If you’re looking for a quality tool watch that will stand out from the crowd, it might be time to consider a bronze case. Bronze timepieces offer something quite personal. A desired tarnish unique to each individual wearer. As one of the hottest trends in watchmaking, there’s no shortage of options to choose from.
Not all bronze watches are created equal though. That’s why we’ve put together this hand-picked selection of some of our favourite bronze tool watches from the likes of Tudor, IWC and Oris.
Bronze is a copper alloy generally containing around 12% tin. Its discovery dates back several millennium BC. Before giving way to cheaper iron and stronger steel, the Bronze Age lasted almost three millennia. Bronze possesses a number of advantageous properties. And the versatility of its application has continued its use right up to modern day.
One of those properties is its resistance to salt water corrosion. Typically, when exposed, bronze only oxidises at the surface, forming a protective layer over the underlying metal. In the past, this made bronze the material of choice for boat and ship fittings. (Prior to the wide employment of stainless steel.) It also featured in early diving equipment. More recently, it has spurred a growing trend of tool watches.
Initially bright and shiny, bronze watches undergo the same superficial oxidation. Cases darken and eventually form a greenish patina. Each pattern is unique to the individual wearer, influenced by the level of moisture exposure and type of wear. This patina formation is particularly satisfying and gives your watch real vintage appeal. (In most cases, bronze watches can be polished back to new so that the process can begin again.)
While other more suitable metals exist to resists all extremes imaginable, the Bronze alloys still lend themselves well to the art of watchmaking. By themselves, copper is relatively soft and tin brittle. But combined, they produce a metal that retains its shape (resists wear) and is antimagnetic. Different brands may also add other materials, such as zinc, iron, phosphorus, lead or aluminium, to create a distinctive colour tone.
Bronze as a historical maritime material makes perfect sense for Tudor’s heritage-inspired diver’s watch. Tudor employ an in-house aluminium bronze alloy that’s less shiny and more moderate in its level of patina. The Black Bay Bronze makes for an understated tool watch with a unique colour theme that’s quite versatile. The case is entirely brushed to emphasise the utilitarian look. As an added bonus this causes the patina to develop uniformly.
Slightly larger than a standard Black Bay, the Bronze version measures 43mm. It features a vintage-style dial with large numerals at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. Brown tones on the dial and bezel work to complement the age-old metal. The Black Bay Bronze is equipped with the manufacture calibre MT5601. The COSC-certified self-winding mechanical movement produces a power reserve of approximately 70 hours. A choice of interchangeable fabric straps or aged leather strap with bronze buckle allow you to truly make this watch your own. Water resistant: 200m/ 20 bar/ 660ft. Price: $4,790
This is another limited edition (1,500-piece) bronze tool watch. Unlike the above two, however, it’s not intended for under-the-sea use. Bronze is chosen here instead to give the vintage aesthetic befitting this WWII-inspired pilot’s watch. Originally purposed as a navigation instrument, pilot’s watches are on the large side. The Big Pilot’s Watch Heritage measures in at 46.2mm (aided by short lugs). Finished with oversized, ribbed crown (also in bronze), this is a statement piece on the wrist. The use of bronze changes the character, compared to the standard steel version. The ‘greening’ of the metal helps to recall old, military wristwatches.
The ‘aged’ dial treatment complements the look nicely. It features a central seconds hand, 7-day power reserve indicator and date window. All hands are blued (in tribute to the original B-Uhr watches that inspired the collection). IWC’s in-house calibre 52110 is inside, boasting a 168-hour power reserve. The automatic movement is protected from magnetic fields by a soft-iron cage. The sapphire crystal is also secured against displacement due to a sudden drop in air pressure. The Big Pilot’s Watch Heritage comes on a brown calfskin strap with bronze pin buckle and bronze-coloured rivets. Water resistant: 60m/ 6 bar/ 200ft. Price: $19,300
Back on the dive watch theme, we can’t leave off without mentioning Oris. In 2018, the Swiss manufacturer has followed up its first bronze hit with an even more impressive sequel. The second in a series dedicated to the U.S. Navy’s first African-American and first amputee Master Diver, Carl Brashear. The first edition, a standard dive watch released in 2016, borrowed heavily from the Divers Sixty-Five model. (In terms of case, crown and crystal shape.) But the second limited edition, now a two-counter chronograph, cements the bronze breakaway as a design blueprint in its own right.
The new model retains the bronze case, rotatable bezel, and crown. Again, its contrasted with a deep blue dial with a vintage curvature. It also keeps the domed sapphire that lends to the character of the series. A millimetre larger than the previous version (to accommodate the new movement). The chronograph measures 43mm. That added real estate comes in handy with the slightly busier dial. Oris have done a good job in keeping the watch face balanced by opting for a two-counter arrangement.
The execution of the dial architecture is a step up on the previous Carl Brashear. The contrast between the rose gold hands and indexes with a light old radium Super-LumiNova is stronger. And the chronograph seconds scale around the circumference adds sophistication. As do the bronze chronograph pushers. The Carl Brashear Chronograph Limited Edition uses an automatic Oris Calibre 771. Based on a Sellita SW 510 (a clone of the tried and tested Valjoux 7750.) It provides the central chronograph seconds hand, and subsidiary dials. (For continuous seconds and 30-minute counter.) Power reserve is 48 hours.
Like the initial Carl Brashear, the Chronograph Limited Edition is very reasonably priced. The wristwatch comes on a dark brown leather strap with bronze buckle. The Carl Brashear Chronograph Limited Edition is being offered in a run of 2,000 pieces. (Sold in a special luxury wooden presentation box.) Water resistant: 100m/ 10 bar/ 330ft. Price: $6,500.
The ‘lively’ metal of bronze watches can make for a playful piece. The fluctuation of the patina being a unique and interesting property. With regards to allergies, each of the wristwatches discussed take measures to avoid having the bronze metal in direct contact with the skin. The Tudor Black Bronze has a steel case back (coated to look like bronze). IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Heritage both use titanium.
If you’re in the market for a bronze watch, WATCHES OF SWITZERLAND have you covered. Get in touch with us to discuss any of the above selection or to find out about other bronze options.