Color or tone of stainless steel
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2017

    Color or tone of stainless steel

    Can anyone explain what accounts for the differences in color/tone of the stainless steel used for various watch cases and bracelets? My quick search did not turn up any posts on this topic. What I'm referring to is different shades of steel color. I don't mean the lustre - as I understand it, that refers to the level of surface reflectivity caused by different types of finishes, such as brushed vs. satin vs. polished. (As with semi-gloss vs flat paint.) As an example, my Sinn 556i appears noticeably lighter or brighter than my Archimede Outdoor Protect. (Both are on their original bracelets.) The Sinn has a more lustrous satin finish, while the Outdoor is finely brushed. But the actual color of the steel itself looks different. Could this be due to different grades of steel being used, such as 304 vs 316? The case, but not the bracelet, of my Outdoor has been hardened, but both case and bracelet are the same shade. Any metallurgists out there who can shed some light on this?
    Last edited by raleighcompgs; September 8th, 2018 at 02:39.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Chatsworth House, England

    Re: Color or tone of stainless steel

    Worked with stainless steel for 30+ years, just a simple thing like changing the coarseness of the abrasive used for graining the SS will change the perceived colour as light will bounce of the surface slightly differently. Also the pressure used in graining can also affect the colour, if using say a belt linisher (maybe not on a watch case but this is an example) on stainless, the harder you press on the more heat will build up in the SS to a point where a slight gold tint can be seen at the root of the graining. Another example is SS car exhausts, they get lots of heat and go golden. A really really fine satin finish will appear flat and dull but makes a nice satin contrast when next to a mirror polished area.

    Normally SS can only be hardened by work hardening in its cold state (eg planishing it too much). There is a process for case hardening austenitic SS's called Kolstering.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Dallas suburbs

    Re: Color or tone of stainless steel

    IF there is an actual difference, it will be caused by slight chemical differences in the steel additives. However, if you are comparing various stainless watches that don't have identical finishes, the difference is almost certainly in the finishing and not the steel. The only way I would try to compare ss color is in the high polish condition.

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  5. #4
    Moderator Public Forum John MS's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Virginia, USA

    Re: Color or tone of stainless steel

    Case shape, flat vs rounded surfaces and curve complexity can all alter the way light is reflected and change the apparent color.

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