12 Carbon Fiber Watches from Entry-Level to Luxury

12 Carbon Fiber Watches from Entry-Level to Luxury

Since its beginnings, the wristwatch industry has engaged in an ongoing quest for materials that are lightweight yet exceptionally tough — a quest that has led to the mainstreaming of once-experimental materials such as titanium and ceramics. Among the most recent and most high-tech substances adopted for watchmaking are carbon fiber compounds, pioneered by research scientists in the 1950s and ‘60s and first used in the manufacture of automotive and jet engine parts. The first wristwatch with carbon fiber in its case was an IWC Ingenieur in 1980; other watchmakers followed suit in the ensuing decades, some of them even developing new and more resilient substances by combining carbon fibers with other materials. While the watches on this list cover a vast range in terms of pricing, design, and technical complexity, all of them share the core attributes bestowed by carbon fiber and its various derivatives: exceptional lightness, durability, scratch- and corrosion-resistance, and an industrial-chic surface treatment that is sure to spark conversation among fellow watch aficionados.

G-Shock Mudmaster GWG2000

Price: $800, Case Size: 61.2mm x 54.4mm, Thickness: 16.1mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Movement: Casio Tough Solar

Casio’s vast and diverse G-Shock collection offers some of its toughest multifunctional watches in the task-specific “Master of G” collection — like the Mudmaster, which as per its somewhat cartoonish name is aimed at wearers who work in “extreme environments scattered with rubber, dirt, and debris.” G-Shock recently updated the Mudmaster’s mud-and-dust-proof “carbon core guard” case to a thinner and more wearable profile and added a new, extra-durable bezel formed from a heat-pressed carbon-fiber resin. The Mudmaster models are mounted on textured straps reminiscent of non-slip grips on heavy machinery, and the case’s improved buttons are knurled for easier operation. The double LED-illuminated, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal displays an array of information thanks to the movement’s Tough Solar, Multi-Band 6 Atomic timekeeping technology, including barometric pressure, altitude, and temperature, along with daily alarms, a 1/100th-second chronograph, full auto calendar, and world time for 29 cities.

Victorinox INOX Carbon Mechanical

Price: $1,300, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 14mm, Lug Width: 21mm, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Automatic Sellita SW200

The INOX watch collection takes its inspiration from Victorinox’s pioneering invention, the Swiss Army knife. (“Inox” is French for “stainless steel,” the material used for knife blades and the watch’s 43mm case.) Victorinox subjects its INOX watches to a battery of toughness tests to verify them as timepieces “built to last” — dropping them 10 meters onto concrete, driving over them with a tank, subjecting them to extreme submersion, sandblasting, and even corrosive agents like gasoline, solvents, and oils. INOX watches can resist temperature variations from -51 degrees Celsius to +71 degrees Celsius and 12 Gs of acceleration and deceleration. Joining the predominantly steel-cased collection is the INOX Carbon Mechanical, whose 43mm case is made from what Victorinox calls a “space-tested” scratch-resistant carbon composite material. While this version of the watch is called a “Mechanical” rather than “Automatic” (there are also quartz versions in the same case), the movement is self-winding, equipped with a 38-hour power reserve, and visible through a sapphire window in the titanium caseback.

Formex Essence Leggera Automatic Chronometer

Price: $1,790, Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 11mm, Lug to Lug: 46.4mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Sellita SW200-1

Innovative indie watchmaker Formex, known for its accessible chronometer watches and proprietary shock-absorbent case design, introduced its Essence Leggera series in 2023. The Leggera (Italian for “light”) stands apart from the core Essence models primarily through the use of robust-but-lightweight case materials drawn from the world of high-performance motorsport, like carbon fiber composite and zirconium oxide ceramic. The combination of materials — carbon fiber composite for the caseback and case middle, ceramic for the bezel and crown — makes for a case that is impressively light on the wrist (just 50 grams or 1.75 oz.) while also being smooth and silky to the touch; the ceramic bezel is also uncommonly scratch-resistant. The movement inside is a COSC-certified Sellita and the dial treatments are all designed to resonate with the dark-toned cases, including “Electric Blue,” “Arctic White,” “Mamba Green,” and even a dial made of forged carbon for a monochromatic black look.

Doxa SUB 3000 Aqua Lung U.S. Divers

Price: $4,890, Case Size: 42.5mm, Thickness: 13.4mm, Lug Width: 20mm, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Automatic ETA 2824-2

The Doxa SUB 300 first hit the shelves, and the waves, in 1967, establishing itself as a more “everyman” alternative to luxury dive-watch icons like the Rolex Submariner and Blancpain Fifty Fathoms. It was the first commercial dive watch with two functional scales on its unidirectional rotating bezel, for dive time and depth decompression time, and the first to use orange for its dial. Since then, the SUB 300 has expanded into other materials and colorways, like the all-black Doxa SUB 300 Aqua Lung US Divers edition, whose barrel-shaped 42.5-mm case is made of ultra-light, extra-durable forged carbon. The bezel sports both scales and the crown screws down to ensure a 300-meter water resistance. The watch’s box-shaped sapphire crystal covers the black “Sharkhunter Carbon'' dial, with applied hour markers, a white minute ring, a 3 o’clock date window, and a prominent minute hand coated in contrasting yellow. Also in yellow is the Aqua Lung U.S. Divers logo identifying this watch as a 300-piece limited edition.

Norqain Wild ONE Skeleton Burgundy

Price: $5,990, Case Size: 42mm, Thickness: 12.3mm, Lug-to-Lug: 49.4mm, Lug Width: 22mm, Water Resistance: 200 meters, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Automatic Norqain Caliber NN085 (Sellita SW200 base)

Family-owned Swiss boutique brand Norqain launched its first skeletonized movement, the Sellita-based NN085, in 2021 and installed it two years later into its sporty Wild ONE collection, which features cases made of NORTEQ, a proprietary carbon-fiber composite material with a striking marbled effect. NORTEQ is engineered to be extra-durable while remaining extremely lightweight and its structure allows for experimentation with bold colorways, like the burgundy tone of this 300-piece limited edition. Between the case material, and the skeleton movement — designed on the architectural principles of beam construction, with each support point held by two arms — the entire watch weighs a mere 78 grams. The openworked movement inside is housed in a titanium inner case protected from impacts by a rubber shock absorber. The sapphire caseback that exposes the movement also carries the watch’s limited edition number, out of a total 300 pieces made.

Oris Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter

Price: $6,600 Case Size: 47mm, Lug Width: 23mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Oris Caliber 793 (Sellita SW-300 base)

Oris created the first watch with both an automatic movement and a mechanical altimeter function back in 2014, and released an upgraded version of this groundbreaking timepiece in 2023. The newest Big Crown ProPilot Altimeter houses a slimmer self-winding movement with an improved altimeter module, operated by an additional 4 o’clock crown on the case, that is capable of indicating altitudes up to 6,000 meters or 19,700 feet — besting the upper range of its predecessor, whose scale topped out at 4,400 meters (15,000 feet). Also new and improved is the material for the 47mm case, a lightweight carbon-fiber composite material developed in a collaboration between Oris and Zurich-based 9T Labs. The resultant material, created through an “additive manufacturing and molding” process similar to 3D printing, boasts high levels of heat and chemical resistance and is stronger than metals while also being as light as plastic. Paired with a bezel and caseback made of titanium, the carbon fiber material contributes to the case being 70 grams lighter than its metal predecessor.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Edition "AMG"

Price: $9,350, Case Size: 43mm, Thickness: 14.9mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic IWC Caliber 69385

IWC, a pioneer in the use of carbon fiber in watchmaking back in 1980, applies the material to a special edition of its Pilot’s Watch Chronograph made in collaboration with the Swiss brand’s motorsport partner, Mercedes AMG. The 43mm case is made of titanium while the eye-catching dial is made of woven carbon fibers, using the same heat-and-pressure-treatment manufacturing process that produces AMG racecar components to achive its textile-structure look. The black-and-gray dial pattern contrasts with the white subdials for a classical “dashboard” aesthetic, while the matte gray finish of the titanium case evokes the “Selenite Gray Magno” paint job that is common on AMG automobiles. Inside the case is a horological high-performance engine, IWC’s manufacture Caliber 69385, with a column-wheel-driven chronograph, a hacking seconds function, and a 46-hour power reserve. The sturdy calf leather strap has an embossed pattern that echoes the carbon fiber texture of the dial.

Panerai Submersible QuarantaQuattro Carbotech Blu Abisso

Price: $18,600 Case Size: 44mm, Lug Width: 24mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 300 meters, Movement: Automatic Panerai Caliber P.900

At 44mm in diameter, Panerai’s Submersible QuarantaQuattro models occupy the increasingly popular midrange between the massive 47mm diameter of the first-generation Submersible and the reduced 42mm of subsequent models. Retaining the model’s hallmark, patented crown-protecting bridge device as well as its 300-meter water resistance, the stealth-stylish QuarantaQuattro Carbotech Blu Abisso joined the lineup in 2022. Its black, textured case is made of Carbotech, an ultra-lightweight, corrosion-resistant material constructed of carbon fibers developed by Panerai. The case’s unidirectional ratcheting bezel is made of the same material and frames the deep blue dial that gives the watch its name. Panerai’s in-house automatic Caliber P.900 ticks inside, driving the time display and 3 o’clock date indication, and stores in its single barrel a power reserve of three days. Harmonizing with the Blu Abisso dial is a sturdy blue rubber strap with a trapezoidal buckle made of DLC-coated titanium that echoes the black tones of the case.

Zenith Defy Classic Carbon

Price: $19,500 Case Size: 41mm, Thickness: 10.75mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Zenith Elite Caliber 670

Released in 2019, the 50th anniversary of Zenith’s game-changing El Primero caliber, the Defy Classic Carbon offers up the rare combination of a watch’s case, crown, and bracelet all crafted from forged carbon. The barrel-shaped, predominantly black case is 41mm in diameter, with the gray-toned wood-grain-like striations that are emblematic of the high-tech, lightweight material. The motif continues on each individual link of the bracelet, which is 40 percent lighter than even the titanium bracelet of other models, which fastens to the wrist with a double-folding clasp — one of the few elements of the watch’s chassis not made from the forged carbon material. The star-motif skeleton dial is essentially a front view of the movement, the automatic Elite 670, a three-handed descendant of the original chronograph-equipped El Primero. Composed of just 187 components, the ultra-thin movement has a silicon escape wheel and lever, and stores a power reserve of 48 hours.

Carl F. Bucherer Manero Peripheral BigDate Black

Price: $22,900, Case Size: 41.6mm, Thickness: 12.82mm, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Crystal: Sapphire, Movement: Automatic Caliber CFB A2011

Carl F. Bucherer celebrated its 135th anniversary in 2023 with the launch of an all-black “capsule collection” of limited-edition timepieces based on its historical best-sellers. Three of these models — a tourbillon, a perpetual calendar, and a big-date chronometer — are outfitted in forged carbon cases (with titanium inner cases); the most “accessible” of the trio is the Manero Peripheral BigDate Black, limited to 188 pieces. The black-texture, forged-carbon case measures 41.6mm in diameter and 12.82mm thick, with a domed sapphire crystal treated on both sides with antireflective coating. Under the crystal is a round, matte-black dial with the telltale big date aperture at 11 o’clock and a day-of-the-week display in a window at 9 o’clock; the hands and indexes are wedge-shaped and rhodium-plated. The movement inside is Carl F. Bucherer’s automatic Caliber A2011, a COSC-certified chronometer with a 55-hour power reserve. The watch’s strap continues the all-black aesthetic, made from hybrid rubber with a brushed texture and attaching to the wrist with a folding clasp made of black DLC-coated stainless steel.

Hublot Big Bang Unico Golf Sky Blue 45MM

Price: $32,900 Case Size: 45mm, Lug Width: 24mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 100 meters, Movement: Automatic Hublot UNICO Caliber HUB1580

Hublot is known by many for two longtime pursuits: developing and using high-tech materials and making watches aimed at athletes. Both these missions dovetail cleverly in the Big Bang Unico Golf models, which launched in 2017 and introduced into watchmaking a new exclusive alloy called Texalium, a robust yet lightweight amalgamation of carbon fiber and aluminum. The latest version, with a 45mm case in carbon fiber and Blue Texalium, dropped in 2023, equipped with the specially engineered, sport-specific counter mechanism that debuted in the original models. Working on the principles of a chronograph, the counting mechanism has a pusher at 3 o’clock, shaped like a putter, that moves a numeral disk that tracks the number of strokes per hole, while an additional pusher at 4 o’clock resets this disk to zero when the wearer moves on to the next hole; simultaneously, an indicator at 6 o’clock keeps track of the total accumulated number of strokes for scorekeeping. Yet another pusher at 8 o’clock (this one tee-shaped) resists all counters back to zero at the end of a round. The watch, housing Hublot’s automatic Unico caliber,  comes with two interchangeable straps, one in black rubber with sky-blue leather sections mimicking the design of golf gloves, the other in sky-blue fabric with a Velcro fastener.

Franck Muller Vanguard Damascus Carbon Skeleton

 

Price: $45,300, Case Size: 44mm, Thickness: 12.7mm, Lug to Lug: 53.7mm, Crystal: Sapphire, Water Resistance: 30 meters, Movement: Manual-winding Caliber FM 1740-VS12

One of the most colorful interpretations of carbon-fiber case design can be found in Franck Muller’s Vanguard Carbon Damascus Skeleton series, new for 2024, whose hallmark tonneau case is constructed of a high-performance, compressed carbon fiber whose rippling wave-pattern surface evokes the look of Damascus steel, a type of forged metal historically used for sword blades. Used widely in the aeronautics industry, and composed of 150 layers of layers of compressed carbon fibers, the material in the Vanguard cases is derived from rolling sheets of colored fiberglas into a mold, infusing them with resin, and then subjecting the entire mixture to 300 tons of compression for five hours at 200 degrees Celsius. The proprietary skeletonized movement inside, which requires an elite level of delicate machining, is manually wound, with an 18,000 vph frequency and two barrels to store an impressive power reserve of seven days. Each watch’s case, which is unique in the distribution of its colors and lines, is mounted on either a hand-sewn leather or nylon strap with a buckle made of black PVD-coated steel.

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