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Different qualities of steel


JayDeep
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So I'm starting to really question some watches when it comes to their claims about having steel cases. 

For instance, so many of the seiko premier and Presage line have really cheap feeling cases, light like plastic. But that's not true across all of Seiko's lineup, even some of their bargain basement pieces feel more sturdy and hefty.

Had anyone else noticed this?

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I used to own a Marinemaster some years ago & that certainly wasn't lightweight or cheap feeling.

I've no experience of the other higher end Seikos you mention so can't really comment on those. I do have a Seiko Spirit (SARB I think) on a bracelet & whilst it it's not particularly heavy it isn't particularly light either. 

At the risk of stating the obvious but slimmer dress/sports watches will feel & be lighter than a bigger divers watch due to there being less metal used in their construction. 

Edited by pauluspaolo
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50 minutes ago, JayDeep said:

Had anyone else noticed this?

Yes, but not so much in the way they feel as the way they look.  Taking the cheapest, Chinese steel cases as an example, they often have a relatively "milky", dull and uneven appearance.  At the other end of the scale you have Rolex 904L steel which can have have a perfect, mirror-like finish.  Standard 316L cases fall somewhere in between. Part of this may be down to the quality of finish but it's probably also down to the quality of the steel.  After all, you can't polish a turd! :laugh:

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I haven't come across this myself, but it could depend on how much material is machined from inside the case.  The nearer the inside is machined to the outside profile, the lighter the case will be.  The extra income from the sale of scrap would be an incentive, considering how  many pieces are made.

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21 minutes ago, Alpha550t said:

The nearer the inside is machined to the outside profile, the lighter the case will be.

Exactly this. If you're that fussy/worried, take the back off and see what the case thickness is. By design preference, a diver watch will be heavy in comparison to a dress watch (Presage etc).

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Yes, I agree in the Seiko range, it is more likely to be different quantity of steel that effects the weight. The components of stainless steel will change the corrosion resistance, machining/polishing and the hardness but I can't see the density changing massively.

There are definitely some cheap AliExpress watches with chromed alloy cases being sold as steel, but unless it was a fake Seiko, I can't imagine them doing that.

 

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This post brings back memories of Japanese motorbikes in the early 70's. A lot of the parts were made out of what was affectionately known as monkey metal which was -

80% Aluminium so it was light.

10% iron so the part rusted quickly 

10% monkey **** to make sure the product had no strength.

And what happened...the world was their oyster and the royal oilfields and other British bikes (apologies in advance to @wrench) bit the dust. The Japanese think of everything :yes:

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I thought I would do a comparison of different materials using the software I have, which allows me to measure different material mass in grams.

I built a model of 50mm in diameter and 15 in depth and measured its mass in grams after I assigned different materials to it.

 

304 SS - 235

316L SS - 236

Steel (1020) - 233

Carbon Fibre - 52

Aluminium (7075 - Aerospace Grade) - 83

Titanium (Grade 5) - 137

Aluminium Bronze - 218

Phospher Bronze - 259

Ceramic - 68

 

Most of the steels and stainless steels are pretty much the same, as long as they used those materials and the watch was the same style and model, there would be almost no difference in weight in your hand.

I also did a mass comparison with my own watch design as I was curious. If I made the entire watch out of SS it would weight approx. 63 grams. In Aluminium, 39 grams. With my current mixture of materials, 49 grams. This with a Sellita mechanical movement inside. Incidentally, my bezel and lug design part weighed only 11 grams in SS.

 

I don't know too much about the watches in question, but if they say they made it out of SS or steel, or even P Bronze, there isn't going to be a lot of difference if you do a like for like comparison.

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14 hours ago, rhaythorne said:

Yes, but not so much in the way they feel as the way they look.  Taking the cheapest, Chinese steel cases as an example, they often have a relatively "milky", dull and uneven appearance.  At the other end of the scale you have Rolex 904L steel which can have have a perfect, mirror-like finish.  Standard 316L cases fall somewhere in between. Part of this may be down to the quality of finish but it's probably also down to the quality of the steel.  After all, you can't polish a turd! :laugh:

It's funny how Rolex have got people convinced 904L is in some way proprietary to them.  It most certainly isn't, whatever the Pinocchios of Geneva would have you believe.

For a start Omega were the first users of 904L in watches, and other manufacturers use 904L today including Ball and Milus.  And if anyone buys into the 'Rolex 904L' bs, remember it's either 904L, or it isn't 904L - the composition is standardised in ISO15510:2010 with ISO name 4539-089-04-I and ISO designation X1NiCrMoCu25-20-5, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) giving it the 904L name.

The difference in polishing, due mainly to the higher chromium and nickel content compared to 316L, if carried out by a trained polisher, is really not noticeable to most end users, however 904L is easier to polish.  However, that also means if you suffer from an allergy or intolerance to nickle, 904L is more likely to induce a reaction.

Its biggest practical advantage of 904L is a slightly increased resistance to sea water, and because it's crystalline structure is face-centered cubic it's non-magnetic also, which can be very advantageous these days.  That doesn't mean that 316L is not resistant to salt water, because it certainly is, which is why it's often called 'marine grade' SS.

Some manufacturers in certain countries may use 304L SS, which is decidedly inferior to both 316L and 904L in many ways.

Data sheets show 904L, 316L and 304L all to be 8kg/m3 at 20 celsius, so that would not explain the weight difference.

Really cheap stuff might be plated pot metal or cast zinc...but that's whole other rabbit hole...

14 hours ago, Alpha550t said:

I haven't come across this myself, but it could depend on how much material is machined from inside the case.  The nearer the inside is machined to the outside profile, the lighter the case will be.  The extra income from the sale of scrap would be an incentive, considering how  many pieces are made.

Indeed. It's similar to the difference between solid and hollow end links on a bracelet.  This is likely to be the root of the issue.

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Psychological based on ergonomics.

Do you realise that objects that feel like they have sharp edges feel heavier too. They also give the impression of newness and recently the media etc over the last 50 years has influenced us to believe they are better quality because of our idea of precision and machine built. 50 years ago this was reversed with rounded edges giving the idea of quality mixed with "finishing"

Colour influences us with blacks silvers and blues giving the idea of weight. Yellows and reds are judged as lighter. 

Shape too.. round things are lighter than angular geometries. Flat objects are seen as lighter than more equilateral shaped (cubes and spheres) no matter of the actual weight. 

Food for thought

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8 hours ago, RTM Boy said:

It's funny how Rolex have got people convinced 904L is in some way proprietary to them.  It most certainly isn't, whatever the Pinocchios of Geneva would have you believe.

Of course it isn't proprietary to Rolex. I'm not aware that they've ever claimed that it is.  It's just that a Rolex is the only example of a watch I have that uses 904L steel thus it's the only one I can use to compare with the other types I mentioned.

Perhaps if I'd said, "904L steel, as used by Rolex", I wouldn't have given the impression that Rolex somehow invented the stuff :biggrin:

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1 hour ago, rhaythorne said:

Of course it isn't proprietary to Rolex. I'm not aware that they've ever claimed that it is.  It's just that a Rolex is the only example of a watch I have that uses 904L steel thus it's the only one I can use to compare with the other types I mentioned.

Perhaps if I'd said, "904L steel, as used by Rolex", I wouldn't have given the impression that Rolex somehow invented the stuff :biggrin:

Sorry, I wasn't implying you were under a misapprehension...

However Rolex certainly does like to claim the SS it uses in cases is in some way proprietary, not least by calling it 'Oystersteel'.  Specifically Rolex claims on its website;

"That is why Rolex uses Oystersteel, a steel alloy specific to the brand. Oystersteel belongs to the 904L steel family, which is particularly resistant to corrosion and acquires an exceptional sheen when polished."

See here; https://www.rolex.com/about-rolex-watches/materials.html

Of course 904L is not a "family" at all (the first untruth), it's composition is specified clearly under the ISO15510:2010 standard, as I mentioned earlier.  So, it is either is 904L or it is not 904L.  Therefore Rolex is either falsely stating 'Oystersteel' is 904L when in fact they've changed the composition in some way (note that they don't say how), or it is falsely implying that the composition of 'Oystersteel' is in any way different to that of 904L when it is in fact identical, one and the same, and not "specific to the brand" at all.

It must be one or the other.

 

8 hours ago, chas g said:

Thank you for the information. I think there is a typo, 8kg/m3 should probably be 8000kg/m3.:thumbsup:

:laugh::laugh: No wonder @JayDeep was concerned about how light Presage cases felt!

I never did get my head around metric :biggrin:

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4 minutes ago, RTM Boy said:

:laugh::laugh: No wonder @JayDeep was concerned about how light Presage cases felt!

I never did get my head around metric :biggrin:

Thanks. You certainly stirred some memories. Face centre cubic and hexagonal close packed structure - one magnetic and the other not magnetic. I remember in lab work staring at etched samples through a microscope and I could see absolutely nothing. Structure, what structure? For the sake of getting the write up done I just made it all up and pretended I could see what eluded me :yes:

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Just an observation.   When dealing with sheet materials the gauge makes a lot of difference to the weight.

Ordering a sheet of gold 30mm x 60mm the difference between 0.7mm and 0.8mm was a couple of hundred pounds.

If every part of the case uses slightly thicker gauge steel in one watch as apposed to another that really will make a large difference to the weight regardless of the quality of the steel.

On higher quality pieces I would suspect they don't try to save on materials and are happy to use a thick gauge and machine out indentations to facilitate parts rather than use thinner materials.

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17 minutes ago, RTM Boy said:

Therefore Rolex is either falsely stating 'Oystersteel' is 904L when in fact they've changed the composition in some way (note that they don't say how)

Rolex have changed 904L steel through the power of marketing, altering it almost beyond recognition.

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34 minutes ago, RTM Boy said:

However Rolex certainly does like to claim the SS it uses in cases is in some way proprietary, not least by calling it 'Oystersteel'.

They all do that.  It's no different to Omega's Ceragold™, Sedna™ Gold, Liquidmetal™ :whistle:

Omega has even had the temerity to trademark the term Co-Axial™, at least insofar as it may relate to a clockwork escapement, anyway.

Don't even get me started on their ridiculous claims to the term "Broadarrow"! :laugh:

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26 minutes ago, Boots said:

Rolex have changed 904L steel through the power of marketing, altering it almost beyond recognition.

...and created an exciting new alloy that alchemists the world over are trying to recreate as we speak.  It's so shiny it's invisible.  In fact we don't know if it really exists because no-one has ever seen it.  It goes by the brand name UnobtainiumTM .  It's composition is believed to be 35% hype, 35% flexing and 30% :bullshitter: which binds the whole alloy together. :laugh::laugh:

 

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1 hour ago, rhaythorne said:

Co-Axial

Ah but it's not just any Coaxial, it's "Co-Axial", it's the hyphen and capital A that took years of resource implementation to achieve maximum hype intervention.

Didn't Omega have "Staybrite" as well ?

Five letter watch brands seem to be best at this. I'm just off to strap on my new 27 Jewel CYNIC.

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