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The Process of Making and Plating Cases

General

In the watch industry there are mainly 5 types of materials that a case of a watch can be made of.

1. Precious metal – gold, silver or platinum
2. Titanium – very tough and light material but scratches easily
3. Stainless steel – various grades of stainless steel are available and can be plated with black metal or gold
4. Brass with plating- Almost always plated with gold or palladium and nickel in order to give it the color of gold or stainless steel respectively.
5. Alloy - a zinc die cast that also needs plating

Numbers 1-3 are considered to be very high quality. Watches that are sold below $60.00 are usually made of alloy. In the watch industry zinc die cast is called, simply, alloy. We will refer to it as alloy from here on out. Alloy is an injectable material, which means you can use moulds, ideal for mass market purposes, and very high production volumes. The process is similar to injecting a plastic resin into a mould except that a plastic mould is much more expensive than an alloy one. Both brass and alloy cases need plating. Since the purpose of using these materials is to save on production costs the plating is normally of a low quality and rubs off easily. If you purchase a golden or a stainless steel colored watch for $60.00 or less it is very likely that it is made out of either brass or alloy.

Torgoen watches are almost always made out of stainless steel (we used to have a line made of Titanium). But even in stainless steel there are different grades. Some stainless steel material release nickel at levels beyond the allowed amount according to the EC standards of RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances). All Torgoen watches comply with RoHS standards. Torgoen uses 316L grade on all watches which is a surgical and food grade of stainless steel. Some brands use 304 steel to save cost. The problem with 304 steel is that it can potentially release nickel above the allowed levels. This does not mean that 316L steel does not contain nickel, it means that this grade of stainless steel is so stable that it releases nickel at very small amounts which are negligible for all practical purposes. What is bad about nickel? Well it is an element which can cause a rash and irritation in some people. This grade of stainless steel also has a very low rate of oxidation.

Plating

The plating on watches also vary in quality. All black or golden cases that Torgoen produces are made with a process called IP (Ionic Plating) or PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition). This process replaced the electro plating which required more gold or black nickel than the IP process about 12 years ago. Using IP plating is also much more resistant to scratches and to rubbing off of the top layer. It is a more expensive process that requires vacuum chambers to allow ions to be deposited on the metal that is attached to an electrode. Some companies continue to use electro plating to save cost, especially if the material they use is very thin, i.e. less than 1 micron. This kind of plating rubs off very easily.

The Process

The stainless steel case is processed by stamping out the shape of the case, i.e. its contour and upper parts from a thick sheet of stainless steel with the help of a stamping machine and pressure of 200 or more metric tons. The outcome is, what we call in the industry, a blank. This is a piece of stainless steel in the shape of a watch case, which now needs drilling, lathing, milling, and polishing. Most Torgoen watches have cases with three or more metal parts, without counting the tube, crown, or pushers. The top ring is another piece manufactured in order to give the case an extra dimension and the possibility to plate or polish it in a different pattern. It adds cost but it is well spent. Other components are later added, like a case back, crown, pushers, gaskets, spring bars, and crystal.

Additional Components

The additional components as you can imagine, have various levels of quality, so Torgoen uses only double O ring crowns and pushers for extra water resistance and K1 extra hardened mineral crystals to give extra durability. This is especially important when using large diameter crystals which are one of the signatures of Torgoen. The case backs are all screw down rather than snap backs, again providing extra water resistance. The result is a case made with the best, most durable materials that one can enjoy for many years.