Titanium, the metal inspired by Greek demigods
In our childhood dreams (or at least in the author’s), we had Japanese comics which were full of invincible robots with weapons bearing suggestive names. And the name of “titanium“, a real, solid but extremely light material with such a peculiar name, could not escape the suggestions of this epic world. But back on earth, the metal having such an intriguing name has become a protagonist of modern watchmaking (and not only because Chronos – the demigod of time – was a Titan). So let’s explore it together!
The qualities and characteristics of titanium
Titanium as a metal offers several excellent qualities: it is very light and robust, antimagnetic, and practically heat-impervious – things that make it preferable to various steel alloys. For this reason, it is widely used in high-tech technical and engineering parts and, because of its biocompatibility, in the creation of bone prostheses.
The problem is that it is more challenging to work with than steel itself and, therefore, more expensive. Also, not every horology fan appreciates the titanium watch lightness: in fact, it gives the impression of being too light, almost fragile (even though it is not). Be that as it may, its use in watchmaking originated in the 1970s, first used by Citizen in its X8 line of quartz watches, and continues to this day.
The Japanese manufacturer did a lot of work on the material, even managing to improve its surface hardness with a treatment called Duratect that makes it polishable and as durable as steel. Citizen was followed by many others, which proceeded to develop the characteristics of this attractive material and make it, if not common, a viable and more technological alternative to steel, especially for industrial-looking timepieces and titanium dive watches.
Is titanium better for a watch?
As we have said, titanium watches offer some outstanding qualities in watchmaking.
- First, titanium is entirely antimagnetic and, thus, does not share that annoying tendency of iron-based alloys to be subject to magnetic fields that affect the accuracy of watches.
- The second quality of titanium is that it weighs about half as much as steel but is up to six times stronger. This allows us to make a tool watch such as particular high-performance titanium dive watch – larger yet weighing less than its “relatives” made of steel.
- The third fact is that titanium is one of the most biocompatible materials in the world and, therefore, never causes allergy when worn on the wrist, even for long periods.
- The fourth and final fact is that it has a very high melting point and excellent thermal stability. This means that it is less susceptible than steel to changes in size due to temperature and pressure. Therefore, watches made of titanium have lower technical tolerances, thus being more robust and durable, making this metal the logical choice for heavy-duty professional men’s titanium watches.
Conversely, titanium is more expensive than steel because it is more complex to machine, and in any case, it is more difficult to polish to an aesthetically pleasing surface finish. So, the answer to the question is “yes,” it is an excellent material to use in watches, but not in all cases.
What are the best titanium watches?
Watches are like chocolates: everyone has their favorites. So, what you will see below makes up “our” box of chocolates, which of course, you may not agree with, but is a good starting point for evaluating which titanium timepieces may be suitable for you!
1 – Best titanium automatic watch: Omega Seamaster 150 Aqua Terra GMT Titanium
There is one line of watches that defined an era, and that is Omega’s Seamaster series. This model, the Omega Seamaster 150 Aqua Terra GMT Titanium, offers all the proverbial qualities of titanium with the class of the Maison it represents.
This watch was produced in a limited series in collaboration with the GoodPlanet Foundation. It mounts a coaxial escapement chronometric movement in its 43mm case, an Omega exclusive, with 60 hours of power reserve – a very good performance among automatic watches – and offers a GMT function to easily mark the time in two different timezones. As the timepiece was made as a limited edition, it is now discontinued, but you can find it on the second wrist market for around $4,500.
2 – Best titanium quartz watch: Bradley Classic Eone
In this case, we propose a very special timepiece – a unique among quartz watches. The Bradley Classic Eone – in this titanium version with a cognac-colored leather strap – was created with a specific purpose: to go beyond the usual watches for the visually-impaired. It uses a quartz movement and two balls for the hours and minutes that rotate, magnetically connected to the movement, along grooves cut in the dial and the watch’s outer part of the bezel.
The Bradley Eone can thus be consulted tactilely, without looking at it – a helpful feature when you perhaps want to check the time but don’t want anyone to see you doing it! This innovative timepiece – a unique among quartz titanium watches – is available for about $300.
3 – Best mens titanium watch: Longines Spirit Chronometer Ref. L38111532
If you have a passion for traditional vintage military-style mens titanium watches, executed with modern materials and mechanics, you can’t pass up this timepiece from Longines. The Longines Spirit Chronometer Ref. L38111532 is a perfect watch that can be stylish and sporty, and its design, which comes straight from the 1970s, is bound to win you over.
Its 40 mm diameter case houses an automatic caliber L888.4 with an excellent 72-hour power reserve and chronometer certification. At a price of about $2,500 for the strap variant, it is a temptation hard to resist.
4 – Best affordable titanium watch: Skagen Sundby Titanium 233XLTTN
Skagen is a Danish brand that has gained some notoriety for its beautiful, elegant and inexpensive timepieces. Admittedly, you won’t find many mechanical movements in this series of timepieces, but its good quality and minimalist design make this 37mm watch a perfect all-rounder for every use and emergency.
The Skagen Sundby Titanium 233XLTTN has a blue sector dial, on which the markers and numerals rest, with a small date window at six o’clock, and mounts a robust Miyota quartz mechanism. The case is made in titanium and mounted on a Milanese mesh strap in swteel. You can find it for only $150, also online, making it the champ among the most affordable watches of this report.
5 – Best titanium solar watch: Citizen BM7170-53L Eco-Drive
In addition to being the trailblazer for titanium in watchmaking, Citizen has other firsts, including the development of EcoDrive technology, one of the most diffused and reliable among solar watches. It is used in this Citizen BM7170-53L Eco-Drive, which is rugged and elegant with a matching bracelet. Its 43mm case displays a dial with a three-dimensional texture on a blue base.
A stylish and sporty watch with a water resistance of 100 meters, it offers perfect readability thanks to the sapphire crystal, which allows the watch to capture all forms of light (including artificial light) to recharge indefinitely. The list price is $250.
6 – Best titanium diver watch: Omega Seamaster 300 007 Edition
We fall back on Omega again, but we cannot hide that we really like this timepiece – worn by James Bond in “No Time to Die.” It may be that it echoes all the vintage aesthetic canons that strike us, including the colors of the lume and bezel. It may be that it blends them with military references of the era. It may be that it encapsulates them in a titanium case combined with an excellent Milanese-style metal bracelet (but the coordinated NATO strap is also brilliant).
But, let us tell you, the Omega Seamaster 300 007 Edition is indeed a fine timepiece which excels among diver watches. Its 42mm case houses a METAS-certified Master Chronometer movement, offers an impressive 300 meters of water resistance, and a list price of around $9,000.
7 – Best titanium digital watch: Hublot Big Bang E
The quality of Hublot watches does not stop at the perfection of their mechanics and the audacity of their shapes and materials: the Maison has also successfully tackled the field of digital watches, offering this timepiece, which is much more than a “simple” watch, to accompany the most connected and contemporary lifestyles.
The Hublot Big Bang E has a 42 mm titanium case and runs under Google’s WearOS system. It is powered by a powerful SnapDragon Wear 3100 processor, with a fast-charging battery that lasts at least a day in full operation, and is the perfect – and stylish – sidekick to assist you through your days. The list price is $5,200.
8 – Best titanium chronograph watch: TAG Heuer Carrera 1887 CAR2A80.FC6237
Among titanium chrono watches, we turn to one of TAG Heuer’s most celebrated models, the TAG Heuer Carrera 1887 CAR2A80.FC6237, in a modern version that mixes the classic sportivity of its legacy, dating back to the 1960s, to the new performances and looks offered by modern materials like titanium. Its black-coated case makes it a sexy, assertive watch, with a size of 43 mm, and displaying a dark design theme punctuated by white and orange accents that gives an aura of power and control.
It mounts an automatic TAG Heuer 1887 caliber, with 50 hours of reserve power, visible through the transparent case back, and offers 100 meters of water resistance. A price of about $4,500 makes it an expensive but example among chronograph watches.
9 – Best titanium sports watch: Davosa Titanium 46mm black 100m automatic 16156155
If you want a watch that will go everywhere with you and stand up to anything, you can’t go wrong with this sexy watch from Davosa. The Davosa Titanium black automatic 16156155 is a big watch – 46 mm – and very readable, as its modernly classy urbanite design matches equally well with your trekking boots and your business suit.
The accents as the dark-toned PVD plated bezel and the carbonium-look strap highlight its charm. It mounts a sturdy automatic DAV 3021 movement and has a water resistance of 100 meters – more than enough for its typical uses. List price at $979.
10 – Best luxury titanium watch: Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ref. 103137
We tackle this category with one of the finest modern dress watches around, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ref. 103137. A true gem of a wristwatch, the Octo Finissimo combines a 40mm case connected with the bracelet in a unique and inimitable design with a highly legible dial, with rose gold-plated hands and hour markers that stand out against the smoky gray dial.
The BVL 138 in-house manufacture automatic movement, visible through the open case back, offers a 60-hour power reserve, adequate to “forget” it for a weekend. However, it’s hard to imagine you wanting to take it off your wrist. Nearly $12,000 to wear one of the world’s most beautiful luxury titanium watches.
11 – Best titanium dress watch: Grand Seiko SBGA211G Spring Drive “Snowflake”
Grand Seiko is the Maison for you if you want a watch that is refined in mechanics and finish, with a timeless, classic cut in a 41 mm case. Its timepieces are distinguished by proverbial quality, combined with spectacular finishing and superb watchmaking technique. And the Grand Seiko SBGA211G Spring Drive known as Snowflake, perhaps more than any other, embodies this excellence.
A textured dial perfectly finished, reminding of freshly fallen snow, a Spring Drive movement of absolute precision, details, and finishes that rival the best European Maisons and often surpass them are just some features of this sumptuous watch. A list price of $5,800 also seems low for the quality you put on your wrist.
12 – Best titanium sapphire watch: Zenith Defy Classic 95.9000.670/78.M9000
Zenith elicits different reactions among enthusiasts, but this Zenith Defy Classic 95.9000.670/78.M9000 amazes its lines and skeleton design, making it a truly remarkable timepiece among titanium sapphire watches.
It has a 41 mm tonneau case and a skeletonized movement, with a modern design that makes it truly unique, enhanced by the large glass surfaces on the case back that allow you to admire the Elite 670 SK movement in all its beauty. Two versions, with matching titanium wristband or bracelet, start at $6,300 for an unusual and assertive watch.
13 – Best minimalist titanium watch: The Ressence Type 1
There are many traditional minimalist watches. And there are innovative minimalist watches representing a different recipe for preparing this “dish.” The Ressence Type 1 offers a futuristic version of a possible digital Bauhaus, founded on an automatic movement that shows the time through the so-called Orbital Convex System, an intricate regulator arrangement of dials and sub-dials that rotate on themselves.
Setting the time and winding the watch also occurs without a crown, evidence of a focus on producing not just another watch but a different watch concept. A perfect futuristic dress watch, the Ressence Type 1 sells for about $15,000 – alas, not a minimalist price at all.
14 – Best Casio titanium watch: Casio Pro Trek PRW2500T Titanium
The Casio watches offer several references in various series, one of which is the Pro Trek. These are sporty timepieces in which robustness becomes a prerequisite to ensure their proverbial reliability. The Casio Pro Trek PRW2500T Titanium is a perfect example: designed to follow you anywhere in outdoor activities, it offers incredible reliability and an endless range of valuable functions.
You can indulge in radio-controlled timekeeping on an atomic clock, moon and tide calendar, barometer, thermometer and altimeter, and a thousand other timekeeping and alarm functions. Plus, it is one of the most gifted titanium solar watches, with almost two years of power after a full recharge, so it will never leave you stranded—the price is around $1,340.
The Microbrand offering
Several microbrands have also thrown themselves into the production of titanium watches, with sometimes genuinely excellent results. Here is a small selection of some of the most tantalizing proposals we have reviewed for you.
1 – Boldr Venture Automatic 200 m
A 38 mm titanium watch with an automatic movement (we’re talking about a rugged Seiko NH35, with 41 hours of power reserve) with water resistance that reaches that of many diver’s watches and that you can find for less than $300? This is not a dream but the truth.
The BOLDR Venture Automatic is a rugged timepiece, and it has all the looks. Sure, it’s a sports watch dedicated, as the company says, to Urban Explorers – nothing particularly fancy. But everyone will appreciate the mineral crystal glass with anti-reflective coating and the dial’s legibility even in the dark, thanks to a generous supply of lumen.
2 – Zelos Mako V3 Titanium
Zelos has built a name for itself by making beautiful, well-made, and affordable diver watches and it has seen fit to make a titanium version of one of its highlights, namely the Mako.
A 40 mm titanium case, with the crown set at four o’clock, Seiko-style, distinguishes this timepiece, a true diver with 300-meter water resistance that mounts a Miyota caliber 9015. It is available with various dials, a true flagship of the Maison, including a captivating meteorite reference. Several versions are available, selling for about $550.
3 – Locman Montecristo Skeleton 0538K01S-BKBKGYSK
Locman is a small manufacturer based in Italy, on Elba Island. It produces several attractive watches, such as this particular version of one of its classics, the Montecristo, which is fully skeletonized.
Its 42mm composite case in steel and titanium with black DLC coating mounts an S.I.O Swiss Made automatic movement with a 70-hour power reserve. The case back is transparent, revealing the beauty of the movement in action, with its tungsten rotor making a pleasing display. Plan to spend about $1,300 for this truly fascinating and unusual watch.
As you can see, the manufacturing technology that has delivered us titanium watches gives us a great choice of models and styles to suit virtually every taste and practical need.
Of course, titanium watches continue to be an exception in the average production of steel timepieces. Still, given this material’s advantages, we anticipate that the choice will expand in the future, making such distinctive watches even more popular and appreciated by the public.