IWC Schaffhausen Unviels Brand New Ceralume® Technology

by Sameera Gamage

IWC Shaffhausen’s role as a pioneer and innovator in ceramic watches is showcased further with the invention of Ceralume®!

While many brands in the world of horology today experiment with ceramic materials on their timepieces, very few have the extensive knowledge and experience that IWC Schaffhausen has. For over four decades, IWC Schaffhausen has acquired comprehensive expertise in engineering ceramic timepieces. The Swiss brand is a pioneer and leader in ceramic materials, evidenced by its launch of the world’s first timepiece with a black zirconium oxide ceramic case in 1986.

IWC Schaffhausen New Ceralume® Case

Since this innovative introduction of black zirconium oxide ceramic, IWC Schaffhausen has gone on to major breakthroughs with ceramic material by creating watch cases made from brown silicon nitride ceramic and also black boron carbide ceramic, the third hardest substance known to mankind, after diamond and cubic boron nitride. Boron carbide ceramic is usually used as tank armor, bulletproof vests, engine sabotage powders, as well as numerous industrial applications. We can now add IWC Schaffhausen watch cases to that list!

Brand ambassador Lewis Hamilton spotted with the latest IWC Schaffhausen Ceralume® concept watch!

IWC Schaffhausen has also done their Top Gun collection in ceramic material. Back in 2022, the brand released the Pilot’s Watch Chronograph Top Gun Edition (please click here to read article!) “Lake Tahoe” and Pilot’s Watch Chronograph TOP GUN Edition “Woodland” (please click here to read article!) as part of the Watches and Wonders Campaign, featuring white and green ceramic cases.

Then, for Watches and Wonders 2023, the brand expanded its Top Gun collection again by releasing two new models, this time in Oceana blue and Jet black ceramic case colours (read the full article here!). Now IWC is really pushing the boundaries of ceramic material, by producing a watch that’s never been seen before. The result is Ceralume®, a luminescent ceramic material made using a highly engineered and patent-pending manufacturing process developed by IWC Schaffhausen.

With the first fully luminous ceramic case rings, we underscore our role as a pioneer and innovator in ceramic watches. The development of Ceralume® took several years. The main challenges we faced were producing watch cases with maximum homogeneity and meeting our exacting quality standards. We engineered a ground-breaking new manufacturing process tailored to the unique combination of ceramic powders and Super-LumiNova® pigments to achieve these goals.

Dr. Lorenz Brunner, Department Manager Research and Innovation at IWC Schaffhausen

The glow of the Ceralume® material is achieved by adding high-grade Super-LumiNova pigments to the ceramic raw materials. By now, we all know what Super-LumiNova is on a watch dial, but for any newcomers to Watchadvice,  Super-LumiNova® is a high-tech ceramic compound that behaves like a light storage battery. This high-tech ceramic material absorbs light energy from sunlight or even artificial light, which it then stores. Once the energy has been stored for a temporary period of time, it can then emit this absorbed energy as visible light.

IWC Schaffhausen New Ceralume® Concept Watch – Showing full lume throughout whole watch!

This process of storing and emitting the energy can be carried out an infinite number of times without causing the material to age or diminish the light-storing capacity! IWC Schaffhausen states that for this new Ceralume® material, the watch cases have been observed to emit a bright blueish light for more than 24 hours.

IWC Schaffhausen explains the technical process of creating Ceralume® as follows; “Conventional white ceramic is made by mixing zirconium oxide with other metallic oxides. These powders are shaped into a so-called green body, machined close to the final case geometry and then sintered at high temperatures in a kiln.

IWC Schaffhausen New Ceralume® Concept Watch – Full lume shot

For the white ceramic to glow in the dark, Super-LumiNova® pigments are added to the mix of raw materials. One of the main challenges in the development of Ceralume® was achieving a perfectly homogeneous mix of raw materials despite their different particle sizes and avoiding particle accumulations. To achieve this, IWC’s engineers reverted to a dedicated ball milling process, which had to be customised to the raw materials used. In addition, the parameters of the sintering process and the grinding of the sintered ceramic body also needed to be specifically adapted to the luminous ceramic.”

IWC Schaffhausen New Ceralume® Concept Watch -Close-up dial shot showing full lume!

Not only has IWC Schaffhausen perfected the creation of the first ceramic lume material, but they have also gone and implemented it into a watch. While it’s only at the concept stage, we have already seen it on the wrists of celebrities, such as Lewis Hamiltons (shown above). This fully luminous ceramic concept watch was created by IWC’s experimental division XPL. This concept watch uses the brand’s Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 as the base while giving it a white full luminescent dial and white luminescent rubber strap. The dial’s brass base is sprayed with a Super-LumiNova® solution before the printing is added on top of the luminescent layer. Manufactured in an injection moulding process, the white rubber strap is likewise enriched with Super-LumiNova® pigments.

Final Thoughts

This latest technology of combining Super-lumiNova with ceramic material is a game changer for the brand and the industry as a whole. It paves the way for brands to become creative with their designs, incorporating lume into the ceramic cases along with the dial components. As pointed out earlier in the article, IWC Schaffhausen is certainly a pioneer in the world of ceramic watches, having already experimented with different colours and materials with ceramic. So, it was only a matter of time before the brand’s experimental division created a ceramic case with full lume!

While the concept watch displays what the brand is capable of with Ceralume® whilst also incorporating full lume into the dial and straps, I hope the brand doesn’t go down this route for future commercial products (not straight away, at least). I personally think that it will be too much, and that old adage of “too much of a good thing can be bad” rings true here. A full Ceralume® case with a dial with Super-lumiNova for indices and hands; however, now that will certainly be something to look forward to!

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