Copper & Tin Are In: A Gilded Look for The Rest of Us

A cursory search online shows that solid gold pieces are very nice but incredibly expensive. Factor in your grey market upcharge and you might be wondering why you're looking at a piece like this in the first place. While a milestone marker for many, gold (in any variation) is something special. You get that gold piece when you make partner or make your first million. It really is something special that absolutely ought to occupy that rare corner of life. But, what about if you want something that has a similar "glitz" to it without the price tag? Well, if you've seen anything new on the market this year, bronze has you covered.

Bronze roundel by Gian Marco Cavalli, dated to about 1500 AD, depicts a scene from Roman Mythology: Venus (center) gazes at Mars whilst her husband, Vulcan, fashions a helmet.

None of us at Horology Republic are metallurgists or even remote experts on how alloys are made, so we had to do a little research. While the topic of how bronze is created could warrant an entire series of articles, we'll keep it simple and concise: Bronze, as we know it today in horology, is mostly Copper with about a 12% Tin content. This can vary with other metals added for different purposes, but generally bronze keeps very well and is durable enough to be used in maritime environments. Because of this, it was heavily used for commercial diving gear in that industry's early age and many of the watch options today are divers which reflect that heritage. The oxidation that occurs on bronze watches helps to protect the overall metal condition underneath and creates a unique patina which often gives a bronze watch that much more character over its stainless cousins. If you've been around the block in horology, patina is a word often associated with charm, price, and history. Finding out if you like how bronze ages as you wear it and expose it to life is part of the journey, but your timepiece will be that much more uniquely yours.


After that quick down and dirty, a question remains: which bronze watches are out there that are of note and might spark interest? We opted to not cover this article in oodles of photos for the Tudor Black Bay Bronze, though we do think it is a worthy competitor. There are tons of them out there and it's likely one of the more photographed Tudor watches so, if that's what you're expecting us to wax poetic about, you'll have to look elsewhere. Instead, we wanted to see what other options we could spend our money on that would give us that oh-so-special golden look without having to go five figures deep just to get in the door. Let's dive in, shall we? YEMA Superman Bronze Bordeaux- $975

Photo: Yema

Photo: Yema

The history of YEMA is worth a few articles but since we're here to ponder about bronze, this is our first choice from the famous brand. The barrier to entry here is low and you get a true maritime tool you can use for decades. Yes, it does have an in-house movement - the YEMA2000 which gives you 42 hours of power reserve. I know that's a question of highest concern whenever looking into a potential watch and this one has a great movement that's easy to service and will last for years and years. What's more, you also have a bezel-lock mechanism which can prove useful if you find yourself in the water and need to make sure your bezel doesn't go anywhere at all. Many other diving watches will simply shorten your dive in the name of safety, and they'd be right to do so. This watch, however, locks the bezel into place so if your dive computer fails and you need to use this as a backup, you'll not have to wonder if the bezel has been bumped forward at all.

Photo: Yema

Sizing of the YEMA is for everyone as well. You have two choices: 39mm or 41mm, so everyone should be able to find something that's just right for them. Of course, you can have a "vintage" leather strap, but if you're like me, those don't belong on divers which you'd take in the water at any moment. The black tropic strap is synthetic and offers the peace of mind that you won't damage a potentially pricey leather option and it won't absorb body oils and discolor like some leather straps do.

Photo: Yema

The high contrast dial provides maximum legibility and even has bronze surrounds on the hour markers. The hands are instantly legible and with the generous amounts of Super LumiNova applied to them, they'll glow for a long while after the light has faded. You'll be able to tell the time deep underwater or even in the middle of the night if you wake up. The caseback is 316L stainless, so you won't have any weird oxidation issues on that end of it. And to us, that makes sense when nobody really looks at the solid caseback of a watch these days as it is. With the kind of history YEMA has behind it, this is a solid choice to go bronze with. Get that golden look for much, much less with this beauty. www.en.yema.com/ Christopher Ward C60 Trident Bronze - $1,090

Photo: Christopher Ward London

CW is arguably one of the best ways to get into watches in general and this still holds true with their bronze offering. The watches from this brand occasionally get hate because they don't command the prices many Swiss watch enthusiasts are used to, but in our opinion here, that's not a bad thing. We've all started somewhere with a budget that we felt comfortable with and this is a good spot to begin in horology, especially if you're looking for bronze.

Photo: Christopher Ward London

While this watch comes in a few dial color combinations, the blue, hand-distressed "ombré" version gives you a unique look that you won't find on higher priced watches and contrasts very nicely with the bronze case and bezel. The pattern on it draws the eye immediately but isn't so distracting that you forget why you're looking at your watch in the first place. Christopher Ward also has a little fun with the dial by subtly placing their logo at the 12 o'clock position, their spelled out "Christopher Ward" at the 9 o'clock position, and the water resistance information at the traditional 6 o'clock position. When you don't have decades of rules within your company to follow, you have the freedom to express things in ways other brands wouldn't or couldn't and that's something we love to see in watches today. With plenty of lume to go around, this won't let you down in any light.

Photo: Christopher Ward London

You'll be getting a Christopher Ward-branded Sellita SW200-1 movement under the caseback. While we know some of you may roll your eyes at this, it offers a parts availability that makes a lot of sense at this price point. Almost anywhere you go, there's bound to be a watchmaker who could easily source a part for you and have your watch up and running should something happen. You won't have to hunt down an AD or boutique and send your watch away for untold months for a simple repair that could take under a day elsewhere. Perhaps there is something to be said for mass-produced yet accurate movements that many brands still have access to these days.

Photo: Christopher Ward London

The strap fits right in with this aesthetic so well that it's almost as if it isn't even there. A denim strap with a leather backing fits the bit very nicely. And yes, I know I picked a watchband that's not the usual go-to for a diver, but this whole setup simply looks too good. Breaking the rules can be fun sometimes, especially when it's your own rule. While the strap is gorgeous, it's also not meant to stand out. The bronze and blue dial are the stars of this show and Christopher Ward made every effort to keep it that way. Of course, you can always change it up to whatever makes you happy. This watch surely will be a strap monster with most offerings out there. www.christopherward.com Montblanc 1858 Geosphere Limited Edition - $6,500

Photo: Montblanc

The history between bronze and diving is quite evident with the aforementioned pieces. Diving watches though they may be, most of us are quite content with a dip in the pool or an afternoon at the seaside. That's as far as most of those pieces will go in terms of testing their limits on water resistance. Howeve, if you found yourself swimming in options of diver watches and wondered if you could get a bronze watch that's styled a little different, then this one should be on your list.

Photo: Montblanc

The 1858 Geosphere. Limited to 1858 pieces (imagine that), this one takes some historic Montblanc horology and runs with it. Even with a single glance, you'll see that this piece offers something different than your usual diver options. The spirit of exploration doesn't end where the divers on this list end, though, and this piece is intended to embody that essence of when watches were true tools which people relied on. And with how well Montblanc is killing it these days, there are hardly better options at this price point.

Photo: Montblanc

If you're something of an explorer yourself, you'll notice that this piece has a nod to the world's Seven Summit mountaineering challenge. If you're unfamiliar with that, here's a quick rundown: it's an achievement where a climber has scaled the summits of the seven highest peaks on the seven continents. Yep, all seven to qualify for that trophy. While most of us won't do much more than a ski trip a few times a year in the colder months, this watch would be right at home on your wrist while you post a selfie on Instagram at the summit of your favorite resort. I like Garmisch-Partenkirschen, so you might see this one in the background or even as the star of a few posts across the media platforms. Either way, the colors of this watch would go well at the peak, the boardroom, or even on the beach.

Photo: Montblanc

While you can choose between a black or blue theme on steel, the reason we're here is to talk about bronze. Montblanc have created what you'd probably see in a photo next to the definition of "strap monster." Bronze and green go so well together and the first time I laid eyes on this watch, I couldn't look away. Not in the trainwreck sort of way, but in the "ohhhh what do we have here?" way. The eye is immediately drawn to the two world-time complications in the form of domed globes which turn in opposite directions. The globes also have their own 24-hour rings around them with the required day/night indicators. If you look with your eagle eyes, you'll spot the red dots on each of the globes, which indicate where the seven highest peaks are located. What's more, Super LumiNova is involved so you'll be able to read the dial in its entirety in the dark restaurant you're in or at night just a day's climb from a summit somewhere.

Photo: Montblanc

Obviously, this is more than simply a rebadged Sellita SW300-1. While that parts availability and ease of work is great, this one will be a tad more complex if you're looking to get a fix should you bump it hard enough and knock something loose. The good news is that fixes should be relatively easy, but we're confident this thing could handle whatever you throw at it. Either way, you get a date function and 42 hours of power reserve so you're right about at the industry standard for such things. I'm a big fan of date functions so this one is high up on my list. Perhaps it'll catch your eye as well. You'd be hard-pressed to find a much more elegant bronze option. If the diver scene just doesn't tickle your pickle, this option is one to consider. Given its higher price tag and exclusivity, it warrants a little extra consideration. While it may not break the budget of most of our readers, it certainly has a charm that caught our eye and made us take a much closer look, and that's why it takes the cake on this list for us. While there are other options to look into for bronze, and even the new Breitling offering is worth your time, these are just a few of our favorites at different price points. Bronze is a metal that's tied to human history in some unique ways and with it being such a popular option in watches today, it'll still keep time as humanity marches forward.


 

Make sure you keep an eye out for our upcoming announcements for our fall issue of Horology Republic Magazine! We're very excited to bring you watch content with a different flair right to your device.

23 views0 comments