The 12 Best Ceramic Watches of 2021

Sep 21, 2021

Category: Style

Over the past several years, vintage has been king in the world of watches. From the skyrocketing prices of actual 20th-century timepieces to every brand and their mother plumbing the depths of their back-catalogs looking for their next reissue, it seems that everything old is in again. But, lest you forget, we are now more than a fifth of the way through the 21st century, and even in the midst of vintage mania, there are plenty of great modern watches being produced. And nothing screams “modern” like a ceramic watch.

The best ceramic watches combine their innovative high-tech material with a thoroughly modern style that places them at this moment. There were no true ceramic watches back in the ’60s, and that’s OK — not everything has to be vintage. Ceramic watches are unabashedly modern, frequently appearing in stealthy blacked-out colorways and statement-making oversized cases. They are bold and contemporary, to be sure, but ceramic watches are also somewhat practical. “How so?” you ask? Take a look below to see why you should consider going ceramic for your next watch, and then read on to see our picks for the 12 best ceramic watches for men.

The Benefits Of Ceramic

And The Drawbacks, Too

The Good: Ceramic has a number of benefits that make it ideal for use as a material in watches, but the most significant is its hardness. Ceramics are extremely hard to scratch, with the commonly-used ZrO2 ceramic rating around 1,200 HV on the Vickers hardness scale. Industry-standard 316L stainless steel, by comparison, comes in at just over a tenth of that. This high level of anti-scratch protection, combined with ceramic’s strong resistance to oxidation, corrosion, and color-fading, means ceramic watches continue to look new for years or even decades after they’re purchased. Ceramic is also considerably lighter than steel, resistant to temperature changes, and is hypoallergenic and gentle on the skin with no metal with which to have an adverse reaction. These features all combine to make ceramic extremely comfortable on the wrist.

The Not So Good: Right now, you may be thinking that ceramic sounds like the perfect material with which to construct a watch. But just like any other material, ceramic has its downsides too. Chief among them is its propensity to shatter. While it’s extremely difficult to scratch ceramic, it’s relatively easy to shatter or chip it. If you drop a ceramic watch on a hard surface, there’s a decent chance that at least a chunk of it will break off, meaning it’s not the best choice for accident-prone people. Think about it: which would you rather drop on the floor, a ceramic plate or a steel one? That’s what we thought. If, however, you’re careful with your watches and don’t think you would drop or smash your ceramic watch, then the only real drawback (unless you’re just not a fan of the way it looks) is the price. Ceramic watches are expensive, with ceramic versions of known luxury watches often selling for thousands of dollars more than their metal counterparts due solely to the material upgrade. But if money is no object and you like the idea of ceramic, then the material may be worth the price of admission.

Junghans Force Mega Solar Ceramic

One thing you’re sure to notice about ceramic watches is this: they’re not cheap. Proof of that comes in the form of our four-figure “budget” pick from Junghans. The German watchmaker is known for their classic minimalist Bauhaus designs, but they’re looking firmly toward the future with this watch. With a black ceramic case, a synthetic rubber strap with PVD-treated titanium clasp, environmentally-friendly lume, and a solar-powered, radio-controlled movement that can be set using an app, this is a far cry from mid-century Bauhaus.

Case Size: 40.4mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Radio-Controlled Solar Quartz

Purchase: $1,150

Longines HydroConquest Ceramic

As one of the top-selling brands in the Swatch Group’s impressive portfolio, Longines has a number of highly desirable watches on offer. Most of them lean into the Swiss heritage brand’s rich history, but not this one. A thoroughly modern diver, this black ceramic version of Longine’s ever-popular Hydroconquest is a bargain at under four grand. With 300m water resistance, a luxe fitted rubber strap, and loads of wrist presence, this brings a lot to the table.

Case Size: 43mm
Water Resistance: 300m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $3,725

Rado Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic

Rado has been making ceramic watches for decades, long before they were en vogue, with their anti-scratch tungsten-cased Diastar of the 1960s considered to be the progenitor of the trend. These days, ceramic can be found throughout the Master of Materials’ catalog, including on their flagship diver. While the standard Captain Cook is a vintage reissue, the High-Tech Ceramic version is anything but thanks to a smoked sapphire dial that exposes the movement and a plasma high-tech ceramic case and bracelet that have been expertly finished to look like metal.

Case Size: 43mm
Water Resistance: 300m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $3,800

Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Phantom

Though they’ve only been around since the 1990s, Bell & Ross has some of the most recognizable design language in the entire watch industry thanks to their oversized, square-cased “Instruments” line of watches that look like they were pulled out of an airplane’s cockpit. And while the standard stainless steel Instruments are certainly bold and modern enough already, this completely blacked-out ceramic version makes an even bigger contemporary fashion statement on the wrist.

Case Size: 42mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $3,900

Tudor Black Bay Ceramic

The Tudor Black Bay was first introduced as a modern interpretation of a vintage diver, but it has since grown to include chronographs, simple everyday watches, solid silver watches — you name it. But perhaps no iteration is more impressive than the Black Bay Ceramic. While its stealthy black ceramic case is both beautiful and rugged, the real star of the show is tucked away inside. The watch boasts Tudor’s first-ever METAS-certified Master Chronometer movement, a sign that the brand is looking to elevate their status within the hierarchy of Swiss luxury brands.

Case Size: 41mm
Water Resistance: 200m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $4,725

IWC Pilot’s Watch Top Gun

As one of the five original makers of WWII-era Flieger watches, IWC certainly knows their way around a pilot’s watch. But the Schaffhausen-based luxury brand goes beyond nailing the pilot’s watch look to make a watch that’s actually useful for modern flyboys. With an anti-scratch ceramic case, high-vis hands and markers, a sapphire crystal that’s secured against displacement during a drop in air pressure, and a soft-iron inner case protecting the in-house Calibre 32110 from magnetic forces, this is one pilot’s watch that’s cleared for takeoff.

Case Size: 41mm
Water Resistance: 60m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $5,600

Zenith Defy Classic Ceramic

As we’ve established, pretty much every ceramic watch is modern by design, but Zenith’s Defy makes most of them look ancient. With a wild contemporary design language that could only have originated in the 21st century, the Defy combines a sharp ceramic case with an integrated rubber and titanium strap and a star-shaped skeletonized dial that reveals the high-tech silicon escape-wheel and lever within the in-house Elite caliber. This will still look cutting edge in 50 years.

Case Size: 41mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $7,700

Omega Speedmaster Dark Side Of The Moon

Omega was one of the first watch brands to experiment with ceramic back in the early 1980s, and they were also one of the first to popularize the material’s modern resurgence with this ceramic version of the Speedy. The “Dark Side of the Moon” has since gone on to become an entire series within the Speedmaster line, with various anti-scratch versions of the mythical Moon Watch. And with bold, oversized ceramic cases, dark and foreboding colorways, and Master Chronometer co-axial chronograph movements, the DSOTM editions are arguably the most head-turning Speedmasters available.

Case Size: 44.25mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Automatic Chronograph

Purchase: $12,000+

Hublot Classic Fusion Orlinski Black Magic

Another brand that has had a big impact on ceramic’s modern popularity, Hublot also helped popularize the ongoing big watch trend of the 21st century. But coming in at just 40mm, this ceramic version of the Classic Fusion is on the understated side — at least when it comes to size. Its design, however, is another matter entirely, as this watch is part of an official collaboration with pop artist Richard Orlinski, and his signature multifaceted style gives this ceramic wonder an edge like no other watch in existence.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 50m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $13,600

Panerai Tuttonero Luminor GMT

Like Bell & Ross’s Instruments line, Panerai’s large, cushion-shaped Luminor case with its trademark locking crown mechanism is one of the most recognizable silhouettes in the watch industry. Modern and trendy for going on 30 years now, the iconic design takes on its most daring guise when expressed in matte black ceramic. But this watch, in particular, goes even further, throwing in a matching sleek ceramic bracelet and Panerai’s unique and impressive in-house P.9010 Calibre 12-hour GMT movement to create something wholly unique in the marketplace.

Case Size: 44mm
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement: Automatic GMT

Purchase: $14,900

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ceramic

In recent years, Bulgari — and particularly their Octo Finissimo line — have become known for producing some of the thinnest mechanical watches in the world. Here, they’ve carried that identity over to ceramic with the Octo Finissimo Ceramic. Measuring just 5.5mm thick, this is the thinnest mechanical ceramic watch ever made, with the fully-decorated, platinum micro rotor-adorned “BVL 138 – Finissimo” caliber movement remarkably visible through an exhibition caseback. The skinny blacked-out watch doesn’t skimp on the ceramic either, with the case, bracelet, dial, and even the crown all being crafted from the hard-wearing material.

Case Size: 40mm
Water Resistance: 30m
Movement: Automatic

Purchase: $16,400

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Grande Complication

As you’ve seen proof of by now, ceramic watches are often large and expensive, and they’re tailor-made for flaunting. And perhaps no watch on Earth understands that reality better than this one. Part of AP’s Offshore line — their more modern, oversized take on the classic Royal Oak — this watch is cased in flashy white ceramic, including the crown and pushers, that displays the best of the Maison’s trademark finishing techniques. It also has a transparent sapphire dial so you can take in every bit of the absurd Calibre 2885 automatic movement that combines a perpetual calendar with a split-seconds chronograph and minute repeater. And at nearly three-quarters of a million dollars, it’s one of the world’s priciest ceramic watches.

Case Size: 44mm
Water Resistance: 20m
Movement: Automatic Minute Repeater, Split-Seconds Chronograph, Perpetual Calendar

Purchase: $725,000

The 15 Best Titanium Watches For Men

Ceramic is certainly one of the most innovative materials used to construct watch cases, but it isn’t the only one. Another high-tech material that’s gaining steam in the industry is titanium, as the metal is ultra-strong, incredibly lightweight, and gentle on the skin. And if you’re wondering which titanium watches currently on the market are the best, then look no further than our comprehensive guide on the subject.

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