There is a lot of confusion in the watch community - and in the world, as a whole - as to what’s the difference between bronze and brass. Heck, even Google seems to think they are the same! Well, as you may imagine, they are not, although they have similarities indeed. Here at Pontvs we bring you some key differences between this 2 alloys.
Understanding Copper: the basis for them both
Both bronze and brass have copper as their core material. It is one of the few metals that can be found in nature. In the ancient times it was mined in from Cyprus, and it was known as “cuprum”, hence its modern name.
Since ancient times, besides tools, copper’s been also used for its medical properties. It is a natural enemy of bacteria, and was used to clean up and disinfect wounds.
Due to its flexibility, as well as its ability to conduct heat and electricity, copper has many applications. One of the most common is to produce wires of all types. It was one of the first metals to be worked on by mankind, and forms the basis of the two alloys that we’ll cover today.
MEET THE COPPER ALLOYS:
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Ancient smiths found out that copper could be hardened if carefully mixed with tin. This produced the alloy now called Bronze, and thus sparked what is now called the “Bronze Age”. Since then, Bronze has had a handful of applications that range from decorative, ornamental purposes (statues made out of bronze were common centuries ago), as well as the basis for weapons and tools, such as blades and arrowheads. Also worth noting, bronze is one of the three materials associated with coins, the other two being silver and gold.
While bronze is based on the above elements, sometimes smiths also add other elements, such as manganese or phosphorus to increase particular properties of the alloy.
It is perhaps the most common out of all the copper alloys. Bronze usually comes in a reddish gold color. It is harder and less malleable than brass, which is the reason why it was preferred for tools. However, for common uses it has been surpassed by stainless steel, which also happens to be cheaper to produce nowadays.
However, Bronze excels for its natural resistance to corrosion, that has been perfected with modern and contemporary formulas. For this particular reason, it has been for long a preferred material for sailing equipment, as the seawater could put a serious strain on anything it comes into contact with on a regular basis.
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Brass is an alloy that uses copper and zinc, as well as secondary elements such as iron or aluminium. It was discovered millenia after bronze, as zinc is way less common. And, despite having been used a lot during the Roman Empire, it was only after the industrial revolution mid XIXth century that brass was massively adopted and employed. Brass is known for its high malleability, which makes it perfect to be cast into a mold and then be mass produced, which suited the new technologies being developed at the tme.
Brass is commonly employed in situations where low friction is a must. For example, locks and gears, as well as ammunition tend to be made of brass.
It also has acoustical properties, and can be found in drum cases and other instruments such as trumpets. And, due to a high magnetical resistance, many clock and watch components are made of brass.
For centuries, mankind has used brass for decoration, mainly for its goldish color, which makes it a perfect replacement for the more expensive gold.
Also, like its sibling bronze, brass sports a high resistance to corrosion, making it suitable for many hazardous applications such as plumbing (being in constant contact with water) as well as nautical equipment.
Either material works extremely well on a watch case! Both alloys develop patina over time, are extremely sturdy and durable. They also make a great option for diver watches due to the natural resistance to seawater corrosion.
When shopping for bronze watches always take into consideration (and ask, if you can), about the actual formula used for your watch. This can make a huge difference in the final quality.
Why buy directly from Pontvs?
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