The new Apple Watch will be a major topic of discussion at Baselworld next week, and due to a coincidence in the publicity schedule, it’s already bumping up against a Swiss heavyweight. Today we talk about scratch-resistant gold.
On Monday, Apple provided final details about its Watch, and we learned that the top-of-the-line Apple Watch Edition, priced at $10,000 to $17,000, will feature cases fashioned from a proprietary gold blend Apple says is harder and more scratch resistant than traditional gold alloys.
The next day, Hublot announced the Big Bang Unico Full Magic Gold, which will debut at Baselworld next week. First announced in 2011, Magic Gold is Hublot’s proprietary gold-and-ceramic blend that is also harder and more scratch resistant than standard gold alloys.
So, can we determine which of the two will offer the more scratch-resistant surface? Hublot claims a hardness of 1,000 Vickers for Magic Gold. Paragraph 28 of Apple’s patent application states in part:
“Scratch resistance is generally related to a hardness of the gMMC [gold metal matrix composite], which can be measured using a Vickers hardness test. In embodiments described herein, the hardness of gMMC is generally harder than gold alloy of the same karatage. In some embodiments, the gMMC has a hardness of at least 400 Hv, as measured by Vickers test.”
Apple does not make a claim beyond the 400 Vickers figure cited, though the language clearly indicates that the Vickers number could be higher. Perhaps Hublot should be flattered that the world’s most valuable tech company opted to follow its path. As things stand today, it’s looking like Hublot’s technology will carry the day, but we have to see Apple’s actual product to make a final determination.
Apple does provide some tantalizing hints at possible things to come. The patent application mentions “forming a gold and diamond matrix composite…” and “…selecting relative amounts of gold particles and diamond particles such that the gold and diamond matrix composite is characterized as 18 k gold.” The application also references the use of platinum as the precious metal. (See claims 15, 17, 19 and 20.) So we may eventually see a “Diamond Edition” Apple Watch.
Leaving the realm of speculation, we do know that unlike Apple, Hublot produces its special gold in-house, from start to finish, in a high-tech foundry at its Nyon Manufacture. As described by Hublot, the parts-making process starts when a boron carbide powder is pre-formed in molds. The powder is then hardened at a very high temperature, creating a rigid, porous structure. Next, 24k gold alloyed with 3% molten liquid gold is injected under very high pressure with inert gas at a high temperature, allowing the metal to fill the ceramic pores and creating a “fusion” of the two to produce Magic Gold.
The Big Bang Unico Full Magic Gold case measures 45 mm in diameter, so there’s plenty of the high-tech gold on your wrist. The case houses the HUB 1242 UNICO movement with anthracite grey treatment, developed and manufactured in-house by Hublot. This automatic-winding flyback chronograph is constructed with the column wheel and double clutch visible on the dial side. In the image below, and clutch is at 12 o’clock below the “Hublot” name, and the column wheel is partially visible at 6 o’clock.
The Big Bang Unico Full Magic Gold will officially debut at Baselworld next week. Find complete specs below.