What is the difference between PVD and DLC watch case finishes?


When you are looking for a watch, there are many different factors that need to be considered. After all, when investing a substantial amount of money in an investment like this, you want to make sure that it is something that is going to last for years and years to come and will not depreciate in terms of value. With that being said, one of the components that you are going to need to consider is the watch case finish. Most watches don't have a coating at all, the metal (usually 316L stainless steel, sometimes titanium) is just polished or brushed to a natural finish, Sometimes though, a watch will have a coloured coating and in these situations generally you will have two options to select from; PVD and DLC. Read on to discover all you need to know about them. 

So, what are PVD and DLC? What’s the difference between them?

PVD stands for Physical Vapor Deposition. This is a process whereby a number of metals are vaporised, which then binds then onto the surface, in layers, using a heated vacuum.

On the other hand, you have DLC, which stands for Diamond-Like Carbon. A form of carbon in the DLC process, rather than spraying on a group of metals. After the carbon has been blasted onto the surface, it will be cooled down at a rapid pace, which is somewhat similar to how synthetic diamonds are created. 

Which is better, PVD or DLC?

As is the case with most things in life, there are pros and cons associated with both options. Therefore, it does come down to personal preference and what you are hoping to get from your watch. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons in further detail to help you get a better understanding.

DLC tends to be more resistant and tougher in day-to-day wear when compared with PVD (you can probably guess that from the "diamond-like" part of the name!).  

We say "tends to" because it is important to remember that there are a lot of factors that are going to determine the quality of the job that is carried out. Not all DLC coating firms are created equal, as we've found ourselves when working with potential suppliers in the past.

Even though it can be slightly less resilient, there are some advantages associated with PVD. These include:

  • more than one technique can be used, offering much greater flexibility
  • it can also be more eco-friendly when compared with other processes
  • there is the ability to use virtually any sort of organic coating materials or inorganic materials, which means a wide number of finishes can be created. This can create in some of the most stylish and diverse styles of watches, and so you may find you will have a better chance of finding the style of watch you want with PVD coating
  • it can perform better than DLC when dropped
  • it's a bit cheaper

So far, we've used PVD when making black watches (our Neon collection, for example) because of the flexibility it offered. For every project though, we make hundreds of decisions on the best techniques and materials, and at some point we'll almost certainly. decide that DLC is more suited to a specific model.