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Businessweek

Bronze Watches Quickly Lose Their Luster. That’s Why People Like Them

Patina is a controversial topic in the timepiece-collecting community. Some people think that it turns watches made of bronze dull and muddy. Others call it the highest form of personalization.
Three Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Bronze watches with different stages of patina. The center is available at certain Tudor boutiques, and the timepieces on either side are available at Watchbox.com.

Three Tudor Black Bay Fifty-Eight Bronze watches with different stages of patina. The center is available at certain Tudor boutiques, and the timepieces on either side are available at Watchbox.com.

Photographer: Chelsea Kyle for Bloomberg Businessweek

It takes education and imagination to look at a brand-new bronze watch and envision what it might look like months or years from now. People more familiar with chemically inert case materials such as stainless steel or gold, which continue to glisten in perpetuity, may be drawn to the initial untouched beauty of bronze. The metal has a warm golden-brown glow. But a distinct patina develops on bronze after oxidation and skin contact, which, to the uninitiated, might look dirty or muddy—a metal that’s been put on mute. To seasoned collectors, however, that dullness is the highest form of personalization.

Patina is polarizing. There are online watch forums dedicated to removing it (often with harsh chemicals such as ammonia or simple kitchen ingredients including vinegar) and discussions about accelerating it (which watch brands advise against, as it can lead to blotchiness). Those who know what they’re getting into treasure not only the reduced sheen but also the process behind the discoloration.