Why Aren’t Watches Made of Silver? What Are They Made Of?

Watches is made in so many different precious metals, but why isn’t it made of silver? You might have seen or heard of watches made of silver before. However, they are considered antique by now. For the comfort of the watch owner, silver has been excluded from external surfaces.

The reason watches aren’t made of silver is due to the discoloring. Over time, the silver surface will start to darken, referred to as “tarnish.” Silver has been excluded from external surfaces as tarnish is not pretty on a precious metal watch.

With all the different precious metals used in watches, why is silver so bad? Okay, yes, it has to be polished every once in a while, but other than that, it must be fine, right? Well, yes and no.

Silver is a metal that falls between the chairs when it comes to watchmaking. It’s not just the discoloring that makes silver unsuitable for watches.

Here's Why Aren’t Watches Made of Silver

Here’s Why Aren’t Watches Made of Silver

The good thing about silver is that you almost can’t see the difference between the precious metals silver, white gold, platinum, and rhodium. At a quick glimpse, they all look the same.

Silver isn’t used in watches due to the discoloring and its softness. Since stainless steel became a common metal, it has replaced silver in many applications as it gives the same look. Still, it’s stronger, cheaper, and easier to maintain.

Back in the day, more precisely, the era of pocket watches, before stainless steel was an available commodity, watches were made of silver. Silver was a natural choice because iron couldn’t be used as it would corrode, and gold was too expensive. Therefore, silver made a lot of sense.

WatchBox Studios talking about watches made of silver (Starts at 03:23)

Silver is a very soft metal. It’s not uncommon to see silver getting alloyed with something like zinc or copper to strengthen the silver. However, if it’s alloyed with copper, it will leave black or green colorations under the bracelet.

Tarnishing is a huge issue because it creates inconvenience. You might have grandparents, parents, or yourself who own silver cutlery.

If you have ever been asked to polish the entire set of forks, knives, spoons, plates, etc. you know that the discoloration from tarnishing is a hell to clean off.

It’s not a 15-minute job like doing the dishes. Now, I’m aware that a watch is by no means as much work as an entire cutlery set. However, you will most likely look at 10 to 15 minutes of work to make the silver watch shine right.

Silver is also very soft compared to other metals. So much, in fact, that silver can easily be scratched and bend just during normal wear and tear.

The long term use of a silver watch would result in a bent case and properly a lot of polishing to remove scratches. Suppose you want a durable silver-colored precious metal. In that case, you can opt for platinum as it’s doesn’t corrode and is impact resistant.

One last thing, nickel has been used in silver jewelry and wearables for decades as it increases the hardness and adds corrosion resistance. Some people is allergic to nickel, making silver a bad material choice for a wearable item.

However, it’s no longer common to have nickel in silver wearables. Typically, it will be found in cheaper or fake jewelry.

How Long Does It Take for Silver to Tarnish?

If you really want to go for a silver watch, you want to know how long you can go without polishing the watch, right?

I regret to inform you that you will have to take out your polish and cloth to make that silver watch shine no matter what. And as long you’re good with polishing the watch regardless, you’re good to own a silver made watch.

It’s quite simple, tarnishing of silver will happen within 2 months if the silver is touched a lot. If the silver is protected and not often touched, it can take up to 3 years. Therefore, expect a silver watch to tarnish within 2-5 months if used regularly.

There are methods used to either slow the tarnishing or stop it altogether. A standard method used is to coat the silver in gold, platinum, rhodium, etc.

However, this would defeat the purpose of a pure silver watch. Furthermore, as the watch is used, the coating will slowly degrade, and the tarnishing will begin.

This is the exact reason that stainless steel got so popular. It looks like silver, yet it’s stronger, easier to maintain, and cheaper.

What Metal Is a Watch Made Of?

Watches are made of many different materials. There is many examples of watches made in plastic, stainless steel, gold, platinum, or even palladium.

The biggest question of them all is: what metal is a watch made of?

Watches are made of stainless steel. Stainless steel is an iron-based alloy which is highly durable and isn’t rusting. While stainless steel is the most commonly used material, gold, plastic, platinum, and titanium are also used.

Due to its hardness, stainless steel is also used in other abrasive environments, such as kitchens
Due to its hardness, stainless steel is also used in other abrasive environments, such as kitchens.

The use of different metals has different reasons. Back in the day, where technology wasn’t as good, it was very prestigious to have a watch made of hard metal like platinum. Both because of platinum’s hardness and price.

Platinum, in particular, is tough to handle because it’s a very hard metal. Therefore, the wear on tooling is very high compared to working on other softer metals. Furthermore, the tooling cost is usually higher when the tools have to be stronger, which adds to the watch’s price.

The next precious metal gold, both white, yellow, and pink gold. Now, gold is very soft compared to the other metals, hence manufacturing the watches isn’t particularly difficult.

However, gold is also a precious metal, and properly the most known precious metal by looks. Gold is an expensive metal and also seen in many luxury watch brands.

However, gold is very soft. Therefore, it’s not commonly used in sports watches (although even big brands such as Rolex has plenty of gold sports watches), as gold is typically used in dress watches.

Watches were once made of silver—another precious metal. However, due to the oxidation that occurs when having silver and skin touch (the dark discoloration of silver), silver stopped being used in watches. It required maintenance, and the tarnish/discoloration could rub off on the skin and cloth.

The least prestigious and not precious metal – stainless steel is the most used metal in watches. However, stainless steel possesses many of the values that are in other more precious metal at a fraction of the price.

Stainless steel is a metal that looks like silver, white gold, and platinum. However, it’s much stronger than both silver and gold. Furthermore, it’s easily accessible for manufacturers and not super difficult to work on.

Why Are Watches Made of Stainless Steel?

Watches are made of stainless steel mostly due to practical functionality. Stainless steel is not the most durable material a watch could be made of. For example, in an ideal world, you could make watches of diamonds because they are the hardest material we know.

However, the rarity, available technology, and price of the material make it very difficult to make it sustainable for watch manufacturing. However, other materials which is widely available such as iron, is more sustainable for long-term use.

The main reason watches are made of stainless steel is the anti-corrosion, high durability, and low maintenance. Stainless steel can be given versatile looks (minor polished or brushed polish).

Different polish on the watch
Different polish on the watch

The different metals have completely different weights to it. For example, stainless steel only weighs 7500 kg for every cubic meter of stainless steel. In contrast, platinum is over the double with 21400 kilograms for every cubic meter.

MetalDesity (kg/m^3 / lb/ft^3)
Titanium4500 / 280
Stainless steel7500 / 470
Silver10500 / 650
Gold19300 / 1200
Platinum21400 / 1330
Density of metals used in watches (numbers are not exact)

The big benefit is that obviously, stainless steel is much lighter than other more precious metals.

Even though platinum is the heaviest material of all the compared materials, it’s much harder than, e.g., gold. Therefore, the density is not the only parameter to look at when choosing the right material for a watch.

Bonus info: When looking at the strength of materials, you could also look into yield strength, tensile strength, Vickers hardness, etc. It all depends on what you want to measure.

What Is the Best Metal for a Watch

The price is what affects the “best” metal for a watch. Because when it comes down to business, all materials are a matter of preference. If you want a cheap, durable watch, stainless steel is good. If you want a shiny, luxurious watch, then yellow gold is good.

The best metal for watches is stainless steel due to the corrosion resistance, high durability, low price, easy manufacturing, and easy maintenance. Other metals can be suitable as well but will increase the cost of the watch or compromise durability.

The purpose of the watch is what the intent of the watch is. For a sports watch that is worn everywhere, precious metals would be a shame. Just based on the softness of, e.g., gold, the watch would look bend and damaged very quickly.

However, if the watch’s purpose is to dress up and look nice, a precious metal such as gold would not be a problem. Since I doubt you will go diving in a dress watch.

Are Stainless Steel Watches Good?

The use of stainless steel is widespread in watches. As a matter of fact, stainless steel is the most commonly used metal in watchmaking.

In watchmaking, stainless steel is used primarily for the case and bracelets. The bracelet is one of the parts in a complete watch exposed to the most scratches and dents.

Whether you are a desk diver or a die-hard adventurer, the bracelet has to be made in a durable material that can resist most environments, whether it being acid, water, dissolvents, heat, cold, or other things found in the daily life.

Stainless steel watches are good. Stainless steel has many functional properties, which is good in the application of watches. Among the features is no corrosion, low costs, and very durable.

Since stainless steel is cheap and easy to work on, it’s also good for watches. If the case or the bracelet gets scratches, they can be polished. If the bracelet gets big dents, it can be replaced at a relatively low price.

The watch material that could make watches cheaper is plastic. However, there is also some compromises if the watch is made of plastic. Just take a look at Gshock watches.

While they are very durable, scratches are easily visible, and grime has a nasty habit of building up quite quick on plastic as well.

Is Stainless Steel Better Than White Gold?

There is some discussion going around the watch community whether to go for white gold or stainless steel. To the naked eye, they look the same. However, one is made of precious metal, and the other is made from a widely available metal.

Stainless steel is seen as a better alternative for watches. Stainless steel is much cheaper and a lot stronger than white gold. Although white gold might preserve the value better, it’s easier to scratch and bend.

Pure gold

The big discussion is about preserving the value of the watches. The argument is that stainless steel is available to anyone who wants it, and white gold is only available in a limited amount.

However, it’s tough to compare the 2 types of watches mostly because there has been a big trend of stainless steel watches for the last decade (looking at you, Rolex). Whereas there hasn’t been a big desire for precious metals to the same extend.

Trying to compare a Rolex Submariner stainless steel to a Rolex Submariner yellow gold will give a bigger percentage increase to the stainless steel model.

Is Platinum Better Than White Gold?

Here comes on the of truly tough questions: is platinum better than white gold? Oh, boy, let me tell you.

If you have ever seen platinum and white gold up close, you know there is little to no difference to the naked eye when looking at them. However, there a world of difference between the strength and price of the two materials.

Platinum is much better than white gold in all aspects except the price. Platinum is a rare metal and hard to machine, which will cost 3 to 5 times more expensive than white gold. Platinum is a hard metal that is difficult to scratch, won’t tarnish or rust.

When it comes to choosing whether to go for a watch made of white gold or platinum, you should select platinum if your fat stack of cash allows it. Because let’s face it. If you consider buying a watch made of white gold or platinum, money isn’t the biggest determining factor (sorry if I’m making incorrect assumptions here).

However, I will say that I would save the money and go for a white gold watch if the watch you are buying is a dress watch. If the watch is a sports watch for daily wear, I will go with the tough platinum.


All in all, watches aren’t made of silver due to the metal’s softness and the tarnishing. Although it doesn’t take long to polish a single watch, it’s inconvenient. Other alternatives are cheaper and better.

Stainless steel is the most used material in the making of watches. Stainless steel is a very hard metal yet easy to work on for maintenance and repairs, such as polishing.

Lastly, the material used in the watch is mostly a taste of preference. If you desire gold, there is nothing that tells you stainless steel is the better option. Yet, technically stainless steel is the best option for watches.

Jonas Henriksen

AllInWatches is founded by Jonas, who has a great interest in mechanical watches. All aspects of manual and automatic (mechanical) watches is a big interest and have been a passion since 2015, where the first automatic watch was purchased. Seeing the transparent case back and discovering the heritage of watchmaking piqued an interest in horology.

Recent Posts