How do ceramics & sapphire come in watchmaking?
Watchmaking is a highly demanding industry requiring pure and performant materials. Almost all the watch parts (including the case, band, crown, buckle, pusher and dial) can be made with technical ceramics.
As for the watch tops, which must be perfectly transparent and scratch-free, the luxury watch market uses sapphire windows. Synthetic Sapphire, also known as Sapphire Glass, is both highly transparent to wavelengths of light and shows high scratch resistance. In the watchmaking industry, sapphire is mainly produced by Verneuil process with gamma alumina, such as BT products. The mechanical watches, made up of several wheels to keep a perpetual movement, need also tiny sapphires as “wheel jewels”. Those sapphires – about 17 per watch on a regular basis – guarantee the longevity and the reliability of the watch.
Sapphire glass is mostly used for watch window in luxury market for its remarkable properties:
- The lens must guarantee transparency while highly resistant to scratch: the watch top must remain transparent with excellent transmission properties, even in extreme wear conditions. That is why we provide High Purity Alumina, which does not cause any defect or haze in the sapphire and guarantee a scratch-free & highly transparent watch lens.
- Moreover, the precision of the polishing step is key for the final transparency of the sapphire. We provide slurries (see for example SPH) with adapted formulation to bring the perfect gloss. We also develop specialty materials to polish the technical ceramics, such as BR.
Over the last decades, ceramic has become one of the favorite materials of luxury watch brands for its remarkable properties:
- Long-lasting: the customer wants to keep a luxury watch with no time limit. Technical ceramics are scratch-free (exceptional intrinsic hardness), fade-proof (UV-resistant) and rustproof. We provide zirconia-based material, like BSZ (Baikowski’s Yttria Stabilized Zirconia) and ATZ (our alumina toughened zirconia) as well as alumina based material like ZTA (zirconia toughened alumina) to create durable ceramic parts.
- Esthetical look: the customer will look for a crush, a unique style, which can be met with the design of the watch. The coloration of the ceramic is part of the raw material, unlike metals which are only coated. We can provide inorganic pigments associated with BSZ products. This inclusion of the color contributes to the intrinsic properties of the material.
Moreover, the customer will find the final luster of the ceramic parts thanks to our customized polishing solutions to bring the perfect gloss to the final parts.
- Comfortable: Technical Ceramics are lighter than most metals, which makes the watch more comfortable to wear. Besides, they are hypoallergenic and act as a heat sink; while a metallic case would heat up in a sunny day, the ceramic case remains fresh. Those properties make the ceramic watches skin-friendly.
Those properties are strengthened by our know-how on the control of crystallographic phase purity and of particle size & size distribution in the delivered products. Moreover, we can dope our products on request in order to add intended properties and customized color for your final ceramic parts.
Processability of Baikowski® powders
We provide powders for technical ceramics and sapphire. Our powders adapt easily to the customer process:
- We control purity, as it is the first guarantee of a perfect and long-lasting transparency.
- Synthetic sapphires are made through the Verneuil process. In order to improve the efficiency of the process, we provide products especially developed for their high flowability. Ask us for spray-dried products!
- Technical ceramic parts are often manufactured through injection molding. We provide ready-to-press products, according to our customer’s process.
- We can dope on request your BSZ with inorganic pigments, enhancing both mechanical and esthetical properties.