Taking a Close Look at Watch Case Design and Construction

Last week we discussed how materials for cases, bezels, bracelets and straps are becoming more advanced in terms of durability, lighter weight and scratch resistance.

However, what we haven’t talked about is the very essence of the watch: the case itself. In fact, one of the most important design elements of a timepiece is its shape. From round to rectangular, from square to oblong, the look of a watch determines its appeal – and that starts with the case shape and its profile.

All cases are not created equal. A watch case can be artful, thoughtful, simple and elegant, or it can be bold, three dimensional, rugged and high tech in nature. One case may be easier to machine and put together than another case. In fact, cases can be milled from a solid block of material or can have dozens — even hundreds — of parts that must be put together.

In the early years of the 20th century, during the Art Deco period, many cases were square and rectangular (such as the famed Cartier Tank or the iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso). The Roaring Twenties yielded unusually shaped geometric cases and ergonomically curved cases, as well. However, by the late 1930s and into the 1940s and 1950s, we began seeing more round watches. This is because people were beginning to demand water resistant watches, and it was much easier to make a round watch water resistant than a square one with so many edges and angles.

Once the utilitarian need of water resistance was conquered, brands began working on cases that became art – and new shapes appeared, including sculpted cases, coin cases, Dali-inspired shapes and more.

Today’s luxury watch brands offer a case for everyone. While certain sports watch companies may mill a case from a single block of metal to render it more sturdy and rugged, other brands build complex cases with dozens of parts to demonstrate their abilities to produce a case worthy of the movement inside. These multiple-part cases are no weaker or less water resistant than a solid-block case, as long as the brand has focused on gaskets, fittings, screw-lock casebacks and crowns, and an overall precision interplay of parts.

The making of a watchcase starts from a mold—a plaster-like or 3-D printed rendition of what the case will look like. When all the parts and angles are approved, the case material is selected and high-precision cutting machines mill the case parts (lugs, sides, back, bezel, etc.).

Each of these parts is then fitted together and properly fastened and finished with stunning angles, bevels and more — all of which lead to a highly recognizable finished timepiece. It is no easy feat making a case that is distinguishable from across a crowded room, but top watch brands do it.

Stop into our store anytime and we can do a side-by-side comparison of some of the finest cases and shapes on the market.

How High-Tech Materials Play a Role in Watchmaking

While watchmaking technology has been steadily improving for more than five centuries, there always seems to be room for improvement. Today’s finest watchmakers continually push the boundaries when it comes to innovation – offering new and exciting technology, functions and even materials.

Gold, platinum and steel will forever be forged into watch cases, but today, many brands also take their inspiration from the space, aviation, automotive and medical worlds when it comes to super high-tech materials.

Among the favorites are engineered ceramics, multiple grades of high-tech titanium, hypoallergenic alloys, aluminium (a derivative of aluminum that can be colored and is super light weight), carbon fiber (a dense yet light-weight material that is super strong thanks to the layering or weaving of thousands of strands of fibers), kevlar and more. Some brands are even working with transparent sapphire to create cases that are virtually see through.

The point behind these materials is not just to offer an exciting marketing angle, but, more to the point, to offer more durability, more scratch- or shock-resistance and lighter weight. Indeed, the materials used have to meet a clear objective, whether that is achieving a certain color, a certain weight or a certain aesthetic appeal.

Some brands are even building their own alloys of gold that will keep the gold from scratching or wearing in any way. This, of course, makes them even more precious in the long run.

Additionally, brands are even perfecting the coatings they apply to the materials. Years ago, when one wanted to add a different color to a metal, the piece was bathed in an electroplating process. Today, at the high end of the luxury watch spectrum, a host of coating methods can be employed, including PVD (physical vapor deposition), DLC (Diamond-Like Carbon) applications and other methods that make the coating last longer and resist scratching.

We invite you in any time to see our vast array of timepieces that utilize high-tech materials in their cases, bracelets, bezels and straps.

'Aurora Green' Sells for $16.8 Million, Obliterates Two Records at Christie's Hong Kong

Aurora is now the undisputed "Queen of Green."

The 5.03-carat "Aurora Green," the largest and finest fancy vivid green diamond ever offered at auction, was scooped up by mega-retailer Chow Tai Fook Jewellery for $16.8 million at Christie's Hong Kong on Tuesday.

The hammer price was on the lower end of Christie's pre-sale estimate of $16.2 million to $20.1 million, but the gem's performance still obliterated two auction records. It was the highest price ever paid for a green diamond and the highest per-carat price ever achieved by a green diamond ($3.34 million).

The previous records for a green diamond were held by “The Ocean Dream,” a 5.5-carat fancy vivid blue-green diamond that yielded $8.6 million ($1.5 million per carat) at Christie's Geneva in 2014.

The rectangular-cut Aurora Green boasts a color that is rarely seen in the world of colored diamonds. Green diamonds are unique because they owe their color to their exposure to natural radiation as they were forming in the earth eons ago. Many a gemologist has gone a whole career without having handled a fancy vivid green diamond, no less one of 5-plus carats.

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) included with its grading report a special note stating that the Aurora Green is the "largest fancy vivid green, natural color diamond GIA has graded as of 20 January 2016."

Because of this extreme rarity, gem experts speculated whether the Aurora Green might challenge the all-time price-per-carat record held by the “Blue Moon of Josephine,” a 12.03-carat vivid blue diamond that sold in November 2015 for $48.5 million, or $4.03 million per carat. If the Aurora Green had sold at the top of Christie's pre-sale estimate, the price per carat would have been close to $4 million.

The Aurora Green diamond was presented in a pink diamond halo setting. The GIA described the gem as a “cut-cornered rectangular modified brilliant” with a clarity of VS2.

There is a significant difference in the value of a green diamond rated "fancy vivid" vs. one rated "fancy intense." For instance, back in May of 2014, a 6.13-carat fancy intense green diamond (see above) was sold at Christie’s Hong Kong for $3.6 million, or $594,510 per carat. That's about 18% of the per-carat value of the Aurora Green. It's easy to see the deeper, more saturated color of the record-breaking stone.

Here's a First Look at Movado Bold With Colorado Straps

Movado — a legend in time thanks to its famed Museum Dial watches — unveils a great new collection of large Movado Bold watches with fantastic Colorado straps. The 42mm Large Movado Bold watches are crafted in your choice of stainless steel, black TR90 composite material or in a combination of both. They naturally feature the black dial with iconic dot, but now they are further enhanced with new Colorado bull-hide leather straps with tack-stitching details. These straps are meant to reflect the authentic nature of time and have a retro/vintage/worn looking feel to them that is just magical. The watches are water resistant to 30 meters and house Swiss quartz movements. Stop in to see our great Movado collection.

Hidden for 70 Years: Gold Jewelry Found Under the False Bottom of a Mug at The Auschwitz Museum

Staffers of The Auschwitz Museum in southern Poland made a stunning discovery last week when an enameled mug's carefully constructed false bottom shook loose, revealing a small stash of gold jewelry.

It's been more than 70 years since the liberation of the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in southern Poland, and staffers at the museum dedicated to the memory of those murdered at the camp are still uncovering fascinating secrets of how desperate families tried to preserve their valuables.

“[The jewelry] was very well hidden,” noted Hanna Kubik of the Memorial Collections. “However, due to the passage of time, the materials underwent gradual degradation, and the second bottom separated from the mug."

Under the false bottom was a women’s ring and a necklace wrapped in a piece of canvas. Both were made of 14-karat gold and fabricated in Poland between the years of 1921 and 1931.

The German Nazis of World War II routinely lied to deportees, telling them that they were being resettled in new locations and that they should take some luggage. The deportees, most of whom were Jews, were actually being transported to concentration camps for extermination. By allowing them to travel with luggage, the Nazis were certain the deportees would bring their valuables, which could be easily confiscated.

The innovative ways in which the victims hid their most valuable possessions reflects their understanding of the "robbery nature of the deportation" as well as the "ray of hope that these items would be required for their existence," stressed Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum director Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński.

The Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp claimed an estimated 1.1 million lives during the Holocaust. While most of the victims were Jewish, the Germans also killed Poles, Gypsies, Byelorussians, Ukrainians, French, Soviets and others at the camp.

The Collections of the Memorial comprises more than 12,000-enameled kitchenware items, including cups, pots, bowls, kettles, jugs and crockery, many decorated with images of animals and children playing. The jewelry discovery occurred during routine maintenance of the collection.

Museum curators will be returning the jewelry of the false-bottom mug to its original state, reflecting the manner in which it had been hidden by its original owner.