The best ultra light watches that won’t weigh you down The best ultra light watches that won’t weigh you down

The best ultra light watches that won’t weigh you down

Russell Sheldrake

There is an old adage in the world of luxury watches, that the heavier a watch is, the more it must be worth. But if that was the case, we would be lining our lugs with lead and tungsten to make our timepieces as hefty as possible. We could, and have, gone into far too much depth on how certain precious metals can add value to a watch and which one is worth more in real terms, and while a certain gravitas can be lent to a weighty watch that is cast in these precious metals, there are plenty of excellent timepieces out there that are super light without having this detract from their value.

The first element that comes to mind when we talk about lightweight watches, is of course titanium, and for good reason. The 22nd element on the periodic table, it has the highest strength-to-density ratio of all known metals, it’s particularly corrosion-resistant and hypoallergenic, which can be extremely useful for something that sits on your skin all day.

Nivada Grenchen F77 Titanium Meteroite Case 2

To get a little nerdy for a second. There are different grades of titanium and we already explored what they mean, but the most common in watchmaking, as well as nearly all other industries is grade 5, otherwise known as Ti-6Al-4V. That code of letters and numbers corresponds to the makeup of this alloy. So there is 6% aluminium, 4% vanadium,  0.25% iron, 0.2% oxygen and the rest is pure titanium. All of the grades below grade 5 are known as “commercially pure”, as they are unalloyed and are far more supple and malleable than this alloy.

While there will be a lot of titanium watches in this list, it certainly won’t be the only material on display. As the watch world has progressed, the experimentation with materials and material science has gone with it. Perhaps the most well-known for their experimentation in the realms of materials is Richard Mille, who was playing around with carbon composites and injecting carbon nanotubes far before anyone else even knew they existed. All in the pursuit of more strength and less weight.

One small caveat that I need to put in before we get to the list, is that I have stayed away from going to plastic watches. I wanted to stay in the world of metals, carbon, and other hi-tech composites instead of going down the bio-ceramic and plastic route as they would pretty much take a clean sweep of the list. But enough talk of materials and science, let’s take a look at some of the best ultra-light watches that I think would never need to go on a diet.

Ming LW.01 – 8.8g

Ming LW01

Unofficially, this is the lightest mechanical watch on the market today. Coming from the cult brand Ming, two versions of this watch were made in a limited run of just 200 pieces, one being manual wind (weighing 8.8g) and another being automatic which added an extra 2g. Something that I appreciate with this watch is that Ming did not want to detract from the act of actually wearing this watch. They placed restrictions on themselves while designing it to ensure that it would still wear and function as a normal watch should. To ensure the case is as light as possible without compromising the feel of the watch, the case is constructed from AZ31 magnesium-aluminium-zinc-manganese. This super light material weighs less than carbon and still retains a metallic feel after two coatings have been applied to it. Even the crystal has been thought of. Instead of a standard sapphire, they have used Corning Gorilla Glass 6 (similar to the screen of your iPhone) which loses out to sapphire on the Vickers hardness scale by nearly 1,500 points, but it’s crucially lighter.

With no dial to speak of, there is no clever material use here, rather the hands glide over the movement holder, and the movement is hidden from sight by a gradient print on the crystal, which is also where you find the markers. Overall, there is very little to the watch, but there is a lot to say. It’s a wonderful execution of material science and horological creativity. Price: CHF 19,500 (RRP, sold out)

Behrens BHR030 11G – 11g

behrens bhr030 11g

This is an impressive watch by nearly any stretch of the imagination. Double retrograde, fully in-house movement, and a curved case all weighing 11g is pretty impressive. While the design of the watch might not be to everyone’s liking given its rather avant-garde styling, but the inspiration for this piece has come from an ancient Chinese note taking device, linking it to Behrens’ home in China. With the case made from a carbon fibre composite, no dial, and a completely skeletonised movement, it’s clear to see where the grams have been shaved off here.

With the brand only dating back to 2012, Behrens is still a relatively new name in the watch world. And with this youth comes the ability to experiment and to be free of the weight of tradition and history, allowing the team there to explore these unexpected designs following concepts that other brands may never get the chance to explore. This freedom could not be more clear here, as they look to break the stigma around Chinese-made watches by leaning into their country’s traditions in a way that doesn’t rely on stereotypes and simplistic imagery, but rather channels the characteristics of high watchmaking, in an entirely genuine way. Price: US$11,800 (RRP, sold out)

Richard Mille RM27-01 – 18.3g

RM27 01

I told you we would get to Richard Mille at some point. This is the lightest watch the brand has ever made, and the first model they produced for tennis phenom, Rafael Nadal. There are a lot of technical details to get into here and so I will try not to get too geeky, but to start with we have to talk about the case. Made from a polymer that has been injected with carbon nanotubes to help with its rigidity and resistance to shocks, it also makes it an incredibly light material given the inherent properties of carbon.

Once we get inside the distinctive case of the RM27-01, we see a movement that seems to defy logic and all watchmaking standard practice. It is quite literally suspended in mid-air by a system of stainless steel cables that measure 0.35mm in diameter. We even see tough but lightweight materials being used in the movement construction, the baseplate and tourbillon cage are both made from grade 5 titanium, while the barrel bridges and gear train are formed of aluminium-lithium. While this is one of the lightest watches on this list (that’s 18.3g including its heaviest component, the strap), it’s also likely the toughest as it’s listed to be able to withstand up to 5,000G of acceleration. Far more than I ever could. Price: US$740,000 (RRP, sold out)

Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra COSC – 43g

bulgari octo finissimo ultra cosc wrist

It would have been very easy for me to turn this article into one that looks at ultra-thin watches, as they are, as a by-product, extremely light. But I wanted to only take the newest holder of the thinnest watch title as the main example from this cohort as I feel it is the most impressive in terms of its weight reduction given that it’s the only one out of the main contenders that features a fully integrated bracelet.

Made completely out of titanium (or platinum but that is far too heavy to make this list), this watch measures just 1.7mm thick. This is accomplished through many of the same techniques that we’ve seen above for reaching peak weight reduction, the traditional sense of a dial and movement construction are completely done away with. Having everything mounted directly onto the caseback allows for this completely futuristic construction to take place, and the crown has been split in two and laid flat into the caseback with one setting the time and another for winding the 1.5mm thin movement. Is this watch possibly too thin wear? Probably, but only 20 are being made, and I didn’t get to see it during Watches & Wonders so I will likely not get another chance to find out. But is it light enough to make this list? Absolutely. Price: €600,000

Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Ultra Light – 55g

Omega Aqua Terra Ultra Light

Titanium is known for having this subdued, grey finish to it, and here Omega has really leaned into this aesthetic, going all-out monochromatic for this lightweight take on its everyday diver. Not only has the brand gone all-out on this titanium aesthetic, the use of the featherweight metal runs to the very heart of this watch. The movement itself is constructed from ceramised titanium which supposedly aids in reducing friction between the many moving parts.

The case, solid caseback, and push-in push-out crown are all made from an alloy called Gamma Titanium, which is just another name for titanium aluminide which is often used for turbine engine blades thanks to its ability to withstand temperatures over 600°C. The Omega Seamaster Aqua Terra Ultra Light was designed in collaboration with Rory McIlroy, and while not specifically aimed at being a golf watch, the idea was to make it practical for athletes to use when playing, although it’s unlikely they are going to be reaching temperatures of up to 600°C in the real world. Price: US$53,400

Nivada Grenchen F77 Titanium Meteorite – 86g

Nivada Grenchen F77 Titanium Meteroite Dial 1

This may be the heaviest watch on this list, but it still deserves a spot as it manages to have a fully integrated metal bracelet, meteorite dial, and still come in at under 100g. This is unashamedly inspired by the original luxury sports watch, the Royal Oak, and the references are clear from the outset, but that doesn’t detract from what Nivada Grenchen has been able to accomplish. The amazing value that this piece offers by using a more affordable movement in the form of the Soprod PO24 means that the tried-and-tested style of watch is suddenly made available to a much wider audience.

Having a full case and bracelet made from titanium can make these sports watches far more comfortable to wear. The use of this metal is also still considered quite a contemporary touch, given that traditional watchmaking only happened with precious metal cases, and only ventured into stainless steel when absolutely necessary. But here, titanium feels like a natural choice for the style of watch, it’s utilitarian, practical, with a hint of cool factor. What really gets me with this piece is the play between the titanium and meteorite, with one ever-matte material next to another that catches the light from all angles, it seems like a wonderful juxtaposition that plays with different types of texture. Price: starting at A$2,390 from the Time+Tide Shop