We shine a spotlight on bronze, that most ancient of new case materials, and showcase a selection of watch brands that are using it in their models, in this article from the WatchTime archives.

  Panerai and Archimede use the bimetallic alloy CuSn8 for their bronze watch cases. Bronze Watches are on the Rise This is an era of offbeat, heretofore-unheard-of case materials like forged carbon, tantalum, alusic, titanium ceramic and even something called “Texalium” (aluminum-coated carbon fiber).  But one “new” case material has been around so long it has a prehistoric age named after it: bronze. In recent years, brands including IWC, Panerai, Zenith, Squale, U-Boat, Anonimo and Bulgari have introduced bronze watches. Most are divers’ watches or have a nautical theme; for them, bronze, used for centuries to make ship fittings and seafaring equipment, is a way to underline their maritime identity. In other watches, bronze is used simply for its appearance: the metal has a vintage-like matte patina, which differs from watch to watch and hence makes each watch unique. Here’s a look at this time-honored metal.   Alloys that contain at least 60 percent copper can be called “bronze,” but the term usually refers to alloys that are made from a mixture of copper and tin. Pure copper is relatively soft and dents easily while tin is brittle and breaks. But when combined, the resulting alloy resists wear, retains its shape and is antimagnetic. And its most outstanding property is its ability to resist corrosion in seawater.   Panerai launched its first bronze watch, the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 3 Days Automatic Bronzo, as a limited edition in 2011. Bronze is somewhat more brittle than stainless steel and weighs about 10 percent more. It reacts with oxygen, which results in a distinctive patina. This coating, which is oxidized copper, protects the underlying material against corrosion but leaves all other characteristics unchanged.   Among the various mixtures of copper and tin, experts distinguish between wrought or worked alloys, which include as much as 9 percent tin, and cast alloys, which usually contain between 9 and 12 percent tin. Bronzes that contain 20 percent tin are called “bell bronze.”   Bronze doesn’t equal Bronze But bronzes are seldom made of just copper and tin; adding other materials creates alloys with tailor-made properties. Phosphorus and zinc are usually added to alloys that are wrought; these two substances as well as lead, nickel and iron are added to cast alloys. These blends are known as “multi-alloy bronzes.” If alloys contain little or no tin, they’re called “special bronzes.” The copper-aluminum blend used by the watch brand Anonimo is in this category.

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