Ceratanium: IWC's new material that will change the watchmaking world
The first Aquatimer, introduced in 1967, kicked off an illustrious legacy of diver's watches from Schaffhausen. This year, IWC celebrates the pioneering watch family with yet another spearheading discovery—Ceratanium. An alloy with the lightweight toughness of titanium and the scratch-resistant properties of ceramic, Ceratanium combines the best of both materials to open up a world of possibilities in watchmaking.
Its debut in the form of a never-before-seen Ceratanium case escorts the unveiling of a special 50th anniversary edition of the Aquatimer. The Aquatimer Perpetual Calendar Digital Date-Month Edition "50 Years Aquatimer" (Ref. IW379403) is striking in its matte black presence by virtue of the revolutionary material. The dial echoes the dark theme by providing a black backdrop for luminescent elements on the hands and internal rotating bezel. Its large 49 mm diameter handsomely houses the double digit display of the digital perpetual calendar feature while allowing for a generous glimpse of the automatic movement via a see-through sapphire-glass back.
Ahead, Lorenz Brunner who heads up materials development at IWC Schaffhausen explains Ceratinium.
What is Ceratanium?
It is a groundbreaking new material, based on a titanium alloy, that combines all the advantages of titanium and ceramic. It is as light and tough as titanium but as hard and scratch-resistant as ceramic. Other compelling features are its skin-friendliness, high resistance to corrosion and striking matte black colour.
What was the main reason for the development of the new material?
Our brief at the start of the development process was to create a black or very dark material suitable for making a completely black watch. The new material would not only have outstanding properties but also give us more freedom during manufacture than ceramic.
What particular challenges does ceramic pose?
During the sintering process, the material shrinks by around a third. The minuscule tolerances acceptable for mechanical watches make the job incredibly demanding. Apart from that, it isn't possible to machine ceramic using conventional processes. For example, you can't drill holes in it after sintering because it might split.
And is that not the case with Ceratanium?
Ceratanium is based on a titanium alloy produced specially for IWC. We make all the case components from this metal, milling, turning, drilling and polishing them until they've reached their final shape. Only then do the parts go into the oven. During the sintering process, a change in the structure takes place; the ceramic-like surface bonds directly with the material to become extremely hard, scratch-proof and the distinctive black colour.
How do you plan to use the material now?
With the "50 Years Aquatimer", we've shown that we can make all the case components from the new material. Now we need to wait and see how watch lovers react to it. But I assume we'll be using Ceratanium in the future for other models. It's suitable for any application where we need lightness, ruggedness, corrosion-resistance, hardness and a striking black colour.
The special edition Aquatimer with a Ceratanium case has a limited run of just 50 pieces.