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Carbon Fiber Watches Aren’t a Gimmick. They’re Lightweight, Tough and Cool-Looking

Carbon composites have a range of properties that work well for watchmaking. It doesn’t hurt that they also look pretty darn badass.

carbon watches
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It started with carbon fiber: that dark, woven-textured material with myriad industrial uses, familiar to consumers in the likes of cars and bicycles. Strong, lightweight and cool-looking, it found its way into watchmaking years ago. But the use of carbon composites and materials has evolved, and more watch brands are even developing their own proprietary versions.

Carbonium, Carbotech, Carbolight, Carbonox…Different brands have given their concoctions different names, but they all benefit from carbon’s useful properties. Aside from being lightweight and strong (even more so than titanium), these materials often show unique textures and patterning as a result of other elements used in the material or from the process of their creation. When used for watch cases, carbon’s naturally dark hue also offers a way of creating a black look without the use of a coating like PVD or DLC. It’s a material that just feels “technical.”

The watches below showcase some of the variety that’s possible with carbon and the different approaches brands have taken.

Luminox Original Navy SEAL 3001 Dive Watch
luminox.com
$395.00

Lightweight and comfortable on the wrist, carbon is perfect for a rugged, chunky timepiece like this 43mm beater from Luminox. The brand calls its case material Carbonox, and it has a matte texture without the patterns found on some other watches. The Original Navy SEAL 3001 Military Dive Watch is one of the brand's classic designs with a tactical, technical look, supported by glowing tritium tubes on the dial.

Movement: Swiss Quartz
Case Diameter: 43mm

Victorinox Inox Carbon Mechanical
swissarmy.com
$1,325.00

Victorinox built and tested its INOX line to be as tough as G-Shock watches, and it’s since expanded with versions using different colors, materials, movements and other features. This INOX model has a lightweight carbon case with a stone-like texture and a Swiss automatic movement inside.

Movement: Sellita SW200 Automatic
Case Diameter: 43mm

Doxa SUB 300 Carbon Aqua Lung US Divers
doxawatches.com
$4,790.00

Better known for its traditional but distinctive dive watches made in steel, Doxa stepped out of familiar territory by offering its flagship Sub 300 in a forged carbon case. The bezel and dial also have the organic patterning the material offers (other dial colors are also available). This version of the SUB300 is light and legible, and it’s powered by a chronometer-certified Swiss movement.

Movement: ETA 2824-2 Automatic (COSC-certified)
Case Diameter: 42.5mm

Reservoir GT Tour Carbon IDEC Sport Edition 2021
reservoir-watch.com
$8,600.00

With carbon fiber's motorsport associations, it seems like an appropriate material for French watchmaker Reservoir. The brand has an overall motoring theme, focusing on watches that mimic the look of dashboard gauges with a retrograde minute hand, jumping digital hours and a power reserve indicator at the bottom of the dial. The 43mm case is forged carbon with a matte finish that will reveal subtle patterns at closer inspection.

Movement: ETA 2824-2 Automatic (heavily modified)
Case Diameter: 43mm

Panerai Luminor Marina Carbotech PAM 1661
panerai.com
$13,900.00

Panerai watches are known for bold sizing, but this 44mm dive watch weighs only 96g thanks to the brand’s own take on carbon watchmaking, which it calls “Carbotech.” Note the texture of the case with its dark and slightly lighter striping, resulting in a sedimentary look. With minty blue luminescent for its hands and indices and a jet black dial, the PAM 1661 is sleek and modern, powered by an in-house movement.

Movement: Panerai P.9010 Automatic
Case Diameter: 44mm

Girard-Perregaux Laureato Absolute Rock
girard-perregaux.com
$19,700.00

You can get a bit wild mixing carbon with other materials, as Girard-Perregaux demonstrates with its Laureato Absolute Rock. Blue and white fiberglass marbled through the dark carbon give it its unique, almost camo-patterned, look.

Movement: GP03300 Automatic Chronograph
Case Diameter: 44mm

Richard Mille RM 33-02 Automatic
richardmille.com
$145,000.00

You thought you’d get through a post about the use of carbon in watches without seeing a crazy watch from Richard Mille? No such luck. The brand is known for its use of exotic materials — many involving carbon — and the avant-garde look they create. There’s a lot more going on in this $145,000 watch, but its slim case uses something called carbon TPT (among other materials like gold and titanium), and it’s actually one of the brand’s more affordable wares.

Movement: Richard Mille Calibre RMXP1 Automatic
Case Diameter: 42mm

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