Platinum and watches: History, quality and value

June 7, 2022By Bonetto Cinturini

Watches are a truly essential accessory for gifting a person with fascination and class, under the condition (obviously!) that they are made well and from materials of excellence. In the latter case, in fact, a watch can become an investment, a true luxury item that lasts over time and which can be reappraised just a few years later with an increased extrinsic value. 

In this sense, platinum watches are the quintessence of a luxury item and their beauty and preciousness make them very sought-after. They are also an object that is midway between a jewel and a watch. The fundamental reason behind this similarity lies in purity, a quality that defines and makes platinum a noble metal, one of the most desired. There is also the matter of its importance and value, which are always top level given how difficult it is to find platinum watches and jewels on the market. 

The story of platinum: from its discovery to its first use in watchmaking

Over time, platinum has been described as the metal of gods, quite an important definition that completely overturned the initial attributions given to it. Discovered, in fact, by the colonizing Spanish during the period of greatest development in the culture of pre-Columbian America, it was called platinum as a diminutive of plata, the word used to indicate silver: this because given its colour, the people of the era did not consider it to be very important, defining it even disparagingly as a metal of second choice, low quality silver. Over time, however, the concept changed and at the beginning of the 20th century platinum watches returned to the fore, taking the place of honour as luxury goods par excellence.

The creation of the first platinum watches, appreciated by those of the period above all for their multiple properties and unique characteristics, goes back to Swiss watch manufacturing. On the basis of the previous parallel between watches and jewellery, the introduction of platinum to make watches marked a real turning point, as happens when a pure diamond is found. A 95% pure alloy is used to make platinum watches, a true record in watchmaking where much lower percentages are used for watches made from other metals.

Naturally, what renders platinum watches fascinating and unique is the difficulties that have to be overcome to make them, and not just the objective purity of the material. Firstly, platinum is scarce over the whole planet and the most active mining companies only manage to mine a third of the total amount of gold that is mined; gold mining also uses processing mechanisms that are much simpler and more immediate.

Another difficulty that has to be faced by platinum watch manufacturers, and which makes the value skyrocket and gives it the characteristic aura of a unique object, is the fact that only 30 grams of metal for satisfying the minimum requisites of platinum purity are obtained from every 10 tonnes of raw material that is extracted. This is why, if respecting the standard of 950 thousandths of purity is necessary, 40% more material has to be extracted.

Finally, platinum has a much higher melting point than gold and, in addition, to guarantee the absolute purity of the material and its non-contamination from other substances, special and very costly procedures have to be followed that add to its final value: as a result of this information, it becomes easy to understand how platinum watches are more highly esteemed by enthusiasts. All of this, when united with the special attention that producers pay when creating platinum watches, greatly increases their value. 

The qualities of platinum watches 

The rarity of platinum watches is not the only reason why the value of these unique pieces is off the chart and their preciousness top level. The constructive characteristics of platinum watches make them practically indestructible, both because they are not ruined by heat and because their very solid alloy prevents accidental distortion. They maintain their splendour and shine forever because the metal is stainless: in this manner the beauty of a platinum watch will remain unchanged as time passes.
In addition, platinum is hypoallergenic and tolerated even by the most sensitive skins, making it an ideal coating for anyone, above all those who have shown signs of metal allergy in the past. Finally, platinum watches are a sure, safe long-term investment because of their price, which is high but which, as time goes by, can only rise as a result of the appreciation of enthusiasts for older pieces.

The great references and revaluation of platinum watches over time

To confirm the revaluation of platinum watches over the years all you have to do is observe their history. A Patek Philippe 2499/100 was sold at 3.6 million dollars in 2021 even if, in this case, other factors were involved in making this case unique: firstly, the watch belonged to the legendary rocker Eric Clapton, and its twin, of the same series and the only other one of its kind  made, is kept at the manufacturer’s museum as a keepsake.

Naturally, there are many platinum watch manufacturers, and in watchmaking history various companies had the honour of creating true jewels that became myths in time. As an example, Rolex created its Day-Date, one of the most appreciated platinum watches because made together with gold and without using steel. Even Lange & Sohne dedicated itself to creating platinum watches, among which the 1815 Tourbillon, of which only 100 pieces were produced, and the dial of the 1815 Up Down also contains the metal.