What are Titanium Watches?

Adam Hill

There are endless types of wristwatches for every kind of customer, and as small-scale technology improves, the features and refinement of these timepieces improves as well. Titanium watches are becoming more popular, in part because of the “space-age” properties of titanium metal, as well as its attractive appearance. Titanium watches have an outer case made of aircraft-grade titanium, a metal that is stronger and lighter than steel, and also significantly more costly.

Traditional clocks and watches use a system of gears and pulleys to keep time.
Traditional clocks and watches use a system of gears and pulleys to keep time.

The first pocket watches were made possible by the invention of the mainspring, and appeared in central Europe around the year 1500. These were not accurate enough to be consistently reliable, but could keep time to within about half an hour per day. Because of this lack of precision, they were more like jewelry than a practical device for measuring time. They were often worn by the wealthy and powerful, mainly to show that they were familiar and involved with scientific progress.

Wristwatches as we know them today were not produced until the mid-20th century, and their technology has been advancing ever since. The practicality of watches has increased along with their ability to be shown off as a luxury. Most titanium watches are made to have extremely high precision and quality, and are considered luxury timepieces.

The high price of titanium, and therefore titanium watches, comes from the fact that the extraction of this metal from its ore is a time-consuming and expensive process. For many years, titanium was limited to military and aerospace applications, such as ship propellers and jet airplane parts. From this came its reputation as a space-age metal. Titanium as an element has been known for centuries, and is in fact the ninth most common element in the earth. It has also been found in meteorites and detected in the sun and other stars. Despite this, its production was not industrialized until the 1950s.

Some of the unusual properties of titanium offer significant advantages to wearers of titanium watches. Its light weight -- 50% lighter than steel -- is easily noticeable. It is also hypo-allergenic, unlike steel, which contains nickel that can cause skin irritation. Since titanium is stronger than steel, it is also more durable. The one drawback to using titanium over steel is that, despite its superior tensile strength, it scratches quite easily. Makers of titanium watches often compensate for this by coating the metal with scratch-resistant materials.

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