In the varied spectrum of wristwatch materials, the terms PVD and DLC are thrown around often. Generally, it’s understood that the watch is crafted from steel and then chemically coated to give it an all-black or “murdered out” look.
Yet there are some important nuances in these terms, and how the luxury watch industry uses them, that you should be aware of if you’re in the market for a black PVD watch.
For this reason, we’ve put together this guide on this commonly-encountered metal treatment:
We’ve also included some of our favorite luxury PVD models and a more affordable option.
Best PVD-Coated Watches
- Breitling Aviator 8 41 Curtiss Warhawk Ref. M173152A1L1X1
- Tudor Black Bay Dark Ref. M79230DK
- Sinn U1 S Diving Watch
- TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Day Date Ref. CV2A83.FC6393
- Seiko Prospex SRPC49K1
As you can see above, the watches we’ve chosen as our PVD and DLC highlights span not only different brands but also different countries of manufacture. These include Switzerland, Germany, and Japan.
With this method, the manufacturers are able to achieve the desired effect – creating all-black watches. And yet, all of these timepieces are extremely different from each other, demonstrating how versatile PVD coating can be. Keep scrolling to see for yourself!
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What Is PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) On A Watch?
In most contexts, PVD stands for Physical Vapor Deposition. This is the name of the chemical process by which a small layer of particles is bound to a surface to create a specialized coating.
The composition of the particles and of the surface can vary by industry. In the world of fine watchmaking, the latter will usually be metal like stainless steel or titanium. The particles, on the other hand, are not as standardized across brands, though they customarily result in a black surface.
The PVD process is not a simple one. Therefore, it did not come into play with watches until the latter half of the 20th century. It involves chemically bonding the new layer of particles to the metal foundation below to produce a more durable and differently colored external surface.
Unfortunately, luxury watch brands are often vague on the specifics of their PVD treatment. They’ll rarely indicate exactly what the coating consists of, often because it’s some sort of proprietary technology. It’s also possible that this kind of detail isn’t of concern to many watch buyers – they just want a black watch -so it’s simply excluded.
In the instances when they’re not being vague, it can be the case that the particles are actually precious metal. For example, Rolex proudly advertises that the recessed numerals on their Cerachrom bezels are coated (via PVD) with platinum.
Another common coating material is DLC, which stands for Diamond-Like Carbon, and which we discuss next.
What Does DLC-Coated Mean?
As stated above, DLC stands for Diamond-Like Coating. When a watch is DLC-coated, it indicates that the base metal of the watch case (and likely other components) has been chemically coated in a layer of extremely durable and scratch-resistant carbon particles.
As the name suggests, DLC coatings are as resistant to scratches as diamonds. It also allows the watch manufacturer to completely change the color of the watch, if only on its surface. You can guess that this kind of durability would be rather desirable in watches, objects which are notorious for scarring from everyday dings.
In fact, it is. As far as black-coated watches go, there’s no better coating than DLC; this is why its use is so widespread. It also comes with a higher price tag, not only over steel watches but also over non-PVD/DLC watches.
Considering that this method closely matches the look and endurance of ceramic watches at a significant discount, it also often makes for a good value proposition.
Does A Black PVD-Coated Watch Scratch?
Armed with the understanding of what a PVD/DLC coated watch is, you’re likely wondering how resistant these surface coatings are. Indeed, this is not only a fair concern but also one of the biggest gripes with a coated all-black watch.
Seeing as how most watches with a PVD or DLC coating possess a steel base, if this surface layer were to be scratched off, the contrasting metal below will stand out like a sore thumb on an otherwise murdered-out timepiece.
In short, yes – PVD watches can scratch. Due to the aforementioned contrast issue, scratches on a PVD watch are even more unsightly than on a watch that is not coated. DLC-coatings are more resistant to scratching off than regular PVD, but the risk is still there.
Blacked-out watches make for inherently sporty timepieces but it quickly becomes moot if you’re not wearing the watch for fear of scratching it. With DLC, you’ll not only be pleased with the blacked-out aesthetic but you’ll also be comforted in knowing it’s going to maintain it for a long time, if not permanently.
Best PVD Watches For Men
Breitling Aviator 8 41 Curtiss Warhawk Ref. M173152A1L1X1 [PVD Pilot’s Watch]
When Georges Kern took the reins of Breitling in 2017, the entire industry stood by, waiting to see in which direction the new CEO would steer the ship.
Just two years after Mr. Kern’s arrival, we got the first glimpse of the fruits of the transition, the main one being this new Aviator 8 line. And if it’s to be used to judge what’s to come for Breitling over the next years, it’s safe to say that the future looks bright.
This Aviator 8 is able to take what has made Breitling watches so special over time – the clear aviation and military inspiration – and integrated it with modern technology.
Beginning with the 41mm DLC-coated stainless steel case which is accompanied by a bidirectional, knurled, and equally-coated bezel. The dial boasts a military green tone with large, luminous hour indices for clear legibility. The hands at center, as the dial indications, are filled with lume.
Beating inside the Aviator 8 is a COSC chronometer-certified Breitling 17 caliber which, although not an in-house movement, is based on the robust ETA 2824 that has stood the test of time.
The Aviator 8 in DLC is part of a special edition released by Breitling in commemoration of the WWII American fighter, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk. Along with this all-black version, two other steel timepieces were released.
Even though the other varieties feature chronograph and day complications, we find that the unique coating gives this Aviator 8 DLC a much more appropriate military motif, making for one of the most attractive black watches available today.
Tudor Black Bay Dark Ref. M79230DK [PVD Sports Watch]
The Black Bay line from Tudor, in any of its variations, has produced some of the most popular watches in the world since the brand’s reintroduction into the US market. The Black Bay Dark, a special edition commemorating the “All Blacks” rugby team, once more exemplifies the versatility of the design.
Introduced in 2016, the Black Bay Dark was the first Tudor Black Bay watch with a satin PVD coating. It boasts the familiar 41mm Black Bay case profile, a black diver’s bezel, and a black dial. The dial and hands are, of course, fully lumed, with the latter also possessing the “snowflake” motif.
The watch is equipped with a PVD-treated bracelet, although in this offering it is not riveted as in the standard Black Bay. The first version of the Black Bay Dark also had a “straight-end” bracelet, whereas more recent models have been upgraded with integrated end links.
The M79230DK has been equipped with one of the Tudor manufacture’s most advanced movements, the MT5602. This caliber is COSC chronometer-certified, the new standard for the Black Bay line, and carries with it an extensive 70-hour power reserve.
While the Black Bay line as a whole is intended to display vintage design cues, the PVD treatment of this Dark version helps the watch appear more modern and, in our opinion, much more enticing.
Not that the heritage element of the all-steel versions isn’t attractive, but this Dark version brings the all-black look that other versions don’t possess. If you haven’t pulled the trigger on a Black Bay already, then this Black Bay PVD will undoubtedly make it more difficult to stay away.
Sinn U1 S Diving Watch [Best PVD Diver]
Sinn Spezialuhren is a German watch manufacturer widely recognized for putting together extremely tough and functional timepieces. The U1, in turn, is one of their most popular diver designs.
Sinn is likewise known for devoting significant resources to R&D of new materials and technologies for timepieces. This led them to develop what’s called TEGIMENT technology, a chemical process that greatly increases the surface hardness of the steel in their timepieces.
Moreover, and perhaps most appropriate in the U1 diver line, the brand also uses the same steel alloy used in German U-boats, which they precisely refer to as “high-strength seawater-resistant German Submarine Steel“.
Bringing together these two technologies while also taking them a step further is the U1 S PVD Diver. It boasts a 44mm tegimented submarine-steel watch case that has been PVD-coated with a “black hard coating”.
Not your regular PVD watch, Sinn ensures that their “black hard coating” is much more resistant than that of other brands due to the tegimented steel layer that serves as foundation. With the brand’s track record of materials innovation, we’re rather inclined to believe this.
The U1 S Diver’s looks speak for themselves – it’s a svelte, black sports watch with matching and beautifully engineered bracelet. Naturally, it also boasts an extreme 1,000m water resistance rating.
The bezel, dial, and hands are also uncomplicated in their design, though certainly not boring. Sinn Watches as a whole are quite adept at including just enough elements to make a watch aesthetically pleasing without sacrificing functionality. They’ve done this once more with the PVD U1 S, resulting in one of our favorite PVD dive watches around.
TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 16 Day Date Ref. CV2A84.FC6394 [Black PVD Chronograph]
Though TAG Heuer is often seen as a manufacturer of mostly entry-level timepieces, over recent years the brand has expanded its catalog to include increasingly exotic complications as well as materials. The Carrera Day Date PVD featured here is only one example of this.
A historic chronograph style, this Calibre 16 Carrera is a contemporary version of a watch first conceived by Jack Heuer himself in 1963. It’s come a long way from its early days until today, where it’s become one of the brand’s best-selling models.
This particular Carrera Day Date is not quite like the rest, though. Its 43mm case is constructed of titanium, a material already considered premium before receiving a black PVD coating. Likewise, its bezel is not aluminum but ceramic, yet another superior material employed in the watch.
Decorating the bezel are brown tachymeter markings which themselves match the brown tone of the luminous hour indices and hands on the watch dial. The brown color offers perfect contrast and legibility without being overwhelming as might have been the case if white was used in its place.
Powering this Carrera Day Date and visible through the sapphire case back is a Calibre 16, a robust automatic chronograph movement based on the ETA/Valjoux 7750. Boasting a 42-hour power reserve, the movement has also been enhanced with a day and date complication. Not only a rugged and resilient movement, the additional complications make it incredibly convenient and useful, too.
Already an emblematic chronograph watch, this Carrera Day Date seemingly evolves into an entirely new watch in this PVD version. It’s worthy of a revisit by those who may have previously thought of buying a Carrera as well as anyone with a taste for superb timepieces.
Seiko Prospex SRPC49K1 “Black Series” [Affordable PVD Watch]
Seiko’s dive watches are held in high regard by most watch collectors out there. This is in spite of their retail prices which can be tens of times less than other professional-grade diver watches.
The Seiko Turtle line in particular has enjoyed great success since its inception in 1976. This Prospex SRPC49K1, also known as the Black Turtle, is not one to break this tradition.
The SRPC49K1 is marked by its wide-but-flat 45mm case that possesses a black “hard coating”. And while the underside is specified as stainless steel, the coating material itself is not.
The face of this Prospex possesses the typical Turtle layout, though in this instance the dial is matte black with orange luminescent plots and an orange minutes hand.
The colorful accents are properly executed, not excessive but enough to draw attention. And yet the rest of the timepiece is completely blacked out, down to the rubber strap, making for a very sleek profile.
The only bad thing about the Black Turtle seems to be that its production was limited, though to an unspecified amount. As of this writing, it can be purchased on online auction sites for around $1,400.
There’s no question that there’s plenty more exceptional PVD watches which were not included on this page Our goal was to share a broad overview on what a PVD timepiece is, as well as demonstrate how it’s used across brands.
If you’ve found this page help, make sure to let us know in the comments. Otherwise, jump into one of our other popular watch guides below: