It may be the rare luxury Panerai watches nerd (that happens to also be a materials science nerd) who will be able to fully appreciate why Panerai decided it was a good idea to note “BMG-TECH” on the dial of a Luminor Submersible as a way of telling you about the watch case materials. Panerai themselves refer to the value of the PAM 692 as being an “invisible innovation.” In a sense that is a good thing when it comes to the appeal of bulk metallic glass. What is hidden in the Panerai Luminor Submersible 1950 BMG-TECH 3-Days Automatic PAM 692 is a hint at what future materials will be increasingly used in watches.
The popularity of ceramic, for example, demonstrates a real need for watchmakers to move beyond traditional metals. The decision to work with non-metallic case materials isn’t just about being trendy and fashionable, but is often related to real value for the consumer. While we are on the topic of ceramic, indeed it was a material that allowed you to have a permanently white case. It also allowed for high levels of scratch resistance as well as resistance to various chemicals.
Panerai likes to experiment with new case materials fake Panerai – so the fact that they would take a product and make it out of bulk metallic glass isn’t particularly novel. With that said, if BMG-TECH proves cost-effective to produce and popular with customers, I think it has big potential. In short, bulk metallic glass is a metal alloy with an amorphous structure versus a crystalline structure. This allows for fewer surface imperfections in the base material, that translates into a number of benefits for the consumer.
Panerai likes to experiment with new case materials regularly – so the fact that they would take a product and make it out of bulk metallic glass isn’t particularly novel. With that said, if BMG-TECH proves cost-effective to produce and popular with customers, I think it has big potential. In short, bulk metallic glass is a metal alloy with an amorphous structure versus a crystalline structure. This allows for fewer surface imperfections in the base material, that translates into a number of benefits for the consumer.
Unlike steel, bulk metallic glass has a lot more zirconium in it (which is why it has “glass” in the name), and it also happens to be non-ferrous (not magnetic). Panerai says that their particular bulk metallic glass alloy blend consists of zirconium, copper, aluminum, titanium, and nickel. What matters is that BMG-TECH looks a lot like steel, and can be decorated like steel – but it isn’t steel. Other alternative materials to metals sadly don’t look like metals – even if they are preferred by consumers and offer manufacturing benefits. Bulk metallic glass is essentially a metal alloy, so it can be polished like metal, and is tough like metal in that a fall on a hard surface would never shatter it (a possibility with ceramic). So the goal here is to find materials that offer the same aesthetic appeal as a metal, but that are easier to produce into finely-finished parts, and that offer consumers clear durability benefits.
Other brands use various types of alloys such as this for watch cases. I recall that Audemars Piguet sometimes use a material they call “Cermet” (ceramic metal) for bezels and perhaps as an entire case material. The benefit of cermet was similar to BMG-TECH in that it was tough like ceramic but had the visual appearance of metal. Cermet was a bit darker in shade, so it leads me to believe that bulk metallic glass might be a bit of a different formulation for this Panerai PAM 692. The caseback is titanium, which also happens to be the part of the case with the most detail. My instincts tell me that while bulk metallic glass is a compelling material, it is harder (and thus more expensive) to machine than most metals.