Guide to the Best Metals and Materials for Watches: From Precious Metals to Alloys

This Guide to the Best Metals and Materials for Watches will help you understand the difference between the precious metals and alloys used in watch cases and bracelets. Also, if you’re stuck in acronym hell, you’ll discover how to pinpoint the differences between PVD, IP and 316L.

Choosing the correct metal or composite material is the first stage in selecting the most appropriate watch for you. Considering that many people suffer from skin allergies, it’s important to know what you are putting next to your skin. Furthermore, the case and caseback won’t necessarily be made from the same material. Therefore, it’s a good idea to double check the specifications list before adding any watch to your basket.


Guide to the Best Metals and Materials for Watches: Precious Metals & Alloys

Stainless Steel  316L Grade

Stainless Steel is the most popular material for watch cases and bracelets. However, not all stainless steel is equal. 316L grade stainless steel is a precious metal. Also, it is known as medical grade or marine grade stainless steel. It is harder than lower grades of steel as it is alloyed (or combined) with molybdenum to lower its risk of corrosion. The L simply stands for lower carbon than 316 grade. This grade of steel is pretty much a benchmark for what is acceptable for items like jewellery and watches that are in contact with the skin. Very expensive watches utilise higher grades of stainless steel such as 904L. The main difference is that they have a higher level of resistance to corrosion. View Stainless Steel Watches here.

Seiko Presage The Martini Cocktail Time silver dial bracelet watch model SRPG23J1


Titanium is a great option for anyone looking for a hypoallergenic watch. A pure metal, rather than an alloy, Titanium is found within the earth’s crust. Therefore it doesn’t contain any traces of nickel. Titanium is less reflective than stainless steel and is also less than half the weight. The reason for this is that it has a lower density. Furthermore, it has less chance of corrosion. Titanium is stronger than stainless steel (although it is more prone to scratching) and dent-resistant. Of course all of these benefits come at a price. Therefore, you should expect to pay around double the price for Titanium v’s Stainless Steel. View Titanium Watches here.

Junghans Max Bill Mega Solar men's watch with titanium case, white dial and grey leather strap model 059-2021.04


Bronze is a copper-based metal. Also, it ages over time with a beautiful patina that gives each watch a distinct, vintage look. Resistant to seawater corrosion, bronze is often used in divers watches. Moreover, Bronze has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years with new models launched by Oris and MeisterSinger amongst others. Discover Bronze Watches here.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Big date watch with bronze case model 0175177613164-0732003BRLC

Guide to the Best Metals and Materials for Watches: Ceramic, PVD, IP & DLC


Ceramic is not a metal. It is made by melting and cooling chemicals then milling them into shape. The advantage of ceramic is that it is four times harder than stainless steel and is lightweight. Moreover, ceramic can be polished to create a metal-like sheen. Also, it’s resistant to ultraviolet rays. Therefore the colour won’t fade. Finally, like Titanium, ceramic is hypoallergenic. However, it is brittle and can chip if it sustains an impact. Ceramic is used to give watches a contemporary feel. View Ceramic Watches here.

Bering black ceramic women's watch with stainless steel case and bracelet and black dial model 11429-742


If you’re looking for a warmer tone metal for your watch and solid gold is out of your budget, a coating of gold on a base metal such as stainless steel gives the same effect but for a fraction of the price.

Physical Vapour Distribution or PVD is the process of applying a very fine layer of condensed material onto a watch case by turning it into vapor which creates an even coating when applied. As the layer forms, it reverts back to its original condensed state and increases its hardness. View Gold Tone PVD Watches here.

Citizen Military day/date men's watch with black ion plated case and brown leather strap model BM8478-01L


Ion Plating or IP is a type of PVD, that uses a scientific process called sputtering to create the layer of material. Perhaps the watch you have your eye on is gold plated. How long will the plating last? It all depends on what the base metal is and how thick the plating is. The closer the base metal is to gold, the better the coating will be. For instance, silver is better than copper, 9ct is better than silver and so on. The attraction of the two elements occurs as the gold that forms the plating is electrically charged with positive ions and the item to be plated has negative ions. Discover ion plated watches here.

Michel Herbelin Art Deco women's gold tone bracelet watch model 17478/P59B2P


Flawless black or coloured finishes are often achieved using the PVD method to create a Diamond Like Carbon or DLC top coating. This is a thin layer of carbon in different compositions. It adopts some of the qualities of diamond – the hardest substance on earth. As with any other of the coating methods, a DLC layer can be highly polished, left matt or textured. View DLC Watches here.

Ball CM219C-P2-BK Fireman storm chaser DLC mens watch

Whichever material you choose for your watch, you will find an unrivalled selection at, all supplied by our Independent Watch Specialists. All watches are available with free UK delivery. Best of all, every sale through our wesbite supports a family owned, UK tax-paying business. Support the High Street and shop with us today!