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Here’s Why: Stainless Steel Is The Most Precious Metal – Reprise | Quill & Pad

Here’s Why: Stainless Steel Is The Most Precious Metal – Reprise | Quill & Pad

The benefit of something is frequently situated in large part on its genuine or saw availability.

In the universe of watches, particularly with respect to gathering, rarity is a large factor adding to the expense of an extravagance watch. The explanation is because rarity is quite often an inferred condition that appears out of hand – as though it just happens.

The the truth is typically never that basic, particularly with new watches. Yet, the impact prompts esteeming more uncommon watches, materials, and even strategies more than others of relatively equivalent standing. That assertion will undoubtedly draw difference, and such contradiction is consummately justifiable.

Rarity and the accepted worth dependent on rarity are on the whole attached to feeling. Feeling is a completely legitimate motivation to esteem something, in any case people could never become hopelessly enamored, battle for their country, or penance anything to benefit others.

But during that time I have come to find that I am frequently a logical thinker and accordingly settling on decisions dependent on feeling for the most part doesn’t work out. So in the realm of watches and gathering I wind up remaining on the contrary side of the fence from the lion’s share. That is the reason today I am presenting another release of “Here’s Why” in which I center around what I consider to be the most valuable metal in watchmaking: tempered steel .

Spectacular hardened steel cladding on the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles (photograph civility John O’Neill/Wikipedia)

That’s correct, I imagine that out of the relative multitude of metals, particularly the white metals like platinum and white gold, hardened steel is the most valuable metal.

Why do I think treated steel is the most valuable metal? There are numerous motivations certainly, however I need to begin with an overall proclamation that will drive the conversation forward. It additionally might be the most clear and generally debatable: tempered steel looks fundamentally the same as white gold and platinum, to such an extent that there isn’t a lot of motivation to utilize both of the latter.


When describing shades of metals, particularly in cleaned structure, we generally use words like brilliance, tone, cast, and color to depict the visual contrasts. Tone specifically relates to the real tone while color is an extra tone to the principle tone. A shading cast is typically related to film that is for the most part the consequence of light, reflections, and the combinations of tone and colors, which provide a general feeling of another tone. This is the reason white shows up in assortment of different tones under various lighting conditions and with various tones nearby.

While treated steel, white gold, and platinum are for the most part very much like, I will concede there are extremely unpretentious differences.

Patek Philippe 40th anniversary Nautilus chronograph in white gold

When it comes to white gold, which is a gold compound that French speakers call or gris (dark gold), there will consistently be a hotter, somewhat yellowish color to it. Depending on which other metal is utilized in the amalgam – be it platinum, silver, or nickel – the whiteness can be marginally different.

Urban Jürgensen Reference 1140L in strong platinum

Platinum amalgams can differ also however will in general be a more splendid white than white gold with no shading cast. In the event that iridium or ruthenium is utilized as the alloying metal, platinum will hold a practically unadulterated white tone. In any case, in the event that cobalt is utilized (another exceptionally common alloying metal), there is a somewhat blue tone that pokes the platinum nearer to the shade of treated steel. That composite is generally plated with rhodium, which additionally returns it to a splendid white brilliance and provides better scraped area resistance.

The uncommon A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 in hardened steel with black dial

Almost all hardened steel utilized in modern watches is of an assortment called 316L – or on account of Rolex, 904L . The two prepares can be cleaned to a high brilliance and have a slight somewhat blue cast. The brilliance is comparable to white gold and just marginally less splendid than platinum. Regardless, hardened steel will appear to be somewhat cooler than valuable metals.

These contrasts, in any case, are exceptionally unobtrusive; a great many people cannot distinguish the metals except if that are placed side by side under a brilliant light. Experienced gatherers and goldsmiths might be more ready to recognize the distinctions essentially because of rehashed openness to the various metals, however they are the special case and not the rule.

Monsieur de Chanel in white gold

If we are being straightforward, the visual distinction between the three metals is generally negligible.

Romain Gauthier Logical One in platinum with white finish dials

A preference for the slight variety of platinum or white gold over treated steel is similar to picking divider paint in ivory white over child powder white (real various tones). Without a doubt, you can disclose to them separated when they are placed right close to one another, yet seeing tone has more to do with nearby tones, contrast, and changing light sources than the genuine hue.

Hermès Slim d’Hermès in pure steel

Appearance versus cost

For the purpose of contention, however, we should accept that out of the blue, you simply like the appearance of platinum or white gold somewhat more than tempered steel. This is totally fine; it’s an inclination that can’t be nullified. Be that as it may, we should take a gander at it another way: by picking one over the other, we’re paying a premium for having a marginally unique appearance and more weight.

Slim d’Hermès 39.5 in hardened steel (left) and Slim d’Hermès 39.5 Perpetual in red gold

To set a benchmark, the visual distinction between yellow gold and tempered steel is glaringly self-evident, and for this model it will address a 100 percent contrast in visual appearance (not contemplating metal coatings like PVD or DLC).

If yellow gold versus treated steel finishes out the scale, what at that point would be the rate distinction between hardened steel and platinum? Possibly a 2 percent distinction? Proceeding on this subject, the distinction between white gold and tempered steel may be somewhat less, perhaps 1.5 percent difference.

When it is placed into terms that way, it becomes evident that you are paying a premium for an exceptionally little distinction in appearance. What amount of a premium? Treated steel as of now is exchanging at $1.94 per kilogram, which approaches about $0.05 per ounce. Platinum is at present at $1,087.20 per ounce, while white gold (depending on whether it is 18, 20, or 21-karat) floats somewhere in the range of $991.50 and $1,156.75 per ounce.

Glashütte Original PanoMaticInverse in pure steel

This implies that the premium for valuable metals could theoretically be multiple times that of the hardened steel. Obviously, this isn’t the way the watch business works, yet it should show that the expense of the hardened steel is irrelevant while determining the expense of a watch, while the expense of the white gold and platinum is definitely a substantial consideration.

Basically, the base cost of a steel watch increments when you change to a valuable metal, anyway it isn’t straightly founded on the expense of the real metal used.


The cost increment for a watch housed in a valuable metal case is typically completely discretionary dependent on the maker and different angles that could even be highlights of the watch like complications. For this model, taking the Rolex Daytona in hardened steel, white gold, and platinum provides the best outline of how much the top notch increments for each metal.

The measure of valuable metal in a watch case differs extraordinarily by style, regardless of whether a wristband is included, and what explicit combination is utilized. However, a protected general gauge would be 1.5 to 3 ounces (40 to 90 grams) of valuable metal in some random case, which actually takes into account a wide edge of error.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore in treated steel: this model comes in a restricted version of 48 pieces

Even given that wiggle room, the expense of the relative multitude of valuable metals winds up being somewhere close to $1,000 and $3,000, not even close to the exceptional charged for these materials (the premium incompletely comes from another perspective I’ll get to).

For a Daytona, white gold commands a $10,000 premium, while platinum sees a more than $35,000 increment in expense. Hardened steel is the solitary metal that doesn’t see a superior appended (indeed, except if it’s a Patek Philippe or one of those super uncommon A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 models, see The Value Of Rarity: Christie’s Auctions A Black-Dialed A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 In Stainless Steel ), so you are a lot nearer to getting what you pay for in sheer worth. In the event that a watch in valuable metal is bought as a venture, the estimation of the watch is attached substantially more to different variables than the valuable metals included, since you see that the expense of the metals isn’t a very remarkable genuine factor in retail price.

Exercise in soundness: Rolex GMT Master II in spotless steel

Stainless steel unmistakably is a lot more intelligent purchase in the event that you need to get the most value for your money and try not to pay weighty charges. About those expenses . . . for what reason aren’t they tied all the more near the expense of the material?


One answer is basic: suggested scarcity and restricted creation. Be that as it may, those reasons, for new watches in any event, are in part constrained by inside decisions (brands forcing limits on their own models instead of market influences or material availability) and somewhat developed feelings with respect to the purchaser. At the point when a brand needs to charge more for a tempered steel watch, the solitary thing it can truly do is make the watch more complicated (becoming an alternate watch by then), add gemstones, or cutoff the creation. The restricted availability expands demand per watch, subsequently legitimizing expanding the price.

Stainless steel Rolex “Paul Newman” sold by Antiquorum for $231,750

The view of the metals being uncommon does substantially more to infer restricted availability than a brand can do by restricting creation. The whole adornments industry does its absolute best to cause it to seem like valuable metals are incredibly uncommon. Furthermore, while actually, they are definitely uncommon compared to steel, the truth isn’t as simple. The normal yearly creation of steel is 9.5 multiple times more than platinum, however this number is almost futile without comparing numbers for both (however for gold, and at any rate mostly platinum, our Ian Skellern has figured out how to uncover some usable numbers, which you can discover in How To Make Gold. Cautioning: Don’t Try This At Home! ).

Let’s proceed with the platinum model. All things considered, 1.5 billion tons of steel is delivered every year, a large number. Given that enormous number, it may become somewhat more astonishing to discover that on normal 150 tons (330,700 pounds) of platinum are delivered yearly. While this is a lot, much not as much as steel, it is no limited quantity of material. This is around seven cubic meters of platinum, or enough to make roughly 1.65 million strong platinum watch cases utilizing a high gauge of around 90 grams for each case.

Grönefeld Parallax Tourbillon

Of course, the measure of that yearly creation of platinum that is reserved for considerably more significant modern uses is significant; the whole adornments industry utilizes somewhat less than 25% of the aggregate, which diminishes the availability of platinum. All things considered, that could leave space for a huge number of strong platinum cases. Gold is a similar story, with a lion’s share of the normal 2,500 tons a year going to different uses like hardware and aviation, yet a much higher 45% of the yearly creation actually goes to jewelry.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Classique in pure steel

Rarity is actually all relative, and in this case, not uncommon enough as in ought to legitimize paying a particularly premium for it. Hardened steel comes with no suggested rarity and no inflated expense, making the cost of a watch in tempered steel significantly more exact related to the watch itself.

Material properties take the cake

But none of what I have just talked about demonstrates the case for treated steel over valuable metals aside from a simply financial or enthusiastic angle. That is all debatable and decisions can be made for reasons that probably won’t bode well. The main thing is the means by which the materials perform, and this is the place where treated steel leaves the valuable metals in the dust.

Czapek & Cie. in hardened steel from the Quai des Bergues collection

In absolutely designing terms, hardened steel is a vastly improved material for a watch case.

Yup, I said it.

Gold and platinum are old metals that individuals have utilized for millennia. Thus they were set up as fine adornments materials because they hold a sparkle without discoloring and were not difficult to work with. The second piece of that sentence may sound great, yet it is likewise what condemns valuable metals: their general workability.

MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual in platinum (left) and red gold

Gold and platinum are delicate and take into consideration simple working utilizing customary devices and techniques. Therefore to be utilized in adornments, and particularly, watch cases, the gold and platinum should be blended in with different metals to build hardness, solidness, strength, and wear obstruction. As the level of different metals in the valuable metal composite expands, the properties approach the domain of solidarity and solidness that tempered steel lolls on the whole day long.

Some may contend that treated steel is a compound as well, and I will not debate that reality. However, the contention that valuable metals are characteristically better because they are more uncommon falls away when you need to add base metals just to make them usable.

The typical platinum compounds utilized in watch cases are 95% platinum and 5 percent ruthenium or 95% platinum and 5 percent iridium by mass (that additionally changes the immaculateness of 950 platinum dependent on the composite metal utilized and its particular density). These two combinations have explicit properties to them that aggravates them as materials for a watch case.

Jean Daniel Nicolas Two-Minute Tourbillon by Daniel Roth in platinum (photograph civility Guy Lucas de Peslouan)

The platinum/iridium amalgam is delicate and dings without any problem. Except if it is hardened, it has a large portion of the strength (in view of Vickers hardness ) of delicate white gold or toughened treated steel. Platinum/ruthenium combinations toll better, being in a similar ballpark as tempered white gold or 316L spotless steel.

Materials science geek side note: a strengthened state is the gentlest express a metal can be in the wake of warming and cooling; most metals should generally be worked and hardened in some way before use. Utilizing a metal in a toughened state is valuable for molding and shaping before last hardening.

White gold, platinum, and tempered steel cases are heat-treated and hardened prior to being used. As an edge of reference, titanium can be during the 800s Vickers, and ceramics can be two to multiple times that number. The most extreme hardness for the most ideal situation platinum or white gold composites is close to 230 Vickers. Tempered steel in its delicate, completely strengthened state is around 155 Vickers, however at full hardening can arrive at 390 Vickers, which is 70% harder than platinum or white gold.

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked in pure steel

This implies that treated steel will oppose wear, dents, dings, and scratches better compared to either white gold or platinum. Additionally, when platinum or white gold are hardened, they become more fragile than treated steel, which could cause issues with breaking that the steel will not experience under a similar power (like striking it against a door jamb truly hard).

Stainless steel is vastly improved at retaining stuns and facing manhandles endured while on the wrist, all while proceeding to look amazing.

The properties of valuable metals likewise wind up influencing the fabrication techniques that modern companies use. Most cases are machined to their last structure, regardless of whether some are first stepped and fashioned. The machining cycle is considerably more troublesome with gold and platinum because of the density of the material. Where you could possibly machine 50 treated steel cases before the slicing instrument should be replaced, you may just cut 5 or 10 cases in a valuable metal.

Patek Philippe 40th anniversary Nautilus Reference 5711/1P in platinum

The amazingly dense platinum and gold essentially erode the devices a lot quicker, expanding creation process duration and cost to deliver each piece.

This added trouble is really where a portion of the premium for valuable metals comes from. Likewise consider that when working with valuable metals of such high worth, the creation interaction should be substantially more controlled in regards to staff, security, and material waste assortment. Steel is “modest,” yet gold and platinum is significant to such an extent that each minuscule chip made during machining should be carefully gathered to be dissolved down and utilized once more. This adds a large measure of exertion to creation that simply isn’t needed with spotless steel.

The results . . .

After this debilitating conversation, one thing ought to have become clear: treated steel is a reasonable, more productive, and more grounded material for use in watch cases than valuable metal other options. In the event that unadulterated exhibition is desired, hardened steel wins without fail. In the event that looks are desired, the contention is hard to make for platinum or white gold over treated steel. In the event that worth is liked, I don’t figure anybody can argue for the added cost of valuable metals.

Stainless steel Kari Voutilainen GMT-6

If rarity and restrictiveness are longed for, indeed, treated steel is simply not a decision then.

Stainless steel is notable and reasonable, however it won’t ever have the charm of respectable metals. That is simply reality. Tempered steel wasn’t developed until the turn of the last century, however gold and platinum were utilized by each incredible society since the beginning returning to the Egyptians.

Our individual preferences for white gold or platinum over treated steel are normally directed by how the metal makes us feel.

As somebody who likes to really wear observes each day — and I truly mean presenting the watch to wear (wheeze!) in my work – treated steel is the most valuable of metals for me. It can look mind boggling when cleaned or brushed and can hold up to the afflictions of day by day wear.

Titanium and earthenware are quite marvelous as well, yet people actually like those splendid, glossy articles, and I feel that pull as well. So I surmise hardened steel is the most awesome aspect the two universes for me: it has the looks and the sturdiness to perform like I need it to.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Universal Time in pure steel

Stainless steel truly is a wonder of designing, and I thank science for giving an excellent and solid option in contrast to valuable metals.

What are your considerations? Sound off in the comments about what metal is your top pick or on the off chance that you concur or differ that tempered steel is considerably more valuable a material!

* This article was first distributed on December 18, 2016 at Here’s Why: Stainless Steel Is The Most Precious Metal .

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