‘You shoot me down but I won’t fall, I am titanium’. It’s not often the CW Blog opens with lines from a song, let alone a 21st century chart-topper by a French DJ. But regardless of how you feel about David Guetta or his songwriting vocalist Sia, they were certainly onto something with their sentiments.
Titanium, a material with the highest strength-to-density ratio of any metallic element, was first discovered by clergyman William Gregor in Cornwall in 1791 – pretty good going for somebody who only studied geology as a hobby! – and its reputation has only blossomed since.
Lightweight yet reassuringly robust, its properties have seen it become the go-to choice for manufacturers across a range of industries. Here are just a few of its practical applications:
Image: The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird
Whilst aluminium is used in the construction of many aircraft due to its strength and low density, its melting temperature properties simply wouldn’t suffice in the case of the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, a surveillance aircraft that set an absolute speed record of Mach 3.3 (2,193.2 mph; 3,529.6 km/h). Titanium was used in 85% of its structure and exterior specifically due to its higher melting point and resistance to cavitation; essential for a plane travelling at supersonic speeds, and the high levels of friction, changes in pressure and shock waves that would entail from breaking the sound barrier.
As some of us may be all too aware, our bodies aren’t as reliable as we’d like! With knees and other joints wearing away over time, or the occurrence of other unfortunate injuries, science has advanced to a stage that organic parts can be replaced by synthetic ones – and this is where titanium comes in. Its remarkably biocompatible: its density is similar to that of human bone, meaning the two can readily work together, allowing its use in situations such as replacement skeletal parts, sockets and more. Just as importantly, it’s durable: these titanium substitutes can be relied upon for decades.
In sports where the weight and efficiency of equipment is key, titanium once again comes up trumps. Lighter and stronger than steel, and with high fatigue strength, it’s used commonly in racing bike frames, bobsleighs, racing wheelchairs, tennis rackets and more.
With titanium finding its way into a variety of industries, it was only a matter of time before its introduction into the world of watchmaking – namely, in 1970’s Citizen X8 Chronometer. Its inclusion makes a lot of practical sense. Many watch cases are constructed from materials such as stainless steel or bronze; the former heavy and susceptible to scratches, the latter producing its own oxidized finish over time, and both potentially capable of reacting to its wearer’s wrist. Titanium’s biocompatibility negates this possibility, while its lightness and strength makes it perfect for use in dive and sports watches.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the new C60 Elite 1000. As a dive watch water-resistant to depths of 1000m, you might expect it to have a considerable heft; perhaps, subconsciously, this is because we associate strength with weight. The Elite 1000’s Grade 2 titanium case both silences and redefines that logic. Weighing just 77g (and 133g when worn on its new full Grade 2 titanium bracelet option) it’ll sit discreetly on the wrist – but this isn’t a watch you’ll forget about. With an exhibition caseback revealing a decorated Sellita SW220 movement, a day/date complication and Grade X1 GL C1 Super-LumiNova® adorning its bezel, hands and indexes, the C60 Elite 1000 isn’t just a beautiful diver’s watch; this new open series model can be admired (and worn) by pretty much anyone.
Titanium banner image credit: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benutzer:Alchemist-hp