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Luxury & Brands
May 05, 2016

20 Luxury Watches Made Of The Most Unique Materials

Text by Simone Louis

From wood and bronze to tobacco, ceramic. feathers and even fossils, it seems like almost anything is usable in the world of watchmaking today

HARRY WINSTON
What: Feathers
The art of feather marquetry has been used to embellish the Premier Feathers collection of jewellery watches. Master plumassier Nelly Saunier, one of the few craftspeople who still practises the age-old technique in Paris, spends nearly seven hours cutting, shaping and positioning the feathers for four variations of the watch — using plumes from silver, Lady Amherst and ring-necked pheasants and peacocks.

BVLGARI
What: Magnesium, PEEK and Ceramic
Named after the material that makes up the centre of the case, the Diagono Magnesium features not only durable and extremely light material, but also employs a ceramic bezel. To top that, it employs PEEK (PolyetherEtherKetone), a polymer often used in space tech, while the grainy texture of the dial is the result of Motorlac, a coating used to protect engine components in cars.

TAG HEUER
What: Carbon Matrix Composite (CMC)
Found not only on the case of the Monaco V4 Phantom but also on the seven bridges of its movement, the composite ensures that the watch is ultra-lightweight and offers extra shock-resistance. A specific technique is used to create the parts in ‘directed carbon’ — the carbon fibres are placed in a certain direction in the mould and then micro-blasted, creating a matte black appearance.

ROLEX
What: Ferrite
A type of ceramic compound composed of iron oxide combined chemically with one or more additional metallic elements, ferrite can be magnetised. Set with diamonds, it makes up the dial of the Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36, giving the watch a younger look than most tickers from the classic brand.

GRAHAM
What: Carbon Fibre
The superlight black carbon nanotube-speckled composite case of the Chronofighter Oversize Superlight Carbon is enhanced by a carbon trigger, bezel, dial and buckle which weigh lighter than 100 grams. Combining complex and unprecedented machining processes, the remarkable watch features both a shiny carbon bezel and dial which create a unique finish and makes it optimumly lightweight and shockproof.

ROGER DUBUIS
What: Rubber
Yes, we know that this is a fairly common material for watch straps, but that’s not where it’s used in the Excalibur Spider Skeleton Flying Tourbillon. Combining what are generally regarded as diametrically opposite materials, the timepiece has something that, until now, has never been successfully attempted  — a rubber bezel which has been set with baguette-cut diamonds.

HYT
What: Cigar leaves
Known as ‘the hydromechanical horologists’, this brand has been changing the game since 2012. They’ve gone a step further with the H1 Cigar, which is adorned with the most beautiful Rodolfo Vitola cigar leaves. Developed in collaboration with the La Casa Cubana cigar bar in Singapore, the leaves are seemingly suspended forever with a high-tech resin exclusive to the brand.

OFFICINE PANERAI
What: Carbotech
Making its debut in haute horology, the new composite material is created when thin sheets of carbon fibres are compressed at a controlled temperature under high pressure together with the high-end polymer PEEK. The sheets used ensure great aesthetic uniformity and, as perceptible in the Luminor Submersible 1950 Carbotech 3 Days Automatic, are superimposed and pressed together in such a way that the fibres of each layer are set at a different angle to the ones above and below it.

RADO
What: High-tech Ceramic
The brand’s watches in this material are already valued all over the world for both their scratch-resistance and beauty, but sustained research in recent years has also allowed the Swiss watchmaker to develop the material in a range of new colours. The HyperChrome Automatic Diamonds Limited Edition dazzles in a rich chocolate brown, created when separate compounds merge during the sintering process, which takes place in a specially developed high-temperature kiln.

LOUIS MOINET
What: Fossilised dinosaur bone
Known for using exceptionally rare things to create extraordinary dials, the brand has now succeeded in bringing the worlds of watchmaking and palaeontology together. The aptly christened Jurassic Tourbillon features 150-million-year-old dinosaur bones from a family of large herbivores, which also includes the diplodocus. The delicately cut bone is meticulously crafted by hand to preserve its russet colour and veining, while the unique strap is made from stingray parts.

VICTORINOX
What: Paracord
Comprising a lightweight nylon kernmantle rope, this is used as an all-purpose utility cord by military personnel and, at one point, even by astronauts during the 82nd space shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Made for adventure, the I.N.O.X. Paracord is equipped with a Naimakka ‘paracord’ bracelet — which is handwoven from genuine American-made parachute cord approved by the army.

HUBLOT

The epitome of hybridity, Hublot has unfailingly stayed true to its Art of Fusion philosophy. Whether improving on traditional alloys or conjuring up wholly new and trailblazing composites, the brand offers an endless number of materials and possible combinations of history and innovation.

The case of the Big Bang Unico Italia Independent is created with Texalium, a brand-new material in watchmaking that is used exclusively by the Swiss brand.

An ideal amalgam of respect for tradition and 21st-century creativity, the Big Bang Unico “Magic Gold” flaunts the most scratch-resistant gold bezel ever designed  — it can only be machined using diamond.

A result of a collaboration with famed cigar manufacturer Arturo Fuente, the ForbiddenX features on its dial tobacco leaves, from the Fuente Estate in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, which are used to create the prestigious ForbiddenX cigar.

With the Classic Fusion Firmament, the brand succeeded in incorporating osmium, one of the rarest metal elements on our planet, into a watch. Because it is volatile in its pure metal state, it is used here in crystallised form, providing a mesmerising contrast against the anthracite and ruthenium-treated bridges on both sides of the movement.

RJ – ROMAIN JEROME

Ever since its formation, RJ – Romain Jerome has been celebrated for its unique concept, ‘DNA of famous legends’. The brand allows connoisseurs to own a part of history by creating watches with emotional value, which incorporate pieces of the subjects that they are inspired by.

The maison draws upon the strength of the sea, the air and the earth for its creations. Their Moon-DNA watch in the Air category boasts dials that contain actual moon dust in addition to steel from the Apollo 11 spacecraft, while the Sea category’s Titanic-DNA watch features small amounts of metal dragged up from the ship’s wreck and metal recovered from the yard that it was produced at in Ireland. The Earth category sees a watch (Eyjafjallajökull-DNA) that integrates authentic rock and ash from the Icelandic volcano eruption in 2010 as well as one (Liberty-DNA) that has particles of the Statue of Liberty in it. Another piece that stands out is the Berlin-DNA, which has cement from the Berlin Wall integrated into its dial.

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