Comparing 904L vs 316L Stainless Steel: Unveiling the Best Material for Your Next Watch Case

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As a professional watchmanufacturer, we’ve had extensive experience working with both 904L vs 316L Stainless Steel. Both of these types of steel are widely used in the watchmaking industry due to their durability, resistance to corrosion, and appealing finishes. However, there are some key differences between them.

316L Stainless Steel

316L is a type of stainless steel that’s characterized by its excellent corrosion resistance. It’s highly resistant to a variety of corrosive substances and is especially robust against chloride corrosion, making it an ideal material for watches intended for water exposure, like diving watches.

In the manufacturing process, we find that 316L steel is easier to work with. It’s a bit softer than 904L, which allows for greater ease in machining and polishing. However, this softness can be a drawback as well because it can lead to a higher susceptibility to scratches and other surface damage.

One of the biggest advantages of 316L stainless steel from a manufacturer’s perspective is its affordability. The cost of 316L steel is relatively low compared to 904L steel, making it a more economical choice for producing watch cases.

When it comes to brands, most of the major watch manufacturers use 316L stainless steel for their watch cases. This includes well-known brands such as Omega, IWC, Panerai, and Breitling, among others.

904L Stainless Steel

904L stainless steel, on the other hand, is a higher-grade steel with superior corrosion resistance. The higher chromium, nickel, and molybdenum content in 904L gives it greater resistance to pitting and acid corrosion, making it a popular choice for luxury, high-end watches.

As a watch manufacturer,we’ve found that working with 904L steel can be more challenging due to its hardness. It requires more specialized machinery and techniques to manufacture and polish. However, this hardness also means that 904L watch cases are more resistant to scratches and surface damage.

In terms of appearance, 904L steel has a brighter and more lustrous finish than 316L steel. This, coupled with its durability, makes it a popular choice for luxury watch manufacturers.

The most notable brand using 904L stainless steel is Rolex. They adopted the use of 904L stainless steel for their watches in 1985 and have since rebranded it as “Oystersteel.” The use of 904L steel is one of the factors contributing to the robustness, longevity, and coveted aesthetic of Rolex watches.

In conclusion, both 316L and 904L stainless steel are excellent materials for watch cases, each with their own strengths. The choice between the two largely depends on the intended price point, design, and brand philosophy of the watch.