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The unique appeal of bronze watches by Extropian

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Norqain
Echo Neutra
Zelos
Laco
Oris
Baltic Watches
Christopher Ward
The unique appeal of bronze watches by Extropian

What is special about bronze as a material?

The use of bronze as a material goes way back! So what was it used for before watches, and what makes it so special?

The history of bronze

Bronze is a copper based alloy generally containing around 88% copper and 12% tin. It is mankind’s oldest alloy and is pretty much as old as time-keeping itself. It was first used in weaponry and decoration way back in 4000 BC, which is around the time that the first water clocks made their appearance. The Bronze Age lasted almost three millennia before cheaper iron and stronger steel took over, but its versatility means that it continued to be used in numerous different ways right up to the present day. Including, as we know, in watches!

Unique properties

So, to what does bronze owe its continuing popularity? Well, it has a number of unique properties that make it stand out from the crowd. Bronze is anti-magnetic and also resistant to salt water corrosion. Useful, huh? When exposed to the elements bronze only oxidizes at the surface, forming a protective layer over the underlying metal. In the past, this made it the go-to material for boat and ship fittings. It also featured in early diving equipment. Think of those scary looking diving helmets!

The first bronze watch

The history of bronze as a material for watch cases doesn’t go back as far as you may think! In fact bronze watches didn’t appear until the 1980s, which may come as a surprise given the vintage aesthetic which is a pretty big part of their appeal today.

 

The Genta Gefica Safari

We have Gerald Genta to thank for the emergence of bronze as a watchmaking material. In 1984, he created the Genta Gefica Safari, the first ever watch with a bronze case. It is thought to have been made at the request of three hunters who wanted a watch made from a material that wasn’t going to reflect light and scare off the animals in their sights. The first two letters of their names - Geoffroy, Fissore and Canali - are responsible for the watch’s somewhat unusual name!  

 

Ahead of its time

Bronze may be one of the hottest contemporary watchmaking trends, but back in the 80s it seems Genta was just a little bit ahead of his time. He was laughed at for using a material that was going to age and dull almost immediately. We know that’s kinda the point, right? But back then they just didn’t get it and bronze watches failed to take off.

 

Bronze goes mainstream

Although Genta gets the credit for introducing the idea of bronze as a watchmaking material, it took another three decades for it to go mainstream!

 

Panerai popularizes bronze

It’s Panerai we have to thank for popularizing bronze as a watchmaking material. Their  Luminor Submersible Bronzo started the ball rolling in 2011. Bronze dive watches soon followed - resistance to salt water corrosion makes the material an obvious choice for this type of watch after all - and it didn’t take long after that for everyone to fall under bronze’s spell ! 

The popularity of patina

One of the reasons for the popularity of bronze watches is the unique way in which they age. Initially bright and shiny, bronze watches will darken over time and eventually form a greenish patina. Think of all those statues out in the open! That patina will be totally unique to the wearer as it depends on the level of moisture exposure and how much the watch is worn. You could have a room full of people all wearing the same watch and every single one would look different. How cool is that?

Some people are so crazy about patina that they will deliberately ‘force’ the patina of their watch by painting it in a salt and vinegar solution!

Some watch brands add other materials - zinc, iron, lead or aluminum for example  - to the bronze to create a variety of color tones, all of which will age in their own unique way. 

Although patina is all part of the appeal of the watch case, it doesn’t look so great when transferred to the wrist! To save the wearer from Hulk colored skin brands tend to make the bottom of bronze cases from stainless steel. 

Bronze bracelets

The popularity of bronze has seen many brands expanding its use to bracelets in recent years. Back in 2020, Oris created the Hölstein Edition 2020, an all-bronze version of the Oris Divers Sixty-Five Chronograph and the first Swiss watch with a bronze bracelet. That was a super limited edition of 250, but thankfully they now offer two different bronze straps that are available to the masses! Zelos also makes a bronze bracelet, helpfully backed with stainless steel to prevent your wrist turning green!

Oris - Big Crown Bronze Pointer Date 

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❤️ That bronze bracelet/ green dial combo is truly a thing of beauty!

 

Zelos - Mako V3 300M Bronze

5 Bronze Black Zelos Elshan Mako V3 Mr 1000x

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❤️ At Extropian we love that seriously chunky bronze bracelet.



What type of watches are made from bronze?

Bronze looks great as a watch case material on many different types of watches, but there’s no doubt that its rugged good looks and unique way of aging make it particularly suited to tool watches.

Bronze divers

Its resistance to sea water corrosion was always going to make bronze an obvious choice for divers! Christopher Ward’s C60 Trident Bronze Ombré has a hand distressed dial which would make it totally unique even before you consider the unique way in which the watch will age! Baltic’s Aquascaphe has a cool modern vibe while Longines Legend Diver Bronze has more of a vintage vibe going on. 

 

Christopher Ward - C60 Trident Bronze 

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❤️Oh wow, that hand distressed dial is really something else!



Baltic Watches - Aquascaphe Bronze

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❤️ At Extropian we love that bold bronze bezel!

Bronze pilot watches

Bronze can add a unique warmth to the classic pilot’s watch. Oris’s Big Crown ProPilot Big Date is a particularly cool example! The Laco Edition 97 Bronze Pilot's Watch, meanwhile, comes with a beautiful dark green dial that combines to perfection with the bronze case. 

 

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Big Date

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❤️ That fluted bezel has us utterly seduced.

 

Laco - Pilot Watch Original Edition 97

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❤️Oh, it’s the combination of green and bronze again. All wrapped up in a gorgeous vintage aesthetic. Seriously, what’s not to love?!


Bronze chronographs

There’s no doubt that bronze and the retro Chronograph aesthetic are a marriage made in heaven! Zelos has a range of Bronze chronographs including the funky ZX-4, while Echo Neutra has the super cool Cortina 56.

 

Zelos - ZX4 Automatic Chronograph

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❤️ It’s the rugged beauty of this model that has us seduced here  at Extropian.



Echo Neutra - Cortina 56 GMT Bronze

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❤️ We love the contrast of brushed and polished faces on this oneQ



Bronze field watches

Bronze cases can add a premium edge to the humble field watch. The Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical is a great example!  

Norqain - Freedom 60 39MM

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❤️ At Extropian we love the minimalist, retro vibe of this Norqain model.

 

How to clean a bronze watch

OK, so we know that the patina of a bronze watch is loved by many but there are gonna be some of you out there who aren’t so crazy about it. And, hey, the world would be a very boring place if we all had the same taste! The good news is that if you want to remove the patina and have it looking brand spanking new again, it’s actually pretty easy!

First of all you need to make a paste from 2-3 dessert spoons of baking powder and some lemon juice. Apply the paste to the patinated areas of the watch using your fingers, or a toothbrush if you prefer. Make sure you work it into all those hard-to-reach crevices! Leave the paste for around 30 minutes and then rinse it off with warm water (only do this if your watch is waterproof!) and then polish it dry with a microfiber cloth.

Conclusion

Bronze watches are going to be a unique addition to your collection. They’re great if you’re into the neo vintage look, but can also look super contemporary too. If you’re into patina, then you can have a watch that is going to be totally unique to you, but as we’ve seen they’re pretty easy to clean so you have them looking shiny and new too if that’s your thing. Cool and versatile. Honestly, what’s not to love?!

 

What to keep in mind

  • Bronze watches will develop a unique patina, unlike any other watch. But if that’s not your thing you can clean it off!
  • As bronze can turn your skin green most bronze watch cases have backs made of stainless steel.
  • Although bronze often has a vintage look, it has only been used for watch cases since the 1980s. 
  • However, the popularity of bronze watches didn’t really take off until the 2010s.
  • Now bronze is so popular, watch bracelets are also being made from it.
  • Bronze has some unique properties, including resistance to salt water corrosion, which makes it particularly suited to diver’s watches.
  • Its rugged good looks also makes it perfect for a variety of tool watches.

Created the 2023-01-09

Modified the 2023-12-07

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