Steel vs. Ceramic Watch Bezels

ceramic watch bezels
by: Ben Tseytlin - on Vintage & Luxury Watches

Over the last few years major luxury watch manufacturers such as Rolex have made changes when it comes to their watch bezels, transitioning from stainless steel to ceramic. Many enthusiasts are surprised by the switch, and are interested to know why these watchmakers have made such changes. Below is an overview of ceramic watch bezels and how it compares to steel.


Ceramic bezels are exceptional in durability. They are also resistant to scratching and are said to be virtually indestructible. Rolex revealed that they switched from steel to ceramic primarily because of longevity. Additionally, the new ceramic bezels have a shine which is stunning and a step above their classical steel counterparts.

Despite this, ceramic isn’t perfect. They will be more costly to replace than the classical bezels, and some have claimed that they shattered when a strong enough force was applied. However, tests conducted on the watches have found that their shatter resistance is without question. Still, many enthusiast prefer the classical steel bezels, and it is probably for this reason that ceramic is not yet being used in the “Pepsi” GMT bezels and probably never will be.

Stainless Steel And Aluminum

The good thing about luxury watches is that you have many options available. This includes the style of the dial and the metal and bracelet type. Although ceramic is the hottest new thing, many traditionalists prefer stainless steel or even aluminum.

Aluminum bezels are common in vintage watches and were first introduced during the 1950s. Prior to these Bakelite bezels was the norm. Unfortunately, Bakelite is susceptible to cracking, and this is why aluminum gradually replaced it. However, aluminum has weaknesses of its own, such as fading when exposed to excessive sunlight. This is why many of the older Rolex Daytonas and Submariners display discoloration. Fortunately, many collectors love it and actively seek out watches which have it.

Stainless steel is considered by many to be the successor to aluminum when it comes to watch bezels. It offers an appearance which is streamlined, is extremely tough and resistant to shattering. However, stainless steel has the weakness of being vulnerable to scratching. However, as with discoloration, such scratches have endeared these watches to certain collectors.

Rolex Cerachrom Bezels

Over ten years ago, Rolex introduced a proprietary alloy made with ceramic that it called Cerachrom. The word “cera” is short for ceramic while “chrom” is Latin for color. The material was first showcased on a GMT Master II with 18 carat gold. The bezel was black in color, and it took the industry by storm. It also laid the groundwork for ceramic time pieces in the future. There are a number of models today that utilize the Cerachrom bezels, including the Yacht Master and even the Submariner. Plus, whereas the original was restricted to one color, advances in technology now allow for a two color option, usually blue and black. By 2016 Rolex showcased a Daytona made with stainless steel and a ceramic black bezel, giving consumers the best of both worlds.