how meteorite watches became hot property

by Admin
how meteorite watches became hot property

When it comes to the materials used in watches, there is only one that could claim that its provenance goes back 4.5bn years.

Meteorite, a material that watchmakers latched on to as an interesting basis for dial-making some time during the 1990s, has since inspired a positive shower of special models from brands across the board.

Although it was not the first to use meteorite to make dials, Rolex was among the pioneers when it offered the material as a standard cost option on both its Day-Date and Daytona models, back in 1999. Since then, numerous high-profile brands, as well as many that are lesser known, have embraced meteorite — almost invariably capitalising on the novelty value of a dial that has been sliced from a chunk of ancient space rock that landed on Earth after scorching into its atmosphere as a meteoroid travelling at more than 70,000kph.

This white-hot journey from outer space — combined with the age of the material, its perceived rarity, and the fact that every finished dial has a unique appearance — is seen as justification to charge an often significant premium for these otherworldly watches.

A white gold Rolex GMT-Master II with a regular dial in midnight blue, for example, costs £37,000. But the same watch with a meteorite dial now retails at £2,000 more.

Likewise, a standard Omega Constellation in steel costs £6,900, with a premium of £2,200 being added for meteorite. And, if you want a Girard-Perregaux Free Bridge with the cachet of a meteorite dial, it will cost you a hefty £3,500 more than for the ordinary version.

Rolex GMT-Master II with meteorite dial
An Omega Constellation watch in rose gold, featuring a dazzling diamond-set bezel and a meteorite dial
Omega Constellation with meteorite dial

Towards the end of last year, niche maker Louis Moinet made, and sold, a unique piece called Cosmopolis featuring 11 individual discs of different types of meteorite set into its dial. Whoever bought the Cosmopolis for SFr225,000 ($250,000) gets to enjoy owning an object with the arcane distinction of holding the Guinness World Record for “the most meteorite inserts in a watch”.

But is meteorite really that rare, and does the work that goes into transforming a gnarled chunk of rock into a dial with a difference really justify the extra money?

A look at the amount of the material for sale on the internet suggests not, but one man who knows better than most is Martin Goff, who describes himself as “a meteorite obsessive”.

Goff began collecting in 2007, before founding MSG-Meteorites as a sideline to his job as a crime scene investigator. He now buys and sells top-quality meteorites and supplies them to museums and research institutions — including Nasa — as well as a handful of watchmakers. “Whether or not you describe [a] meteorite as being ‘rare’ is somewhat relative,” he says.

“Although 40-100 tonnes fall across the surface of the Earth every day, most take the form of tiny cosmic particles that can’t be used for much. But the larger pieces that can be cut easily are actually a lot rarer than conventional precious metals such as gold and silver.

“When it comes to watches with meteorite dials, there is no doubt that there is a lot of marketing involved, but it’s not for me to say whether or not a price premium is justified. What I can say, however, is that there is definitely something special about being able to wear something that old that has come from elsewhere in the universe.”

The Louis Moinet Cosmopolis watch features a rose gold case with a unique dial showcasing an array of meteorite fragments
The Louis Moinet Cosmopolis features 11 individual discs of different types of meteorite set into its dial

When it comes to choosing a piece of meteorite from which to make a watch dial, not any old lump will do. Iron-nickel (rather than stone) based meteorites are generally favoured, but the fact that they have such a high metallic content makes them liable to rust. “It all depends on the area in which they were found and the type of water that they have been subjected to,” explains Goff.

Two particular meteorites have served as the source of much of the material used in watch dials: the Muonionalusta, which landed in northern Scandinavia around 1mn years ago and was first discovered in fragments in 1906; and the Gibeon, which fell in Namibia in prehistoric times, samples of which were first collected in 1836.

Both have proved ideal for watches because they have a relatively low proportion of sulphide inclusions and are therefore less prone to corrosion.

According to Goff, a meteorite of a suitable quality for making watch dials costs around £1,000 per kilo — which, he says, is easily sufficient to make 30 dials, probably more, even accounting for the large amount of wastage involved.

Another meteorite specialist, David Bryant of Spacerocks UK, says working the rock into a finished object is not especially difficult. “It is best cut with an incredibly thin diamond saw that goes through it like a knife through butter,” he says. “It’s no issue to cut it, and I have known of people using lathes to make entire clock faces or even watch cases from meteorite.”

One of the selling points of meteorite dials commonly promoted by watch brands is that each has a unique appearance: a random criss-crossing — almost like scratches — which is known as the Widmanstätten pattern.

This is not immediately apparent when a sample is sliced, only emerging after the dial is treated with acid, which reacts with differing intensity on the two main alloys in meteorite, taenite and kamacite. It is a delicate process because, if the acid is left on the meteorite for too long, it will eat into it too deeply, creating grooves instead of a smooth finish.

Likewise, polishing of the dial has to be done carefully — too much, and a mirror shine will result, leaving the appearance of regular, stainless steel.

But, despite the brands’ suggestions to the contrary, watch dealer Danny Shahid of Diamond Watches London does not believe there is much rarity value in meteorite dials. “The watch brands certainly capitalise on the idea that they are rare, but look at what’s available — numerous makers offer them and, with some, a meteorite dial is an option on multiple models in the range.

“Rolex offers them on its Daytona, Day-Date, DateJust, Pearlmaster and GMT-Master models, for example, but, if we’re referring to Rolex specifically, I would recommend a diamond dial instead — Rolex uses only internally flawless stones and that makes for a dial that’s far rarer than a meteorite one.”

Collector Ahmed “Shary” Rahman does not, however, agree. He already owns several watches with meteorite dials and is eagerly awaiting the arrival of another: a Piaget Black Tie “Andy Warhol” model. “I like meteorite dials very much — but only on simple, three-hand watches. I think chronograph subdials and other complications detract from the beauty of the material. I like the fact that a meteorite dial is special but doesn’t stand out as such from a distance, but only when seen up close.

“But, for me, the main draw is simply the concept of being able to wear a piece of meteor on your wrist, something that was formed billions of years ago and has travelled through space at unimaginable temperatures and speeds — and eventually landed on a watch.”

Source Link

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.