Posted by Mycroft on January 01, 1998 at 9:46:00:

Dear TZoners,

Happy New Year!!

I recently had a question from Musido about surface treatments, especiallyregarding SS cases, and I thought that I would post my answer here as it mayinterest others as well. I would stress that this comes from a limited readingaround the subject and I would welcome comments and additions.

SS can be presented in a variety of surface treatments. These would influence itsappearance/beauty and maintainence ease/difficulty and have been used attimes as a cosmetic embellishment and at times as a functional enhancement tothe watch. When evaluating a finish, it is important to take into considerationwhether the finish compliments the overall design or looks out of place andtacky. These treatments would include:


This is one of the most common and looks good on certain designs – usually the more classical/conventional ones. The surface shows scratches quite easily andis something I avoid, if possible. The depth of the polish or gloss usually is an indication of the care and attention that a luxury or ordinary watch manufacturer takes in case preparation.


This can be plain matt, or a matt treatment that is formed by high speed bombardment with micro-glass/saphire beads. When treated this way, it givesthe SS a thin hardened surface layer (due to compaction of the molecular structure from the bombardment) and creats a surface more resistant to abuse. Italso gives the watch a nonglare, understated look. Most often seen in modern “rugged” designs or military watches.


The easiest most commonly found example of this will be seen in the Rolex. However, the quality of the brush finish (amongst other things) is one thing that can give away a fake Rolex. And believe me I’ve seen many a fake, living and travelling in Asia. Brushed surfaces can be seen in fine brush or coarse brush grades, and is sometimes called brushed-satin finished if very fine and almost matt smooth.

Because the surface is already “scratched” in a way, new scratches, unless very deep are harder to see; although once scratched, it is harder to “repair” than agloss finish.


Then there are the PVDs (Plasma Vapour Deposits), Anodized and a number of different types of coating technologies. The coatings may differ with the different coating materials used: Gold (10 micron, 30 micron plating), Titanium, Titaniumoxide, Titanium nitride (propably the most durable abuse resistant coating if applied correctly). I generally stay away from these, because, although they maybe good, once they come off, the underlying surface shows and this can be very ugly. This is especially true if you are a rough wearer and if the difference in color of the 2 materials is great. Repair is almost always impossible.

ENAMEL coating is seen on the dials in the better watchmakers. The quality of the materials and the firing and glazing processes are important in creating aquality finish. Even then, with frequent large temperature swings and aging, microcracks can appear giving the enamel a “crazed” appearance. If well executed, enamels can give an exceptional depth and richness of color that is difficult to find with other surface treatments.

I hope that this gives you a short synopsis and some insight to the appearance of watches. Please add to it if you will.