Feature: Steel And Rose Gold Watches
Think of steel and gold and you may well think of white suits with rolled-up sleeves, the Ferrari Testarossa and awful, awful haircuts, but it may well be that the association is a little unfair. As easy as it is to picture a bi-metal watch worn on an incredibly loose bracelet around an over-tanned wrist, shrouded in cigar smoke, perhaps it’s time to give the plain and precious metal combo a second chance—with one small alteration.
Rolex GMT-Master II 126711CHNR
Rose gold, while no new thing, has certainly become popular in recent years. Take traditional yellow gold, add a dash of copper and voila, rose—or pink, if you’d prefer—gold. It’s a delicate splash of colour, and one that pairs very nicely with steel, tending as it does to be warmer than plain old gold.
The combination offers access to a new palette of colours perhaps otherwise previously not explored, such as brown, demonstrated rather admirably by this Rolex GMT-Master 126711CHNR. The brand has previously established the appeal of brown together with rose gold—a proprietary mix it calls Everose—with the Daytona 116515LN; the GMT-Master also has a history of mixing gold with earthy shades, so here we are.
There is the all-gold 126715CHNR as well, but if you prefer your precious metals as an accent then the bi-metal will save your bank account from a hefty £18,000 injury. Like the Yacht-Master 116655, also in rose gold but this time against a black backdrop, the CHNR demonstrates how the warmth of rose gold can cross the boundary between smart and casual, sporty and dressy.
You do of course get Rolex’s self-imposed duo-tone, single piece ceramic bezel—the company refused to glue two different colour pieces together and spent a lot of time and money figuring out how to make them in one piece—which has numbers inlaid in a fine deposit of rose gold—usually platinum. The pop of the bezel edge and crown in rose gold follows through into the polished centre links of the bracelet, rather practically leaving the steel outer sections to the take the brunt of day-to-day wear. A little dash of rose gold for the hands, markers and model insignia ties the theme together.
Omega Aqua Terra Chronometer 126.96.36.199.06.001
You might notice that this Omega, while still resplendent in rose gold, is a slightly different colour to the Rolex. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you; each manufacturer formulates its own composition of gold, copper and other additives to deliver a shade it deems the most attractive. Omega’s Sedna gold has a dash of palladium in it for a pop of brightness against the steel.
The teak deck dial that has become synonymous with the Aqua Terra is dressed with rose gold dial furniture, and while the watch doesn’t make use of any unusual colours to make it stand out, the slotted pattern and brushed finish running from top to bottom provide a distinction that’s quickly recognised against its compatriots, mimicking the finish of the yacht deck it’s presumably supposed to be worn on.
It’s in the details that the Omega underpins the glossy steel and rose gold look, wedge-shaped hour markers dressed in both polished and brushed finishes, lyre lugs curving inward in that classic Omega style, date text printed in the same silver on black as the chapter ring. Even the date window itself gets an elegant frame to separate it from the dial.
Unlike the Rolex, the Aqua Terra unveils the contents of its case through a sapphire case back, which is handy because the calibre 8500 is well worth looking at. The radially brushed finish offers a pleasing aesthetic to a technically impressive movement, furnished with the George Daniels-designed co-axial escapement, a silicon balance spring and two mainspring barrels for a 60-hour power reserve.
Cartier Calibre De Cartier Chronograph W7100042
That purgatory between sporty and dressy is no better demonstrated than by the steel and rose gold Cartier Calibre de Cartier Chronograph. It’s a watch that should, based on its 42mm diameter and chunky styling, be a casual, sports timepiece; dress it in gold and that should all fall apart.
But in rose gold, that doesn’t happen. It, well—it works. A gold bezel and two gold rings on the dial veer dangerously into the realms of gaudy, but in the more subdued rose gold it’s warmer, softer, more palatable. Despite the Calibre de Cartier Chronograph’s not insignificant bulk, the rose gold actually works some way to mellowing the design.
It’s actually a surprising transformation from the launch spec of the Chronograph in steel with black dial, which offered the stark monochromaticity typically expected of a sports watch. It’s like a different watch entirely—even though it’s just a different colour.
Inside, Cartier’s very first in-house, self-winding chronograph, the calibre 1904-CH MC, is no slouch. As part of the brand’s bid to move its watchmaking forward from off-the-shelf engines to custom-built calibres, the 1904-CH MC gets a swathe of features to prove it’s more than just a marketing exercise.
A column wheel and vertical clutch are de facto for a chronograph of this magnitude, but the twin barrel setup, constructed to spread torque load and stabilise precision throughout use, rather than to simply increase the power reserve itself, is the sort of engineering approach Cartier has taken with this movement. And there’s ceramic ball bearings in the bi-directional winding system, and linear zero resetting to optimise pusher inputs, too.
Maybe you’ve always had an aversion to steel and gold watches, would never consider one in a million years—but perhaps now it’s time to think again. Rose gold has done a number on the old classic, dusted it off and freshened it up for a new millennium. It just might be the only reboot from the 1980s that’s actually better than the original.
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