Authenticity Guarantee on All Watches
Free Next Day Delivery
Here's to 2024 🎉 24 Month Warranty On All Watches!

The History of Bronze Watches - Who Made it First?

Subscribe to Newsletter
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Over the past decade, bronze watches have become a relatively expected material to be featured within most luxury brands' collections. You've seen the Tudor Black Bay Bronze, the Panerai Bronzo and Oris' increasing selection of Bronze offerings, just to name a few.

However, if looking at the material practically, it seems an odd choice for a luxury brand to move away from the impressive strength of steel, the lightweight of Titanium and then the more precious metals for the special pieces. This blog uncovers why Bronze has become a popular case material, its benefits and its origins in the watch market.

Why is Bronze used as a case material?

Bronze, in its purest state, is a blend of 88% copper and 12% tin. Yet, there are numerous variations, with additional elements like aluminium, silicon, nickel, manganese, zinc, or phosphorous sometimes added based on the intended use or the desired appearance of the final product.

Although copper is soft and prone to dents on its own, when mixed with tin, the resulting alloy becomes significantly more durable. It's not only resilient but also antimagnetic and impressively resistant to corrosion in seawater. This makes bronze perfect for use in salty marine environments, explaining its historical role in crafting ship propellers, diving helmets, and various nautical parts.

The Famous "Patina" of Bronze Watches

The real standout quality of bronze, especially in watches, lies in its reaction to oxygen. An oxidised copper coating forms on the surface, maintaining the integrity of the inner material while creating a unique patina. While bronze has many advantages as a casing material, it's the quick and distinctive patination process that makes each watch case truly one-of-a-kind.

There are many blogs and forums online whereby watch communities have sent in pictures of their "patina" - some from years of wear, others from artificially speeding up the patina process. It seems to be quite an enjoyment for collectors to now have a patina journey for their bronze watches!

Tracing the History of Bronze Watches

The 1980s is widely known as the period where the bronze material was conceptualised as a possibility for watch cases. In 1988, Gerald Genta introduced the Gefica, sporting a bronze case.

Right when the Gefica hit the scene, the up-and-coming Chronoswiss dropped the Régulateur, making waves as the world's first mass-produced wristwatch with a regulator time display—breaking down hours, minutes, and seconds. And get this, the Chronoswiss Régulateur was rocking a bronze case too.

The First Bronze Watch... Didn't Sell!

Back in 1985, Alessandro Bettarini, the brain behind Panerai's product research and development, created eight prototype watches. Four made of titanium, and the other four, bronze. Now, at that time, Panerai was still a small organisation trying to survive by selling to the Italian Navy. Ironically, the Italian Navy declined Panerai's final prototype submissions, so no sales were made. However, one recently surfaced at Christie's Auction House in 2014, selling for nearly $300,000.

The First Luxury Watch that Started the Bronze Trend

The luxury watch market remained relatively quiet with using bronze material up until 2011, when Panerai shocked the market by introducing the PAM00382, a 47mm Submersible in a bronze case. So, it seems Panerai were the first brand to initially test the material (1985), and also the first to really make a difference in the market.

Based on the Prototype created almost half a century earlier, it was an instant hit with Panerai fans, with Panerai releasing a model true to their heritage of big and brutish diving watches. The PAM382 was quickly followed in 2013 by the PAM507, essentially the same but with a power reserve indicator on the dial.

The Trend of Bronze Watches Pick up Pace

After this, things kicked into high gear, and as bronze became the new thing, Zenith stole the show in 2015 with the Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special in a snazzy bronze case. Then, in 2016, Tudor and Oris joined the party, dropping their debut bronze watches—the Tudor Heritage Black Bay Bronze and the Oris Carl Brashear Limited Edition Divers Sixty-Five.

Fast-forward to today, many brands have bronze collections with no signs of moving away from the material. It's a refreshing alternative for collectors who might want a piece that tells a story over time, rather than a "safe queen" or All-Rounder.