Titanium Vs. Stainless Steel - Which Material is Better for Watches
The case of a watch can be made from the likes of stainless steel, brass, chrome, titanium, or other metals. Each material has pros and cons, although nearly any metal will do a good job.
Two materials used ubiquitously in the watch industry, stainless steel, and titanium, are often compared against each other, especially in sports watches. At first glance, you might think that these materials are very similar, but they are fundamentally different.
So, which of the two materials is better? Let’s take a look!
Stainless Steel Watches
Stainless steel has long been used to make watches.
Since it first became available, it has been used in many areas of watchmaking. In fact, Apple recently introduced fitness watches that use stainless steel, perhaps in a bid to appear even more luxurious among its plastic peer. A Stainless steel watch is tough, and the case will last decades.
When stainless steel sports watches such as Audemars Piguet Royal Oak or the Heuer Camaro became the new trend of the 1970s, many watch brands also began to look into steel watches.
Watches made of stainless steel are comparatively hard, and resist salt and chemical corrosion. Additionally, stainless steel watches are highly resistant to impacts that would deform the case.
The steel used in the watch industry is not pure, but are actually alloys made up of various metals in different proportions. Therefore, there is no single standard for stainless steel in watchmaking.
Most steel watches are made from an alloy called 316L, which is primarily composed of chromium (16 to 18%), nickel (10 to 12%), and molybdenum (2 to 3%).
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Meanwhile, the industry giant Rolex uses a different alloy, 904L, which is almost totally resistant to salt water and perspiration, unlike stainless steel type 316L.
Stainless steel type 904L consists of chromium (19 to 23%), nickel (23 to 28%), and molybdenum (4 to 5%). Because of its higher proportion of molybdenum, 904L is more resistant to acids and corrosion, but much harder to machine.
If you like Seiko mods, make sure you buy parts that are made from high quality stainless steel. Many of the cheaper parts on the market may not use top-grade steel, which is something worth considering.
Although stainless steel has long established itself as the material of choice for sturdy and reliable timepieces, titanium has challenged it in recent years.
The material was introduced to the watchmaking world in 1970 by Citizen. Titanium has been used in Citizen watches because of its ability to resist corrosion and its dependability.
Similar to stainless steel, the titanium of cases and bracelets are actually a titanium-based alloy. To improve its physical characteristics, it will be combined with other metals. Pure titanium has a purity of 99.5% and may contain other elements such as iron, oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen.
Most wearers choose titanium watches because they are much lighter but do not compromise on the durability of a watch. In addition, titanium watches are often preferred by those who are allergic to nickel as the majority of watches are made of steel and always contain a certain amount of nickel.
Not only that, titanium has another advantage in that the material is extremely resistant to corrosion and therefore does not react with its surroundings, thanks to a protective oxide layer that forms naturally.
While titanium watch spare parts are rarer than stainless steel parts, there is a growing demand for them. A Titanium watch has unique advantages, which we will discover below!
Which Is Better, Titanium or Stainless Steel?
Like anything that is subjective, there is no better material when comparing stainless steel and titanium for watchmaking. Each material offers unique advantages, which set it apart from the other.
As said, titanium has similar technical and physical qualities to stainless steel but it is 40% lighter, making it a popular choice for every kind of watch, from the most technical survival timepieces to GMT watches and divers, or even dressier automatic watches.
With its much higher melting point than steel, a maximum of 1650 degrees Celsius, titanium will hold its shape under almost any circumstances a human will encounter. As it is very stable and solid, titanium has become an excellent material for watch cases.
However, titanium watches scratch easier than stainless steel. Scratches on a titanium watch look more noticeable than scratches on stainless steel watches.
When a scratch first affects the superficial titanium oxide layer, then it will spread to the underlying metal. As a result, it appears more profound and more evident than what it really is, but surface scratches are easier to restore on titanium than on steel.
You can scratch away the thin layer of oxide surrounding the scratch by using something like a titanium refinishing pad.
On the other hand, titanium also has higher processing costs than steel, especially in cold work because it is harder than conventional steel. It can damage the tools such as drills and cutters used to machine it, making it necessary to replace them more often.
Hence, titanium models often cost roughly 50% more than the corresponding steel models.
Which Material Is Right for You?
Although there are distinct differences between titanium and stainless steel materials, both are outstanding materials for watch making. At namokiMODS, we were one of the first aftermarket manufacturers to offer a titanium case for a SKX007 mod.
In addition to loads of Seiko spare parts, we also offer a Watchmaking kit to help you get started with Seiko Mod Watches. Check out all the great watch parts we offer in our extensive online catalog.