In 1972, Ferdinand Alexander Porsche, the grandson of Ferdinand Porsche and designer of the legendary 911, split from the carmaker to start his own design firm, Porsche Design. Soon after, he launched the Chronograph 1, a chronograph watch with a stainless steel case powder-coated in black. It is generally accepted as the first all-black watch design, with watchmakers like IWC and Heuer following up soon after with their own blacked-out watches.
The problem with these early black watches was that the powder-coated paint scratched very easily. The solution: using physical vapor deposition (PVD) to add a thin, hard coating of black material on the watch case that is nigh impossible to scratch, protecting both the finish and the stainless steel underneath. PVD has since become the de facto method for creating all-black watches, though in recent years, the use of black ceramic has become much more common practice when designing cases.
In either case, modern all-black watches lend themselves to a stealthy, tough-guy aesthetic and, as such, the all-black look is at its best when it’s paired with a purpose-built tool watch. And since all-black watches are far less blingy than polished steel or precious metal counterparts, they work exceptionally well with a pared-down wardrobe, perhaps why they’ve seen a surge in popularity in recent years. They can be found at pretty much any price, ranging from a couple hundred bucks to tens of thousands. These ten examples wear the look best.
Ceramic cases are usually reserved for the top of the haute-horologerie food chain (see the end of this list, for example), but that didn’t stop Braun from offering one in a sub-$500 package. The black case and bracelet are mated with a black dial with subtle gray hour markers, with just the white and yellow hands providing the only contrast against a stunningly dark void.