The New Bronze Age: How bronze watches are about to enter their golden era

 
Alex Doak

It’s a golden era for bronze watches – as affordable as steel, but more alluring, for three reasons: the copper-tin alloy’s retro, rough-hewn look; its romantic connection to the high seas; and, curiously, the gradual layer of crusty green corrosion that every watch develops, protecting the metal beneath. Here are three of the best.

Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 Bronzo (pictured above)
£12,200, panerai.com

Now fitted with a gorgeously complimentary royal-blue dial, the Bronzo is the watch nerds’ favourite of the current bronze rush. For a start, Panerai’s voluptuous cushion-shape case simply looks and feels great in the metal. But mostly, it’s the maritime chime of the bronze itself – its resistance to corrosive seawater over iron meaning it was used for portholes, handrails, winches and even old divers’ helmets. It’s also a bona fide diving watch rated to 300 metres; Panerai’s origins in the 30s involved making watches for the Italian navy’s elite frogmen.

Montblanc 1858 Automatic Dual Time
£4,300, montblanc.com

Switzerland’s top-flight Minerva facility crafted some of the finest watches of the Jazz Age, and its current custodian, Montblanc, channels these styles via its confusingly named 1858 collection (featuring the German pen brand’s 1930s logo). Displaying a second time-zone via the black ‘cathedral’ hours hand, as well as a day/night indicator to avoid phoning home when everyone’s asleep, this is the watch world’s first ‘bicolour’ steel and bronze hybrid design. A fine one too, especially in combination with its pre-distressed cognac-coloured calfskin strap.

Tudor Heritage Black Bay Bronze
£2,730, tudorwatch.com

This is an amazingly affordable piece of kit, given its certified diving-watch credentials and in-house automatic movement. What’s more, Tudor had an extra challenge on its hands: not only does its high-tech aluminium bronze require more machining than normal bronze (which contains tin), but despite aluminium’s higher resistance to oxidation, it does still happen, meaning the risk of kickstarting the tarnishing process under environmental conditions before leaving the factory are higher – especially because Tudor insists on testing every single watch for water resistance.

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