It is no secret that here at Pontvs we love our brass and bronze watches. Its distinctive style, history and functionality all inspired us to make some of the best affordable bronze timepieces currently available on the market. However, one of the first challenges we’ve got as brass watchmakers is to convince people that they should consider this materials over the usual stainless steel. Well, while we might be biased for this one, we would like to share with you 3 reasons why we believe brass gets the upper hand in the brass vs stainless steel watch case debate.
Brass vs Stainless Steel Watch Cases: Understanding the basics
Brass, bronze and steel are alloys: they are made through the mixture of chemical elements.
Normal steel is made -mostly- of iron and carbon. Steel’s been used through history for different types of equipment. It is more resistant to rust than iron or the rest of its base components, and its discovery allowed for the crafting of better equipment.
In the early XXth century, metallurgist Harry Brearley discovered Stainless Steel. This variation mixes chromium into the alloy, and creates a protective layer which prevents corrosion. While it doesn't block it completely, it does give it a way longer lifespan than regular steel.
Since then, stainless steel has made its way into several everyday products. You can now find it in cars, buildings, kitchen tools and, of course, watches.
Introducing the Copper Boys
Bronze and Brass, on the other hand, are alloys that are based from copper.
Copper is a very ductile metal, traditionally used for its high electrical and thermal conductivity, It has been used since ancient times due to it being one of the few metals that can be found in nature.
Bronze uses a mix of copper and tin, while brass employs copper and zinc. While both share similarities, they do possess several key differences. The first and most recognizable is their color. Brass is more yellowish, looking somewhat similar to gold, albeit a bit muted down. Bronze, however, has a more reddish brown look to it. There are of course many other differences, but we rather go in depth in another blogpost.
So, now that you know the key differences, here we’ll bring your 3 arguments on why you should pick brass over stainless steel.
Brass vs Stainless Steel Watch Case: 3 reasons to pick brass
1. Patina on your Brass & Bronze Watch
You might have heard that perhaps the only important argument in the brass vs stainless steel watch argument comes down to patina.
Patina is a thin layer that forms over time on most surfaces, but is specially pronounced on cooper-based ones. It can take many different colors, depending on the elements that cooper has been exposed to. For example: the wear and tear of the ocean will form a different kind of patina than the one that comes from rainfall. Did you know the Statue of Liberty's color derives from patina? Well, now you do!
Since it differs from one situation to another, this means that, with time, your watch will have an unique look to it. It will better showcase use, age and a vintage character much better than any steel watch will do over time.
While patina is a often a natural process, many expert artists like to expose their own objects to different chemical processes in order to obtain a different color.
You’ll be mistaken to associate patina with decay. It is actually a protective layer that covers the brass from actual corrosion. Patina can later be cleaned up to restore the same object back to its original color if you so desire, in a much easier way than regular steel.
2. A look that stands out amongst the crowd
Let’s face it: stainless steel watches are the current norm. Everywhere you go you’ll find steel cases. Heck, even the cheaper fashion watches sport a somewhat decent steel. Amongst this sea of steel, bronze and brass quickly stand out.
And ok, sure, there are other materials other than steel. But the cheaper ones (plastic, wood, alluminum), are flimsy, and while we highly respect those made of titanium or carbon fiber, most of the time they end up looking too similar to steel. Trust us, pick brass.
Our favorite designs with bronze and brass are those that make the material take the spotlight. While other bronze watches in the market use traditional designs (such as a submariner-style case), we’ve crafted utilitarian dress and dive watches which highlight the brass.
Take for example our Fonderia Navale Gondar, and our Pontvs Hydra. They are both crafted out of a single block of bronze and brass, which gives them an unique, bold and refreshing aesthetic you won't find anywhere else.
3. Brass - and bronze - is better for Diving - and Diver Watches
Copper alloys have a stronger resistance to seawater corrosion than steel. Through history, sailors have employed mostly copper-based equipment. Many parts that are in constant contact with the sea, such as propellers, are made of these alloys. In ships, stainless steel is usually reserved for all parts and structures on top of the waterline.
This is also the reason why the older diving suits (like the one pictured above) used mainly bronze. You needed them to last. As a side advantage, it tends not to flash and shine as hard as steel below the surface, so it would not attract unnecesary attention from the wildlife below.
On top of that, we've even made a watch out of Naval Grade Blasted Brass (with 70% Cu). Our Pontvs Hydra is much more suited to resist an underwater trek than your average diver watch; so you don't have to think twice to go swimming with it!