Friday, September 9, 2011

Tech Talk No. 3: Platinum vs. White Gold Watches

There is a lot of talk about white gold versus platinum when it comes to wedding rings, but there seems to be minimal discussion on this topic in the watch world. So if you're wondering about the differences between white gold and platinum in watches, this is the place to be.

One common misconception people have about platinum is that it's harder than white gold. This is not the case.

Although they are both fairly soft metals, platinum is denser and heavier than white gold, but white gold is actually harder (how much harder depends on the alloy). This is because platinum is mostly used in an almost pure form (approx. 95% pure i.e. '950') compared to white gold, which is 75% gold and 25% other metal (such as silver and palladium). The density in platinum makes them harder to cast (higher temperature required - 1774 celcius vs 920 for 18k gold).

Platinum crystal (from wikipedia)

On the wrist, the same watch in different material will generally result in the platinum watch being around about 30% heavier than its gold counterpart. Weight is probably the easiest way to distinguish between platinum and white gold.

Looks wise, they look similar, but on careful examination white gold is 'warmer' whereas platinum is 'cooler, but truth be told, I can't tell the difference. More often than not, watch companies will produce a different dial for the platinum model in order to help differentiate it from white gold and steel watches. And quite often, it is produced in a limited number.

As an example - Platinum and white gold watches tend to come in different dial colour combos

Other ways to tell are the stamp on the back of the case (950 vs 750) and, of course, by scratching the case (if you can bring yourself to do it, or if you dare to do it). Scratching platinum watches merely pushes the material to the side (the material is displaced and you don't lose any precious metal content) and this can be restored, whereas with gold, you'd take a chunk out of it. Of course, you might need a fairly high-powered loupe to tell the difference...

One thing you may or may not notice is that most of the time, a platinum watch will be delivered with a white gold clasp, since it is a harder material. Platinum clasps might be more 'expensive' but due to it being a softer material, it'll wear quicker and not hold its shape in the long run, since it is a 'moving' part.

Platinum will also develop a patina after being worn for a while, which can best be described as a brushed, whiteish look. It is naturally white, and it is also hypoallergenic. White gold may cause allergic reactions to some people, but that really depends on what alloys are used. Nickel used to be mixed in with white gold, but as there are many people allergic to nickel, this is being used less and less in white gold these days.

Platinum used to be a lot more expensive than gold. That, coupled with the heaviness of the material due to its density, gives it a much higher perceived prestige value than gold. However, as the price difference is minimal nowadays (approx US$1830 per ounce of Pt vs. US$1790 per ounce for gold - correct as of end of August, 2011), platinum, perhaps, has become the better value precious metal?

Maybe, get in while it's cheap? 

Oh, and here's an unusual platinum watch we blogged about only recently.


1 comment:

Meehna Goldsmith said...

Really nice breakdown of the differences between white gold and platinum. I enjoyed the read.