Are bronze watches an alternative to steel?
Something that I’ve noticed for the past 2 years (and everybody did as well) is that popularity on steel sport watches doesn’t seem to have a peak, to be honest with you I have been waiting for the day to enter a boutique from one of the 4 big brands and ask for steel bracelet watch without being looked like I am crazy, this got me thinking, there are so many materials out there, why steel? Is it its versatility or is it the toughness? Perhaps is because it looks like white gold? Or is it the extra weight which gives that heavy luxury feeling? Either way steel is driving the watch market and an avalanche last year with releases from Chopard, Bell & Ross, H. Moser and even A. Lange & Sohne made this category even more desirable.
So what else is out there? Gold is amazing (at least for me), it has this warm feeling that the cold steel cannot match, but it has a big downside and that it’s the price tag. Gold is pricey and sometimes not to the taste of everyone, a bit loud some might say but you can always grab a white gold piece that looks like steel but double in price, so what the fun in that?
Then we have Titanium, a material that I have been obsessing since I was a kid, I think it was a mixture of Wolverine’s ‘’admantium’’ or thinking that the Endoskeleton from the Terminator was made of this light but hard material (I've digressed sorry), my point is that titanium is a great alternative to steel but for some watch enthusiast feel that the watch feels too light and almost cheap, this of course contrasts a hugely with an industry that sells an object focusing on luxury lifestyle. We also have small things like the grey darker color or the scratch resistance but either way titanium doesn’t seem to impress as much these days remembering us of other industries big failures like 3D TVs and Sony minidiscs.
So we are back to square one, steel rules but even that there are some rarer materials (more expensive too like Palladium or Platinum) bronze is a great alternative for watches. It’s cheaper but more interesting than steel in my opinion, it looks very tool like and it will patina faster than anything creating a unique watch along the way. It does have downsides like every material, let us remember that bronze is not the hardest metal but it’s fine for a watch, I still hear some of the folks in the industry worrying that a big hit on a bronze case might be very damaging for the watch because of its softness, not sure we are diving or exploring much with our watches today but that’s another topic. Although bronze watches had their glory days and became a collector’s item because of watches like the Panerai ‘’Bronzo’’ or the Tudor Black Bay bronze, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t alternatives for us lovers of alternative choices. The 3 watches below are for me a perfect fit for the oldest metal on earth, let's start.
The new tool watch on the block: The Glycine Combat Sub 42 Bronze
This is my personal watch and I love it. Thin as a dress watch but wide and imposing as anything. With 42mm wide and 10.6 mm thick the watch has this beautiful brownish fading dial with the top lighter than the bottom, then it has a chocolate bezel with big lume plots and a snappy date changing which works like nothing I have seen in this price range, to me this watch has it all.
Glycine has been making the Combat Sub range for a while now and I have to say that that they really nailed the design and proportions of this watch. I remember buying the Glycine because I did not wanted to spend a large sum on a bronze watch (I was aiming to buy the Tudor Black Bay bronze) as I wasn’t sure if the sentiment will stay after I purchased the watch, I can happily report that not only the sentiment stayed but also the watch. I did not feel the need to upgrade to the Tudor as the Glycine is perfect for me and the brand it’s one of the best hidden secrets out there, sure they are now owned by Invicta which sometimes could be a dirty word among us watch geeks but a collection that includes a Combat Sub or an Airman deserves respect, let’s not forget that the brand was launching its time zones watches before Rolex made the GMT Master.
The unique one : JP Cali Bronze Diver
So in my obsession with bronze (not event close to the titanium one) I came across JP Custom Watches. An amazing watch shop which offers modified watches with a unique touch and reliable movements. I was browsing their catalog and suddenly, a bronze watch with a California dial! But the beauty is that it doesn't stop here, the watch had all the cues that I love about vintage watches like hands paying tribute to the Rolex Milsub and the bezel looking like the Blancpain fifty fathoms. Being a modern watch it includes all the great things like a ceramic lume bezel filled BGW9 SuperLuminova (I am not sure why not many watch brands do this) and of course a tested water resistance, inside the 41 mm case we have an automatic caliber Seiko SII NH35A movement which is as robust as the watch itself. Then we go to the California dial, the crosshair in the middle of the dial is matched with the white indices and a mix of Roman with Arabic numerals creating an explosion of lume when the watch goes in the dark, I have to say that I love all those details with the contrast of the gloss dial, is like a festival with cover bands performing greatest hits and all under one roof (although in this case is a sapphire crystal).
I enjoyed my time with this piece very much and I will be sad to see it go, people who saw the watch was immediately drawn to it, asking me: ‘’what is that? Looks great, can I try it?’’ which is the reaction that you want to create among enthusiast. The variety offered in the JP custom catalogue makes me wonder the possibilities out there for a unique watch, and yes there are some of them made of steel too.
The flying machine: Maurice de Mauriac Chrono Modern Bronze (Safari)
Well what can I say, is not every day that yours truly has the honor of strapping something as beautiful as this. I won’t dwell much on the details as I am preparing a hands-on article for this ‘’flieger’’ green marvel.
The Chrono Modern Bronze from Maurice de Mauriac does deserve it’s praise as is in another league. Let’s start with the movement, the heart of the watch is a Valjoux 7750 which can be seen through the sapphire case back, in here we can also see a beautiful base plate decorated with ''perlage'' which is covered by a personalized rotor highlighted with Geneva stripes. For me the main attraction is the dial, if we want (and I don’t) to avoid talking about the day and date complication, the 30 minutes and 12 hours counters and those big elegant tear drop hands that reach into the far end of the dial, we are left with on of the coolest freshest greens I’ve seen on a watch, up close the dial makes perfect contrast with the white numerals. The cam actuated movement has a great feel when the pusher is actioned and when the reset button is pressed it just snaps like whip, you can almost hear the cartoonish sound instead of the click. On the wrist feels spot on even on my wrist which is 6.25 inches, the 42mm snugs very well as the lug to lug is the right size. This watch really stayed with me because of the quality, the details under the macro lenses are incredible well executed from the printing to the date and day windows. I was reading about the list of boxes that the Chrono Modern ticks and I think that this is one of the watches with more complications I have on rotation at the moment but it manages to deliver information so simple that is a delight to use.
Bronze is a funny material, when is new looks like gold and when it ages it looks lets say different, but is in this difference that bronze attracts us watch enthusiasts. When you have a bronze cage that that safeguards chocolate, black and green dials as beautiful as the ones we have seen, then bronze can only feel and be attractive. Yes, bronze is softer and no there isn’t a full bronze bracelet (as far as I know), but on the right strap and the right attitude it will be more interesting than any blue dial steel watch although I have to confess that I have several myself and I loved them, mea culpa.
More info at:
JP Custom Watches
Maurice de Mauriac
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