Compositional Glory
World of Watches|Summer 2020
There are a few relatively recent standout watches in ceramic that deserve their own space, which is what they get here. Besides that, we also look at a few high-tech materials and processes that are definitely not ceramic, but are new for 2020
Ashok Soman

When creating a menu, main courses need company to qualify as proper meals. This ranges from gravy and a side serving to a full suite of supporting courses. In this issue, if Hard Time is the cote de boeuf then this list is the sauce that gives the meal its character. It should go without saying that we could not delve into something like ceramics without providing a list of great watches you might want to consider. In 2020 though, there is a problem…

While the following watches are potentially iconic – in some cases they are undeniably that – they are almost universally not new. Typically, this is hardly a problem but we do like to offer atleast a few all-new timepieces to provide a bit of sharpness. To continue the food analogy, these would be the sprigs of rosemary off to the side of the meat, or perhaps more appropriately the roughly diced flat-leaf parsley sprinkled on top of the sauce.

In short, the following watches might not be new, but they did help move ceramic watches away from a niche proposition explored only by the likes of Rado, Omega and IWC. This is precisely the reason we open this piece with a visual of Rolex bezels, because these watches truly confirmed that the watch buying public was ready for the hardcore lights, to paraphrase the Pulp song.

TUDOR FAST RIDER BLACK SHIELD

Tudor only has one model with an all-ceramic case, the Fastrider Blackshield, which debuted back in 2013 and is still in the collection. It so happens that 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the Tudor chronograph, and we did include this model in our round-up last issue. We did that even though we already planned to feature this model in our ceramics special section. At that time, we did not know if there might be a significant new chronograph from Tudor this year, and when our ceramics special would be. Happily, the Fastrider Blackshield is still very much part of the chronograph story at Tudor, even if it still uses the workhorse 7753 movement rather than the manufacture calibre MT5813.

This watch features a monobloc case, probably similar to the monobloc cases from other brands – though only a few have those. We are particularly drawn to the relationship Chanel has with Tudor, via the movement specialist Kenisi, which also has links with Breitling. Once again, the peculiar web of Swiss suppliers and even key people never fails to pique our interest.

CHANEL J12 PARADOXE

As recounted earlier, and in multiple press kits, watch cases in advanced ceramic materials are moulded in one piece. These might be machined later but the basic shape comes together in one stage. Until the J12 Paradoxe that is. This might well be the first watch with a ceramic case that was made in two parts – it is held together by a steel inner frame, which acts as a sort of chassis for the watch. While some might make a big deal of this apparent compromise, it should be noted that plenty of watches with ceramic cases have similar steel frames. At the same time, we must acknowledge that the proper functionality of the case has been impacted here. The water-resistance of the J12 Paradoxe is 50 metres, down from the standard J12’s very impressive 200 metres.

That little digression aside, the aesthetic proposition of the J12 Paradoxe was probably too good to resist. Certainly, in pictures the watch is beguiling and prompted more than one observer to wonder if photo-editing skulduggery was afoot. Discovering how Chanel made the case was truly surprising – no one would have anticipated such a risky move by a major brand. Whatever the results might be, thanks to our moment in history, the J12 Paradoxe has earned its place in watchmaking history.

PANERAI CERAMICA MODELS

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