The use of bronze dates way back to the 5th Millennium BCE, with the oldest artefacts coming from the Iranian plateau during that era. Known for its durability at that time, bronze was widely used for a variety of items, including tools, weapons, and even ornamental products.
When it comes to watches, the earliest known timepiece that uses a bronze case is Gerald Genta’s Genfica. The Genfica was launched in 1995, in which it is fitted a rather intriguing round case that features rivet-like designs at the side of case. Besides the Anonimo, there aren’t many bronze watches that were produced after the Genfica. It was until 2011, when Panerai launched the highly-celebrated Bronzo. That was the catalyst – the catalyst that made bronze watches fashionable.
One of the main reasons for the lack of bronze watches in the past was its characteristics. Bronze are known to be softer and weaker than steel, and they are prone to tarnishing. Ironically, it is this very quality of easy tarnishing that brought bronze watches to the limelight. The Panerai Bronzo started the craze that prized its patina, the result of tarnish and oxidation. This is because its effects are unique, and the ageing gives the watch some style and maturity that many other materials cannot emulate.
Recommended reading: our thought piece on The Bronze Debate.
So, what are some of the bronze watches that we have selected for today’s article? Let’s find out!
Panerai PAM382 “Bronzo”
We kick off today’s article with one of the most iconic bronze watches of all time – the Panerai PAM382, or more commonly known as the “Bronzo”. The Bronzo is arguably the granddaddy of bronze watches; the catalyst that sparked off this trend.
When the Bronzo was launched in 2011, it took the entire horological community by storm. Granted, Panerai was not the pioneer in using this alloy to case their watches. But with Panerai’s clout at that period, as well as its uniqueness, the entire community (especially the Paneristis) were going ga-ga over this one. To be frank, we can see why. The Submersible is a very masculine piece, and a very good-looking one as well. But when Panerai cased the Submersible in bronze, it simply elevated the entire watch onto the next level. The combination of a gigantic Panerai timepiece, together with a bronze case, is a breath of fresh air for many collectors.
To this day, the Bronzo is still a highly sought-after piece. This is due to the fact that this is a very rare timepiece, and it is also one of the very few distinguishing pieces that Panerai had produced over the years. If you are a Paneristi, or an avid watch collector, this is probably one of the few watches that you would not want to miss out on.
Oris Carl Brashear Limited Edition
When brands first used bronze for their watch cases, it was more for its aesthetics. As mentioned in this article, bronze oxidizes easily, and it develops a nice patina over time. However, for the Oris Carl Brashear Limited Edition, the rationale for using bronze is rather interesting. It was meant to pay homage to Carl Brashear, the Navy’s first African American Master Diver, and bronze was the material that was used during those days to craft the deep-sea diving helmets.
The design of the watch, similarly, follows the vintage cue. It features a domed sapphire crystal, and cream-coloured markers/indices. The combination, together with the blue dial, works rather well. As seen in the picture above, the patina that had developed over time gives the watch some form of maturity and gracefulness. It works rather well with the vintage theme as well.
In terms of the technical bits, the watch is powered by Oris’ Calibre 733. This is a movement that is based on the SW200 by Sellita, in which the automatic movement features a date indicator at the 6 o’clock position. Priced at CHF 2,600, the watch is limited to only 2,000 pieces.
IWC Aquatimer Chronograph Edition “Expedition Charles Darwin”
When it comes to bronze watches, vintage is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Not surprisingly, most of the watches that we have featured in today’s article follows that. However, for IWC, the Aquatimer decides to deviate. And the result is spectacular.
Following the revamp of the Aquatimer range in SIHH 2014, IWC had decided to include a bronze variant for one of its limited edition pieces. Also known as the “Expedition Charles Darwin”, the watch is the first IWC timepiece to be cased in this alloy. We pretty much like the way the watch looks. In fact, we think that the use of bronze accentuates the masculinity of the chunky watch.
Besides its look, the Aquatimer is packed with practical features. These includes the new IWC Safedive System, the external/internal bezel mechanism, as well as an improved quick strap-change system. More information can be found in this article that we have written previously. Overall, we think that this is a spectacular piece, but if chronograph or bronze is not your cup of tea, we are certain that there will surely be something in the Aquatimer range that will suit your whims and fancies.
Zenith Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Bronze
Over the last few years, we have seen the resurgence of both the aviation timepieces and bronze watches. But what about a combination of both? Well, Zenith gave us an answer to that, with the Pilot Type 20 Extra Special Bronze.
The Pilot Type 20 is a collection that is based on the aviation watches and instruments that Zenith have produced many decades (or even a century) ago. Launched in 2014, the vast collection is rather successful. We attribute that to its timeless and classic looks, as well as its relatively reasonable price point. Then, the Bronze Extra Special came along and stole the limelight. The combination, we reckon, is simply perfect. The rustic bronze case – which will age and develop patina – complements the vintage aesthetics very beautifully. In fact, even the minute details, such as the gigantic onion crown, look much better in bronze.
In addition, the Extra Special Bronze is fitted with the Elite 679 movement. It is an in-house automatic movement, with a decent power reserve of around 55 hours. Priced at US$7,900 (approximately S$10,735), we feel that this Zenith offers a rather interesting price proposition. In fact, we reckon it gives many other aviation watches a run for their money, especially with its handsome aesthetics and wonderful price tag.
Tudor Black Bay Bronze
When Tudor first launched the Black Bay collection a few years back, the collectors were very receptive about it. After all, the Black Bay is a lovely and solid timepiece, with a price tag that is a fraction of what a typical Submariner costs.
Over the years, Tudor had produced different variants of the Black Bay. Most recently, in Baselworld 2016, Tudor had outdone themselves again with the Black Bay Bronze. As the nomenclature suggests, the watch is fitted with a new 43mm bronze case. It is a tad bigger than the regular Black Bay models, which measures at around 41mm. There are several other differences too, such as a new dial design (which includes three numerals for its indices) and an in-house movement. The latter, notably, is Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute (COSC) and boasts an excellent power reserve of around 70 hours. More details on the technical aspects can be found in our review article here.
More importantly, the Black Bay Bronze is priced at CHF3,800 (approximately S$5,280), which is only a slight premium over the normal Black Bay (which is priced at CHF3,250, or S$4,510). We reckon the bronze variant offers an excellent value proposition with an in-house movement and a bronze case. And oh yes, we think this one looks much better too!
Vintage Concept Brass Diver
We end our selection with an affordable alternative to bronze – the Vintage Concept Brass Diver.
There has been a proliferation of bronze/brass watches in recent times, thanks to a number of Kickstarter or crowd-funded brands that offer collectors an excellent alternative to their pricier luxury counterparts. Vintage Concept is one of these brands, with the Brass Diver priced affordably at around S$1,000. The watch features a vintage design, paired with a dark green dial and cream-coloured indices that complements the brass case beautifully. Together with a vintage leather strap, the watch looks pretty nice as it ages.
While brass may not have been considered in the same league as a bronze, but we feel that this piece actually offers collector something that is affordable. Furthermore, we think that its patina is rather mesmerizing, and it definitely gives its pricier counterparts a run for their money.
In this week’s article, we have covered six watches that are cased in bronze (with the exception of Vintage Concept’s Brass Diver). Interestingly, most the watches here feature a recurring theme: vintage. These watches are either follow a vintage design cue, or they are homages to watches that the manufacturers had produced in the past. The Aquatimer is a little different from the rest of the pack, and it will be interesting to see watchmakers using bronze on more contemporary or modern timepieces.
So, what are some of the watches that you think deserves a place on this list? Or what are your thoughts with manufacturers using bronze as a case material? Do pen down your thoughts in the comments section below, and till the next article, cheers!