Colors play an important role in watchmaking. Often not so much on the technical side but for sure on the visual one. They greatly contribute to the character of a timepiece. While paints and lacquers can relatively easily be made in any color desired, other materials are much harder color, but that didn’t stop some brands from pursuing it anyway!
When you see a watch made from ceramic, it is usually black or white. The reason for this is not only because they look good, but also because they are the easiest to make. Creating different colors, especially vibrant ones, is very hard because the color pigments tend to burn up during the manufacturing process. Hublot found a way around this by actually changing the manufacturing process itself, and as a result they have been able to create vibrant red ceramic which they showcase in the Big Bang Unico Red Magic.
As practitioners of ‘The Art of Fusion’ does Hublot like to take on challenges and was among the very first to craft watches from sapphire crystal. They didn’t stop there as they also created colored sapphire crystal. This is extremely difficult, as crystals grow and because of that getting an even color is a nightmare, especially since you need quite a large piece of sapphire to create a watchcase from. Again, this challenge only seemed to make Hublot more determined to conquer all the difficulties it encountered. By heating the raw material for sapphire, aluminium oxide, to a temperature between 2.000 and 2.050 degrees Celsius, together with chromium, Hublot created blue sapphire. In a similar process, by using iron instead of chromium, Hublot was also able to produce red sapphire.
Richard Mille is another watch brand that likes its colors complicated. In his ongoing quest for lighter and stronger materials to make his watch cases from, he uses Quartz TPT, which is now featured on many different models including the RM 67-02 pictured above. TPT stands for thin ply technology, and in very basic terms, quartz fibers are fused together under extreme heat and pressure with the use of a special resin. This creates a very light and strong material, and by coloring the resin, you can give the watch color elements. Because the texture changes, each watch will have slight variations in how the colors come out in the case, rendering every watch created by this process unique.
Blue has long been a popular color in the world of watchmaking, and for many watch connoisseurs, blued hands are a favorite detail. While this can be done chemically, the vast majority of the Haute Horlogerie brands still do this by hand over a flame. It takes quite some experience to master this process and create a consistent quality of hands that are just the right tone of blue. Imagine then how difficult it is to create the De Bethune DB28 Kind of Blue Tourbillon. Here the (titanium) parts that make up the watch are much larger, making this process even more difficult. To add to the complexcity is that their hue also needs to be extremely close, as they will combined make up a single watch that should not display any color variations in the blue. That makes this watch another great example of complicated colors in watchmaking!