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Simplicity, Elegance, and Durability - What I Enjoy About Watches

Originally published at: https://watchcharts.com/wp/2020/06/27/simplicity-elegance-and-durability-what-i-enjoy-about-watches

Before I jumped into the watch hobby, I had no idea there was such an in-depth world to explore. My exposure to watches was severely limited, and I had only heard of big brands like Omega, Rolex, and Seiko. Even then, I only knew Omega as the Olympics watch, Rolex as the rich baller’s watch,…

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Great story Norman! I share a lot of your views. I’m also primarily a “one watch” kind of guy, although my concept of the ideal watch has changed a lot over the years. The deeper you get into this hobby the more a “perfect” watch seems like unobtainium.

My first “good” watch was a quartz Tissot PRC 100 titanium, a watch that attracted me for a lot of the same qualities you look for in your watches - it was simple, elegant, and I assumed at the time that titanium meant durable. Any metal with “Titan” in its name had to be tough, right? Several years of daily wear later and that titanium wasn’t looking so good; it got scratched, dented, gouged, and one of the bracelet pins actually snapped at one point.

So I switched to steel, and having immersed myself more into the world of watches by that point and fallen in love with mechanical movements, I opted for a Tudor North Flag. It checked all the boxes for a tech-focused self-confessed watch nerd, with an in-house movement with full balance bridge, free sprung balance and a silicon hairspring, plus two extremely rare features from the Rolex-Tudor stable: a power reserve indicator and a display case-back.

I wore the North Flag for years, but then minor gripes with the watch started to develop. The automatic winding mass wasn’t very efficient at keeping the watch wound, dirt and debris had a tendency of getting themselves lodged under the ceramic sub-bezel, and the bracelet lacked any kind of on-the-fly adjustment mechanism to accomodate for ever-changing Sydney weather. Isochronism also wasn’t great, with the watch running several seconds a day slower on half wind compared to full wind.

Several Grand Seikos were next, each bought for their beauty and on-sold for their lack of comfort. Now I’ve settled on an Omega SMP, and couldn’t be happier with the overall fit, finish, and accuracy of the timepiece. But had that younger version of me who thought dropping $600 on a Tissot was lavish luxury been told that older me would spend ten times as much on such a busy looking watch, he would have been aghast to say the least :stuck_out_tongue:

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Wow, it’s extremely insightful and interesting to hear your personal perspective on watches and your story. Thanks for sharing! I have a ton of questions now :smile: , I hope you don’t mind.

I was under the impression that titanium was always better (most notably, lighter) than steel, hence the higher price tag. Do you personally feel like there’s not a huge difference when it comes to durability then? (I would love to see your take on watch materials btw haha, your precious metal vs steel one was a very informative read)

Was it losing power to the point where you would have to manually wind it? I remember you mentioned you’ve had this issue in the past since you work a desk job. I personally have never had a problem like this while daily wearing a watch and I feel like I have a pretty sedentary lifestyle. This is very interesting to hear and it’d be cool to learn more about what type/brand of movement has more efficient automatic winding. I feel like having this issue would be a huge deal-breaker for me, especially if there were also isochronism issues as well.

I’d love to hear more about what Grand Seikos you worn and generally what your issue was with the comfort. I’ve worn my friend’s SBGA011 Snowflake and it was a decent experience. I enjoyed how pleasantly light the watch was but the bracelet was a slight issue. It just felt kinda off, not sure how I would describe it. I think it might be just because I’m not a huge fan of bracelets in general. From my understanding, Rolex has some of the best bracelets in the game and when I tried one on I wasn’t too impressed. They were alright. :laughing:. I think some Grand Seikos are also a bit too large for me as well since I tend to prefer smaller watches.

I think I just might be in the “younger you” phase :laughing:. I really can’t imagine getting a dive watch in the future at all but, who knows, it might change. hahahah. I’d also be really interested in hearing how you initially got into watches since its not something you see among most people!

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Brace yourself, we’re about to go deep into nerd territory here :wink:

Most Ti watches use pure titanium, typically grade 2. If the manufacturer says the watch is Ti but hasn’t specified a grade, assume grade 2. In terms of how that compares to steel you need to look at tensile strength (the maximum load a material can sustain before fracture, like what happened to the bracelet pin in my Tissot), hardness (resistance to scratches), and corrosion resistance.

Stainless steel (316L) offers a tensile strength of 485 MPa (megapascals), a hardness of 95 on the Rockwell B scale, and generally excellent corrosion resistance. However, this alloy is subject to pitting and crevice corrosion in warm chloride environments. In many marine environments 316 does exhibit surface corrosion, usually visible as brown staining. This is particularly associated with crevices and rough surface finish. 316L watches need to be rinsed in potable water after being worn in a pool or in the sea to prevent this.

Grade 2 (commercially pure) Titanium is generally less desirable than 316L for watchmaking, offering a tensile strength of 344 MPa and a hardness of 80 on the Rockwell B scale. However the oxide film formed on titanium is more protective than that on stainless steel, and it often performs well in media that cause pitting and crevice corrosion in the latter (e.g., seawater, wet chlorine, organic chlorides). With the lower hardness it does scratch more easily, and lower tensile strength can lead to fractures at stress points.

Grade 5 (Ti-6Al-4V, or an alloy of 90% titanium, 6% aluminium and 4% vanadium) is the best of the lot for watchmaking, with a tensile strength of 1170MPa and a hardness of 112 on the Rockwell B scale (converted from Vickers 396), while offering identical corrosion resistance to pure titanium. The drawback here is the greyish colour and difficulty in finishing the material compared to 316L; aesthetically its often inferior, although mechanically it trumps steel. Side note: Grand Seiko have their own alloy of Ti with a better appearance than grade 5, and unlike many manufacturers they can refinish it with their Zallaz machine tin plate polishing.

A lot of ETA movements are very efficient auto-winders, so a lot of watch collectors never run into this problem. But there are poor autos out there, either due to uni-directional winding mechanisms (I’m looking at you, Valjoux 7750) or lack of weight in the rotor leading to a poor moment of inertia (as is the case with Tudor’s manufacture movements). There’s some discussion on Watchuseek around this here:

I’m mainly a bracelet guy, actually I’ve got an article coming up purely about bracelets (Will, publish it already! :wink: ) and the GS bracelets are frankly terrible. No micro-adjust, no on-the-fly adjust, the inside edge of the clasp tends to stick into the underside of my wrist, and compared to the next-level casework the all-brushed finish just looks underwhelming by comparison. I owned the SBGR097 which wooed me with that stunning blue dial, and the SBGX091 for that cool Genta-esque case and anti-magnetic cred. Neither lasted beyond 6 months in my collection though unfortunately. The GSes with a closed caseback also have a tendency to imprint that embossed lion logo into the top of your wrist if you wear watches tight like me :stuck_out_tongue:

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Thanks a ton for the very informative response! I did not realize there was quite a bit of variation in titanium vs steel. It’s definitely got me appreciating GS way more and also being more vigilant on actually grade of titanium watchmakers are using.

Reading more about bracelets has also got me thinking I should probably give them another chance as well. Maybe I’ll try a higher quality one for a week or so and see how it goes.

There’s definitely still a ton of knowledge out there that I have yet to learn but it’s pretty exciting to know that this is such an in-depth field to research more about if I choose to do so. Again, many thanks!

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Side note, just realized that this bit of info isn’t correct. On further research pure Ti (Grade 2) is actually better than Grade 5 in terms of corrosion resistance, although both are excellent. Source:
https://www.neonickel.com/technical-resources/general-technical-resources/titanium-grade-5-vs-titanium-grade-2-comparison-between-the-alpha-beta-alloy-and-the-workhorse-of-commercially-pure-grade/#:~:text=Titanium%20grade%205%20or%20Ti,(α-β)%20alloy.&text=Titanium%20Grade%202%20or%20Titanium,against%20variety%20of%20aggressive%20media.

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This was a very interesting read! I have always been curious about the mystique behind the Ti cases watches . Thanks for this Jason.

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