IWC CERATANIUM® – The perfect combination of titanium and ceramic

IWC CERATANIUM® – The perfect combination of titanium and ceramic

IWC Schaffhausen can look back on a tradition in the development and processing of innovative case materials. As long ago as the early 1980s, the company was already producing large quantities of watch cases in titanium and ceramic. Now, for the first time, IWC is using a new material, Ceratanium®, for the Aquatimer family. It combines the advantages of titanium and ceramic and emphasizes the company’s expertise in the development of unconventional materials. 

Every material has specific properties and advantages. Stainless steel, for example, is rustproof, titanium is light and ceramic is scratch-resistant. In the course of its history, IWC Schaffhausen has assumed a pioneering role in the development and processing of new watch case materials, especially when there is a need for large production numbers of consistently high quality. Back in the 1980s, IWC unveiled its first cases in titanium and ceramic to admiring visitors at what was then the BASEL Watch Show. Now the Swiss watch manufacturer extends its long tradition of developing materials with Ceratanium®.

The next new product followed soon after, in 1986, with the Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar (Ref. 3755), when IWC unveiled the first wristwatch with a case made of black zirconium ceramic. Ceramic has an unusual, satiny feel, and the fact that it is such a poor heat conductor means that it never feels cold, not even in winter. The material’s main advantage, however, is that it is virtually wear-free, incredibly hard and scratch-resistant. The raw material used for technical ceramics of the kind used in watch cases are polycrystalline powders like silicon, aluminium oxide or silicon carbide. They are mixed with various auxiliary materials to a homogeneous mass, shaped and sintered at very high temperatures in an oven. During the sintering process, any secondary materials are volatilized to leave stable ceramic bodies consisting of countless microscopically small grains. 

The production of a watch case made of this high-tech material, which is also used in space travel, represents a master stroke of technology and engineering. One of the more unusual challenges is that ceramic shrinks by about a third during the sintering process. To ensure that the movement later fits snugly inside the case and meets the narrow tolerances, we need to factor in the shrinkage as early as the design phase. After sintering, ceramic cannot be machined using conventional shaping methods because it is often too hard for milling, turning or drilling. A ceramic watch, therefore, needs an entirely different design approach to ensure that its dimensions fit the narrow final tolerances. In recent years, IWC has established its leading position working closely with specialists in the ceramics industry. The Ingenieur Automatic Edition “AMG GT” (Ref. IW324602) is the first watch to feature a case made of black, high-performance boron carbide ceramic. Similarly, the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition “The Last Flight” (Ref. IW388004/IW388005/IW388006) was the first model from IWC with a case made of brown silicon nitride ceramic.

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