*** JUNE 2010 UPDATE ***
You see it here first, watch fans! The word is out on OMEGA’s foray into ceramic components with new technology it calls “Liquidmetal” – the Seamster Planet Ocean Limited Edition “Liquidmetal” cermic bezel is here! This is undoubtedly a big deal for OMEGA and I expect this to be very, very popular amongst its fan base and well-received by watch enthusiasts in general. In other words, the new Seamaster Planet Ocean “Liquidmetal” is going to be one highly sought after watch! Powered by OMEGA’s co-axial Caliber 2500 and limited to 1948 pieces (the year that the Seamaster was first introduced by OMEGA).
Here is OMEGA’s description of “Liquidmetal”:
The Liquidmetal® alloy is an amorphous metal – a metallic material with a disordered, non-crystalline atomic structure. Its fusion temperature is half that of conventional titanium alloys but when it is cooled, its hardness is three times as great as that of stainless steel. Its amorphous structure allows it to bond seamlessly with the ceramic bezel.
The Liquidmetal® is a bulk metallic glass alloy consisting of five elements: zirconium, titanium, copper, nickel and beryllium. A bulk metallic glass can, by virtue of its low critical cooling rate, be formed into a structure with a thickness of more than a tenth of a millimetre. Zirconium is an important constituent part both of the Liquidmetal® alloy and of the ceramic material which is made of zirconium dioxide (Zr02).
The final, perfectly smooth bezel is particularly resistant to scratching and corrosion because of the hardness of the two components.
10/4 update: Here is some more information on how the union of ceramics and Liquidmetal is achieved:
First, ceramic rings are formed. The numbers and the fine lines of the minute scaling are then engraved into these ceramic bezel rings and polished. The alloy is heated and pressed into the cavities in the ceramic material after which any excess Liquidmetal® is removed. The Liquidmetal® can be manipulated at a lower temperature than metals normally used in watchmaking so the heating process does not damage the ceramic material.
The Liquidmetal® numbers and scales are then satin brushed. Because the ceramic is a harder material than the alloy, the satin brushing of the fine details can be done without affecting the ceramic bezel. The numbers and scaling then appear in bold, vivid contrast to the glossy ceramic background.