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If you're in the market for a wooden watch, one of the main questions you are probably asking is how durable are wooden watches?
We'll break down the key features you should consider while shopping for a durable wooden watch.
Full Transparency - We make custom wooden watch cases. We started the business as we never found a wood watch in the market that we liked and felt was up to our style and quality expectations. We've learned a lot in the process building these from scratch and are sharing what we consider makes a high quality durable wooden watch.
Wood stabilization is the process of removing air from the pores of the wood and replacing it with resin. After the pores are infused with resin, the wood is baked until "stabilized."
The stabilization process transforms the wood making it heavier and denser. The increased density makes it stronger and more tolerable to impacts.
Stabilized wooden watches will expand/contract the least amount with temperature or humidity fluctuations, ultimately reducing the risk of the wood cracking. Cracked wooden watch cases are unrepairable in most circumstances. Please note that since wood is a living, breathing species, there will always be some movement with temperature and humidity changes. However, wood stabilization is the only way to ensure this movement is minimized.
A stabilized wooden watch case is arguably the most important feature that determines how durable your watch is going to be. Still, it's a rare feature in the industry as it's an extra step in raw materials preparation, which adds time and costs.
Most wooden watches on the market are made overseas in China and do not use stabilized wood. These manufacturers finish their wooden watches with oil. The brands sourcing turn-key / drop-shipped wood watches from China will also recommend you apply the same oil at regular intervals for maintenance and to keep the shine. They'll usually include a bottle and sell it as a separate product. This maintenance is ultimately recommended to ensure the wood does not dry out and crack prematurely.
Most people will likely not remember to coat their watch with oil for preservation. If you plan to travel to places with extreme hot or cold temperatures, consider twice if you need to bring your wooden watch if the case is unstabilized.
PS - All Maker watches that incorporate wood are made from stabilized wooden cases. We complete the process ourselves in house and also source from one of the best wood stabilizers in the United States - Pourcasso, aka @DerangedDonkey.
How the wood watch is sealed is critical to its durability. Most watches are unsealed and instead coated with a hydrating oil, as we noted. This looks nice, but it allows a lot of the elements to enter the pores (assuming it's not stabilized), which jeopardizes the integrity of the wood which can lead to premature cracking.
The most durable wooden watch cases are finished with CA (Cyanoacrylate) or automotive clear coat with UV protection.
Both of these finishes are the top standard used in high-quality wooden pens, knives handle, duck calls, golf putters, and watches. Its added shine is a bonus to the extra layer of protection that goes over the watch case to protect it from the elements. Think of it like coating on your car paint. It can be buffed out if it's a minor scratch. Without this layer, you are scratching the paint (wood) directly.
We currently finish all our watch cases with CA. We are looking to transition to an automotive clear coat for faster application and additional UV protection.
Watch glass, also known as the watch crystal, is the clear cover that goes over the dial and protects it while allowing you to read the time - or just admire the inner workings.
Watch faces are covered in different materials that vary between plastics (low end), mineral crystal (mid-tier), and Sapphire Crystal (top).
Plastics are more feasible and make sense in mass-produced watches with a lower price point. Great for youth or toy watches.
At a minimum, we recommend that your wooden watch be equipped with a mineral crystal. Mineral crystal is a regular glass crystal that has undergone some level of heat treatment. This makes it better withstand scratches, but it's not entirely scratch-proof or shatter-resistant. It's definitely more scratch-resistant than plastic alternatives. We used them early on when we first started with positive results.
If you're a more active individual (or a little clumsy), you'll want to consider a wooden watch with a sapphire crystal face glass. It might cost a little more, but sapphire is exceptionally reliable and more shatter and scratch-resistant than mineral crystal. It's the standard crystal material used in most luxury watches.
All our watches come equipped with a sapphire crystal face glass.
A steel core infrastructure is the actual guts that hold the case, movement, and straps altogether. Watchmaking is a fine art, and you don't want anything less than a well manufactured and finished piece of 316L steel holding it all together.
Steel not only has an excellent look to it, but it also provided a healthy weight to the overall product. In most cases, wood watches are very light, and a steel core helps bring up the quality feel through its weight. Furthermore, you want to ensure components like the movements and straps are secured directly into steel and not the wood itself.
We'll admit when we started this off as a hobby, we did not have a steel core. We ran into quality issues with straps tearing out of the wood case movements coming dislodged. You'll want to be cautious of brands that attach straps directly into wood cases and secure the movement and back cases with adhesive only. The watches look great aesthetically, but we question their long term durability. We know as we've seen it first hand with some of our early clients but have invested in a steel core to take our product to the next level.
A quality steel core infrastructure will have a twist-off or screw down closure to ensure air and water is kept out.
Moisture from the elements and sweat are unavoidable. Seals are standard in watches; however, not all wood watches use a seal between the back case and the central core to help keep the moisture out.
Standard seals use o-rings, and we currently use a custom seal made for our custom steel infrastructure.
Seals are a feature hard identify without opening the back case of the watch. Be sure to as the manufacturers' customer service team or retailer about this before making the purchase. It's also an excellent way to test their product knowledge!
To learn more about our wooden watch features please visit: https://www.makerwatchcompany.com/pages/wood-watch-features