Most watches are manufactured with stainless steel, but an increasing number of timepieces feature titanium cases. The popularity of titanium watches has increased because it’s a lightweight metal about 50 percent lighter than stainless steel, and it is resistant to corrosion. Sports-style watches marketed for wear in the water are often made of titanium.
Lighter and Stronger
Titanium is about 30 percent stronger than steel but weighs about half as much. It’s a silver-gray material that is excavated from sand deposits and igneous rocks. Titanium is used in NASA space and aircraft construction as well as in jewelry. Titanium doesn't corrode or rust.
Titanium Versus Stainless Steel
The obvious distinction between titanium and stainless steel is that stainless steel-cased watches are heavier than titanium watches. This is not necessarily a drawback since watch styles in the first decade of the 21st century have evolved to larger and heavier timepieces to give what watch enthusiasts call “wrist presence.” Although titanium watches are more durable than stainless steel watches, they can crack under extreme abuse or pressure. Titanium watch cases can’t be repaired; stainless steel cases can be. Titanium is hypoallergenic. Stainless steel can be uncomfortable to wear if the skin perspires.
Watch fashion trends have evolved since the late 1990s to sports-style watches. These watches are highly water resistant. They feature multiple chronograph functions such as a stopwatch and water depth gauge. Titanium has gained popularity in this market because the metal is more suitable for contact with water than stainless steel and will not corrode.
Many wearers prefer the gray, dull color of titanium. Traditionalists -- and that’s most of the watch market -- prefer the classic style of stainless steel and gold-plated watches. Less recognizable, but more expensive and prestigious to wear, is platinum. Titanium announces itself with its color.
Stainless Steel Advantages
Titanium is not going to replace the stainless steel watch any time soon. Titanium is more expensive than stainless steel, meaning manufacturers must sell titanium watches at a higher price that stainless steel watches. Stainless steel can be repaired and plated gold if desired. Gold-plating a titanium watch is not possible. Titanium watches scratch easily and attempts to buff out the scratches are difficult. Scratches on stainless steel watch cases are relatively easy to buff out.
Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.