black watches for the ones who dare
Black is defined as the darkest color but in reality black is not a color. Black is achromatic or “without color” – black is defined as the absence of light or its complete absorption. We all have used black during our life whether in our clothes, accessories, gadgets, vehicles ... in one way or another black has been a small or big part of our life. Some use the black color to hide feelings, fears or insecurities (or weight) but many other use it to exude power, control or to intimidate. Black is the most versatile color and suits everybody. It is the color of the seven deadly sins (pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth) and this is the reason why it is the most used color!
In fact, human being is attracted by the seven deadly sins and can’t stop ending up in either one or multiple of them. We might talk more about the concept of the appeal toward the seven deadly sins in another post but, for the time being, consider only that there are big companies that leverage this concept to create empires - think Sequoia Capital and one of their investment selection criteria or think the most successful movies and the fact that they have characters than represents in a more or less subtle way the seven sins.
The horology industry has not been immune to the black color phenomenon and over the years the use of black has been intensified. Thanks to the use of new manufacturing and decorating techniques as well as the introduction of new materials the use of black color on wristwatches has increased. The interest by some celebrities has then further enhanced the trend for black watches. From just being an accent, a detail in the watch, the black color is now being used across all elements with certain watches being exclusively in black.
This post is about the black color and about when and how the black has started being part of the horology industry. However, before jumping into the watches let’s see why black is the color of the seven deadly sins.
Seven Deadly Sins and Black!
The black color perfectly suits every one of the seven deadly sins – just look around you, watch movies and read books and you’ll notice how much the black color links to each of them:
Greed - Black radiates authority. Wealthy and successful people often leverage black as it gives an impression of elegance, sophistication and confidence. High end apparels or clothing for luxurious events are often designed in black - think about “the black tie event” or “the little black dress”.
Lust - Black is THE color of sexiness and seduction. Think about the most tempting sexy black lingerie and the air of secret and mystery that it creates. Black is also associated with submission to another (including a sexual partner).
Gluttony - The color black is loved by fashionists but even more by the people who want to hide their weight or shape - black makes you instantly slimmer so you can keep eating.
Pride - Pride is "the love of one's own excellence" - St. Augustine. What better color could be associated to pride if not black? Black exudes confidence … over self confidence! Color psychologists define it as decisive, powerful and confident and this is the feeling of people who love their own excellence.
Wrath - One might argue that red is the color of wrath but think about the extreme… black is intimidating, it is often used to portray something evil or scary (even death in the Western civilization) which is what wrath wants to ultimately generate.
Sloth - In color psychology, the color black isolates and protect against the external world. People feel hidden and unnoticed in the crowd. It is the perfect barrier to keep people comfortably in their own world of apathy.
In the design world black is a color that fits in almost anything. It adds contrast and makes the other colors stand out more. It is timeless and it keeps being used in more or less extensive way. In the horology industry the color black has gained appeal over time and every single year there are more and more people looking for black watches. Black is actually the most searched watch color on Google and it is also the one with the fastest growth. Some claim that black is the most gifted watch color and from the peaks in the Nov-Dec months Google search we tend to agree with that statement… or maybe those are the months we tend to sin the most? The point is that black is primal and essential even for the horology industry!
Black is also the most universally searched color for watches across geographies on Google with English speaking countries at the top of the list only because the other countries look for the word in their own language (noir, nero, schwarz…).
Black in the watch industry
Despite the fact that black has always been present in the watches design, the entirely black watches are only a relatively recent phenomenon. The main reason relates to the durability of the black treatment on the watches. In fact, till few decades ago it was not possible to color the most common materials black and make them also scratch resistant.
Porsche Design started revolutionizing the industry from this perspective in 1972 when they introduced the first ever black watch. Dramatically innovative at that time, the resilient, all-black appearance was achieved through a coating process known as Physical Vapour Deposition (PVD) – you might see the Porsche Design black chronograph in a great article from 2012. Since then, this coating treatment started being used for some metal elements of the watches and opened the way to a more extensive use of black color. Then in 1989, Rado introduced the Ceramica which featured a case and bracelet made of shiny black ceramic. It was very thin, and it looked like one continuous band of shiny black glass. This was another revolution as the use of ceramic across all elements of the bracelet made possible the use of different scratch resistant colors and further boosted the use of black in particular.
Nowadays an even better coating technique is used by some watch manufacturing companies in order to enhance the abrasion resistance of metal elements – the technique is called Diamond Like Carbon (DLC) and further improves performance of black colored metal elements hence makes the use of black even more popular in the horology industry. Diamond-like carbon is a class of amorphous carbon material that displays some of the typical properties of diamond. DLC is usually applied as coatings to reduce abrasive wear in the engines of modern supersport motorcycles, Formula 1 racecars, NASCAR vehicles and in general only in high value items considering the inherent cost and difficulty in finding companies able to deliver good quality DLC. DLC can make watches super resistant to abrasive wear so that the black color can stand the test of time. However, this does not mean that DLC is immune to scratches but only that it resists better than other treatments. Notably not all luxury brands use DLC – most of the luxury timepieces are actually treated with PVD which is good but not as resistant as DLC. The main reasons being the limited number of companies making DLC and the higher cost associated to it.
The Hamilton Below Zero (SwatchGroup) is a great example of black watch housed in PVD-coated stainless steel, with a black matte face and black markers. Even the Hublot Skull Black Full Pavé has a case made of polished black PVD titanium set with 218 diamonds and bracelet polished black PVD titanium with 6 h-shaped black PVD titanium screws. On the other hand the the Bremont Kingsman DLC comes in an all-black design with red markers but made of hardened stainless steel DLC coated. Similarly the case of the beautiful Perrelet Turbine is covered in DLC, which makes it as durable as possible.
We mentioned the use of ceramic to achieve black color elements that are scratch resistant. However, there are also other materials that can be used for certain details – for example: black rhodium plated 18k white gold, enamel and even black diamonds. Considering the cost and the specific material characteristics, the use of thise last remains limited to only some watch details though.
When black was at its trend peak some watches had an all-black look: black face, black strap and sometimes even a tinted piece of glass. This is when the blacked-out watch concept was born – those watches are a little on the somber side, yet definitely cool both understated and sleek. Interesting, the fact that high-tech ceramic wristwatch from brands such as Chanel and Versace have become iconic looks has helped renew the interest on black colored watches. Not to mention the fact that black watches are so trendy and no-miss icons also because certain brands have even dedicated black watches to specific celebrities: Richard Mille for the tennis player Rafael Nadal (RM 027), Hublot King Power Black Mamba for the basketball player Kobe Bryant, Hublot King Power “D-Wade” for the basketball player Dwyane Wade, Ulysse Nardin Big Unit Chronograph for the “friend of the brand” and baseball legend Randy Johnson, aka “The Big Unit”, Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore for the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph, Audemars PIguet Royal Oak Laptimer for racing driver Michael Schumacher, Hublot for the Shawn Carter for American rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur JayZ…
Today, the trend is for a more limited use of black. The all-black watches are still being manufactured and new models are coming out, but most of the novelties leverage black as a contrasting element on the watch overall design. At the SIHH 2016 (Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie) the Greubel Forsey Signature 1 was showing off a dial with a top layer in nickel silver with wide dazzling geneva striping while only the sub layering featured a frosted black PVD treatment. Other great examples from SIHH 2016 of watches which leverage the black color are the IWC Pilot's Timezoner Chronograph (black dial, bezel and strap), A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon (black dial and strap), CARTIER Panthere Mysterieuse (black dial and strap), Piaget Emperador Coussin XL 700P (black dial, bezel and strap) and yet there was one model all black and it is the Urwerk UR-105 T-Rex URWERK.
In other words effortlessly cool and undeniably masculine, the black watches have been trending for a several years now. Almost every brand, from mass-market to high-end, is by now making at least one black-on-black watch model. Black has proven its staying power and is still and will remain the color that commands attention without being over the top. It’s understated yet always classic and elegant. Black watches can be executed in a very modest or “flashy” way which makes them very versatile for different kind of tastes or trends. Black is both formal and casual. If you don’t know if an event is going to be dressy or casual you can just wear some black and tune it up or down with some accessories… because you just can’t go wrong with black…
Todd & Marlon decided to include in their first collection an all-black watch. The rest of the collection is made of watches with entirely black bracelet and case but the dials are of different colors (deep blue, fiery red and delicate pink). Obviously all the watches are treated with the best Diamond Like Carbon coating in order to make sure that the color stays as long as possible and offer you the best of the luxury world (see DLC test video). The bracelet and the case are made of brushed black coated metal to give an overall understated look while the bezel is polished and shiny to add some “bling bling” effect and emphasize the face of the watch. You can have a look at Todd & Marlon collection on the “collection” tab above and in case of any question / enquiry you can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.