic-DNA Oxy Steel, reference T.OXY3.11BB.00, price around €9,890. Other pieces by Romain Jerome using unusual materials include one with copper from the Statue of Liberty, and the Moon Dust Steel Mood, with a mineral dial containing moon dust, a bezel with parts of Apollo 11, and a strap containing carbon fibre and other fibres from an ISS spacesuit (price about €10,800) .

Below, the Moon Dust Steel Mood by Romain Jerome:



8. Artya, dinosaur dung
It was designer Yvan Arpa who thought up the Titanic idea for Romain Jerome, and he subsequently founded his own company Artya where he succeeded in finding fossilized dinosaur dung and using it for the dial of a watch. How did he know it was dinosaur dung? After all, a fossil is just stone (and so the owner of the watch can rest assured that there is none of the original organic material left in the watch). Whatever, the material is tens of millions of years old, originating from a herbivore dinosaur who lived in the Jurassic age about 100 million years ago. The strap is also unusual, from the skin of the American cane toad. Price about €9,200.



9. Artya, blood
This piece truly has a personal touch. The blood contained on the dial is from Artya designer and CEO Yvan Arpa himself, and it also has two bullets. The Artya Werewolf is priced at about €6,500.



10. Artya, guitar pick
If you think that the previous watch with real blood in it is a bit scary, what about this one? Imagine picking up a watch, looking at it, and finding Marilyn Manson looking back at you? Could there be anything more terrifying at 7 in the morning than that? In the Tribute to Rock collection by Artya, the dial contains a guitar pick used by rock guitarists, in this case featuring an image of Marilyn Manson himself.


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