It's all about the finish | What is a watch finish?

The finish of a watch can completely change and enhance its look. ‘What is a watch finish?’, you may ask, well it’s simply how the surface of the metal, used for the watch casing, has been treated. It’s purely for decorative purposes. In our previous blog post “Watch straps: which one is best for me?”, we briefly looked over some of the watch finishes that are available, but we didn’t go into much detail. So, in this post we can take a look at all the different finishes available in much more depth.


Polished metal


First of all, the polished finish. This finish will give the metal a very shiny, reflective look. Almost mirror-like.



This finish is achieved by polishing the metal using a polishing wheel for a long period of time, until the metal has become bright and reflective.


Because of the shininess of the polished metal, the watch can appear quite flashy and dazzling, which would be great if you were looking for a more dressy style of watch.


There are some downsides to this type of finish though. Polished metal is susceptible to scratches, and because of its flawless appearance, any scratches will be quite visible, meaning they’re slightly harder to correct. Watches with this finish will also need to be cleaned often as grease, grim, and fingerprints will become very visible.


Brushed metal


Next up is the brushed finish. This can also be called a satin finish, as it makes the metal look as though it has a soft, satin-like appearance.



If you look closely, you will see faint uniform lines on the metal which all go in the same direction – this is what gives the ‘brushed’ effect. The brushing of the metal gives the watch a dull, matte look.


This is achieved by brushing the metal with a steel brush, and is sometimes still done by hand – impressive! There are two types of brushed finishes: straight grain and circular grain. Straight grain is when the lines are all straight (i.e. on the strap or the caseback), and circular grain is when the lines are all going in a circular direction (i.e. on the casing around the edge of the watch face).


Many people love a brushed finish as it’s not as flashy as a polished finish, however it still has a gorgeous luster to it. Brushed finishes also disguise scratches, everyday wear and tear, and do not need cleaning as often; brushed finished watches are a great choice if you’re a busy person who tends to forget to care for their jewellery.


Blasted metal


A blasted finish is similar to a brushed finish, as it also gives the metal a dull, matte appearance, however no lines appear on the surface of the metal. Watches with this finish reflect very little light.


This finish is achieved by blasting the metal with sand or glass particles. The size of the particles will alter the look of the finish. Blasted finishes are slightly rarer than polished or brushed finishes as the process is quite harsh.


PVD coating


PVD stands for Physical Vapor Deposition. This type of coating binds particles of metal compounds to the metal of the watch, which turns it black.



This coating is applied by heating up the metal compounds into a vapor and then they are bound onto the watch casing using an intense heated vacuum. The metal compounds which are used can vary, but the coating will always be very thin.


Any material can be coated using PVD, but it's most commonly used on steel or titanium.


DLC coating


DLC stands for Diamond-like carbon. It is called this because the coating has properties that are similar to that of diamond – it’s extremely durable and scratch resistant.



DLC coating is applied to the watch by blasting carbon onto metal, and then cooling it down. This coating will turn the metal black due to the carbon. The coating is extremely thin, but it adds a substantial amount of protection to the watch casing (it is 5x harder than steel).


Electroplating


Electroplating can be used to plate one type of metal on top of another – usually a more expensive metal is plated on top of a cheaper one.


Electroplating uses hydrolysis to chemically bond the two metals together, which is a permanent process.


Most commonly, gold tends to be plated on top of other cheaper metals so that the watch can still have that gorgeous gold colour, but will be a lot more affordable than solid gold.


Plating can wear off after a while if the watch is worn often, not cared for properly, or is just getting on in age. If this happens, the watch can get re-plated which will restore the gold colour.


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As you can see there are a few types of finishes, but they are all mainly for aesthetic purposes. I hope you now have a better understanding of all the types of finishes, and how they are achieved. If you want to learn more about the anatomy of watches, why don’t you check out some of our previous blog posts like: “Watch straps: which one is best for me?”, which will tell you everything you need to know about watch straps, or “The ultimate guide to the watch bezels”, which is an in depth guide about bezels.




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