Contrast Is for Suckers
Buying Guide: All-Black Watches
All-black (or “murdered-out“) watches certainly aren’t new; companies like Sinn, IWC, and Heuer have been doing PVD-coated (Physical Vapor Disposition) watches for several decades, most in collaboration with Porsche Design. But a new fascination with the style’s murderous look — the antithesis of a pimped-out, flashy Rolex — has turned the field into a fiasco. Buyers win, if they can sort through the colorless chaos. As our list shows, there’s no single formula for success. Just add Batman’s favorite color, loads of lume and an even bigger dose of badassery.
Additional Contribution by Andrew Connor
Swatch Sistim Black
When it was announced just in 2013, the Swatch Sistim51 made a bit of a stir — the brand that specialized in bright, colorful quartz watches that were dirt cheap was trying its hand at mechanical watches. Yet the Sistim51 is still dirt cheap, as it is assembled entirely by machine, made mostly from plastic and has a movement made of only 51 parts. The Sistim Black from the Sistim51 collection uses a black plastic case, black leather strap and a black dial adorned with a white and red diagram meant to mirror the solar system. Far out.
Lum-Tec V3 Phantom
American watchmaking may be on the upswing, but it’s still an uphill climb to get anywhere near the Swiss. Ohio-based Lum-Tec has done their part by gaining a solid reputation over the last six years for their mostly military-inspired timepieces, which combine interestingly designed and well-made cases with nearly blinding lume, then pack them with Swiss made mechanical and quartz movements. Some of their most attractive options are blacked out. The Phantom V3 is an octagonal-cased reference evoking thoughts of Panerai and Bell & Ross. And “Phantom” is right: its grey dial markings are actually hard to read without the help of its lume. Armed with an ETA 2824, the V3 is a badass, murdered-out watch for those on a budget.
Alpina Startimer Pilot Black Star
Using a Sellita SW500 automatic movement that’s modified in-house by Alpina to a Bi-Compax counter configuration, the Alpina Startimer Pilot is one of the more affordable Swiss-made pilot’s chronographs on the market. Alpina used it as the base for their latest blacked-out watch, the Startimer Pilot “Black Star,” which adds PVD coating to the case and a “sunray” dial finish and pairs it all with a black leather strap. It’s essentially the B-2 Bomber of Alpina’s already healthy range of pilot’s watches.
Tudor Fastrider Black Shield
Tudor’s Rocky-like comeback has been littered with killer reference after killer reference. One of our favorites is the dark Tudor Fastrider Black Shield, which utilizes the best of Rolex’s case quality (it’s ceramic and scratch-proof) with a reliable and affordable Tudor movement based on the ETA 7753. Its red accents technically break the “all black” rule; we’re willing to make an exception, because the result is a watch that looks like it belongs on the wrist of Agent 47.
Panerai Radiomir Black Seal Ceramica
Panerai has no fewer than a half dozen current blacked-out offerings, perhaps because black is the perfect match for the brand’s chunky case design. (They have plenty of past all-black special editions, too.) While the brand’s blacked-out complicated Luminor monopusher chronograph with GMT function is awesome, we’re suckers for the simple three-handed Radiomir Black Seal Ceramica. It’s an intimidating 45-millimeter black beauty with an ETA 6497 made exclusively for Panerai. If you’ve got the hefty wallet to match your hefty wrist, this might be your winner.
Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon “Black Black”
To commemorate the men of the Apollo 8 mission, who were the first astronauts to ever see the “dark side of the moon” in person, Omega created a black case, black dial Dark Side of the Moon version of the Speedmaster Moon watch with a case carved out of a solid block of black ceramic. Now, Omega has gone a step further, making a Black Black version which has blacked-out hands, a black lacquered tachymeter scale and black indexes coated in black Super-LumiNova. This all makes it pretty hard to actually read the time. But who cares?
Blaken Rolex Deepsea
It might be blasphemous to some, but Blaken’s raison d’être is modifying Rolexes to make them tougher and more distinct. Primarily, that comes down to giving any one model in the line a diamond-like-carbon (DLC) coating, a super thin, super tough protective layer that gives Blacken watches their black finish. It also makes for a Rollie that’s eight times harder than normal and virtually scratch and corrosion resistant. If the normal Rolex Deepsea’s 3,000 meter water resistance isn’t tough enough for you, this is your timepiece.