10/18/2023
 4 minutes

The Allure and Advantages of Bronze Watches

By Barbara Korp
IWC-Pilot-Spitfire-Chronograph-Bronze-Spitfire-Chronograph-2-1

Bronze watches do more than tell time; they slowly evolve into time capsules with layers of history and individual flair. Their cases are made from a special bronze alloy that develops a unique patina over the years, combining traditional craftsmanship with modern design details. This article celebrates the wonderful world of bronze watches, highlights their advantages, and puts forward some fantastic models.

What are bronze watches?

Bronze watches feature cases made of a special bronze alloy, usually a blend of copper and tin. These timepieces are renowned for their special ability to develop a distinct patina over years of exposure to air and moisture. Although this property wasn’t always considered advantageous in the luxury sector, the belief that an expensive timepiece should look brand new for as long as possible persisted for quite some time.

The 1980s ushered in the era of bronze watches, and the watch community was faced with the patina debate for the first time. But what some initially brushed off as a weakness, others instantly considered a strength. Not only do the chemical reactions slowly transform every bronze watch into a unique piece, the patina gives the watch its own character. Vintage charm, a touch of industrial chic, and a lot of personality – there are plenty of reasons to love bronze watches.

Advantages Bronze Watches Have Over Gold and Stainless Steel

The biggest asset bronze watches have is their physical appearance. But while beauty is only skin-deep, bronze watches do have a number of practical properties that give them an edge over gold and stainless steel. For instance, bronze timepieces are robust and corrosion resistant, making them great for harsh environments like salt water – something which has proved crucial in the marine industry for various parts like propellers. Logically, the next step was to use this mighty material for diving watches, but even watches that merely pay homage to seafaring are often made of bronze nowadays.

Bronze is also a popular choice for pilot’s watches. This is because bronze alloys don’t contain any iron, rendering the watch anti-magnetic by default, something which is extremely useful in the cockpit. Not only that, but bronze doesn’t reflect light, so there’s no annoying glare obstructing your view of the dial.

Read more here: Here to Stay: The Vintage Power of Bronze

Caring For a Bronze Watch

While the patina really makes the watch your own, you can easily remove it if it gets a bit too much for your liking. All you need to do is add a mild acid like lemon juice, vinegar, or baking soda to some water, and pop your watch in (don’t forget to double-check your watch’s water resistance!). Some people swear by Ketchup, since it contains vinegar. Whichever one you go for, all methods will bring the warm bronze hue back to your timepiece.

Beautiful Examples of Bronze Watches

If bronze watches have won you over, we’ve got great news: You won’t have trouble finding a high-quality timepiece at a fair price, even with an in-house caliber. Here are my top-3 picks to get the ball rolling.

1. Tudor Black Bay Bronze

The bronze edition of the Tudor Black Bay was released in 2016, and is a real vision. It comes with a brown, blue, or slate gray dial, all versions upholding the Black Bay hallmarks like the snowflake hand and large crown sans crown guard. The tweaks in the blueprint can be found in the Arabic numerals at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. Since bronze scuffs a touch easier than stainless steel does, Tudor devised a simpler system for changing the band: The small holes in the lugs make it easier to swap out the strap, and thus lower the risk of scratching the piece. All watches are certified as chronometers and offer a 70-hour power reserve. But as much as we love these technical details, it’s really the unparalleled aesthetic that gives us the wow factor. If you’re interested in reading more about this model, take a look at this deep dive into the Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Bronze by my colleague Donato.

Tudor Black Bay Bronze
Tudor Black Bay Bronze

2. IWC Big Pilot’s Watch Bronze

The Big Pilot Watches from IWC may have been developed with pilots in mind, but they’ve found their way into many watch collections outside the cockpit. The stately stature of these timepieces don’t just make an impression, it also ensures pristine legibility. Add in the fact that the bronze case won’t dare reflect any light, and we’re onto a winner. You might notice that it looks more matte than other bronze watches, and that’s because the brand applied an oxide layer to slow down the patina process and ensures that it develops evenly. This means you get the best possible result: a material that ages gracefully and doesn’t end up looking blotchy. This is all very much in keeping with IWC’s simple, clean design language, and is in my view a great alternative to a bronze diver.

IWC Big Pilot’s Watch
IWC Big Pilot’s Watch

3. Panerai Submersible Bronzo

It’s been over a decade since Panerai released their first bronze watches, but demand is still increasing, and unworn copies of the original models are known to sell for steep prices. Anyone who spends some time looking at a used Submersible Bronzo watch will appreciate how stylishly these watches age. The patina will of course diminish their warm glow, but the prominent crown guard looks fantastic. If you’re lucky enough to be offered one – take it. You’ll be hard-pressed finding a bronze watch that makes a better accessory and an exciting investment piece at the same time.

Panerai Submersible Bronzo
Panerai Submersible Bronzo

About the Author

Barbara Korp

The moment I learned that watches were a lot more than just simple jewelry, I was hooked; I become enamored with the elegance of timekeeping. But there was one small hitch: most models were just too big for me to wear! That didn't discourage me, however. In fact, I developed quite a niche interest.

Read more

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