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Damask watches: the East is a delicate matter

Damask (damascus steel) is an artificial composite material with a patterned surface and rich decorative features, which for centuries was used for the manufacture of knives. In the XXI century the patterned metal has come in sight of watch and jewelry artists, who have invested the beauty of damask with “space form".
…And there was no beauty but the gray beauty of steel that withstands all time. (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Damascus steel is a composite material, obtained by forging steel strips with different composition of carbon in a monolith. On the surface of Damascus intricate patterns are formed, keeping the secrets of mysterious East.
The Syrian masters of gunnery, talking about intricate damask patterns, note that they are structurally similar to drawings of marble slabs of Damascus Umayyad Mosque. Arab historian Al-Safi (IX century), speaking of marble slabs, cloudy and mosaic, call them the fifth wonder of the world.
Many researchers argue that the steel was called Damascus because of the similarity of graphic images on its surface with patterns of the famous Damascus woolen and silk fabrics (in Syria they were called damasks, in France – damasse, in Holland - damast).
The "Genetic Code" of damask is found everywhere in Syria: even the addition of limestone and marble hills reminds of damask patterns.
Although many facts point to the eastern origin of patterned steel, there is still no consensus about the historical geography and the
Damask textile ways of Damascus making art’s spreading. Many things remain unsolved in its history, and the origin of the term has several explanations.
Traditionally it is assumed that patterned armor steel was manufactured in Syria, but many historians of metallurgy argue that the term “Damask” has no relation to the capital of Syria - Damascus. In ancient Greece in the first millennium before Christ they used the terms "sideros", "halips" and "kianos" to name different types of steel. Hesiod in his "Theogony" calls forged steel products "Adamas": "Instantly created it (the Gaia-Earth) a kind of gray iron - Adamas ... made a huge scythe ... She (Hydra) was killed by the son of Zeus (Hercules) with a gray Adamas ...". The same term was used by Pindar, Herodotus, Plato and Plutarch in their writings. Later the word was borrowed from Greek by Latin (adamas) and used to specify hard metals. In the IX century BC Hesiod used that term to describe the gun metal. It is possible that the ancient word “Adamas” underwent phonetic changes and became known as Damask over the time.
The arguments in support of this hypothesis have been found in Syria itself. It turns out that the gun metal, which is obtained by forge welding of various grades of steel, is not called damask. There is a Persian word "Pulad" and the Arabic "al-fulad" - Gun Steel, in ancient times it was also called Wood, Taba, Khorasan and others. According to the results of numerous expeditions, carried out in Syria, Damascus steel in that country wasn’t produced at least during last several centuries. The highest achievement of Syrian armorers is damask swords. In the collection of the Military Museum in Damascus, all blades are made of Damascus steel (and some of them were forged in India).

Damask steel

bulatToday, the historians of metallurgyDamask steel differentiate the concepts of "pure Damask" (an old Indian cast patterned steel) and “welded Damask", the manufacturing technology of which is likely to have been invented by chance. It is known that in ancient times, the metal was very expensive (almost did not concede of gold in the price), so the trims and cut-offs were not thrown away, but used for making steel for knives and tools. The welded steel, obtained from the symbiosis of different metals, had a contrast pattern on its surface. Over time, various pieces were specially folded and welded to obtain a patterned material. To improve the properties of metal the layers were shifted several times, heated over a fire and forged (the latter gave the resulting steel strength and hardness).
Modern Damascus and “Genuine Damascus Steel” are kinds of composition steel, which have completely different technologies of production. "Genuine Damascus Steel" – a crucible patterned material, and Damascus steel - layered patterned metal, welded under the hammer. Both materials have high mechanical properties and a fascinating complex pattern on the surface. These composites are different not only by the technology of production, but also by the composition and structure.
But Damascus may be considered as a material of plastic decorative sculpture, one can get regular patterns on its surface. This type of Damascus is called "die" (forging technique and tool).
complex mosaic Damascus steel The "die" patterns are stepped, wavy, rhombic (net) and ringed. However, on the surface of Damascus steel an unstructured pattern (also called "wild") can be formed. It occurs due to random mixing of the metal after the hand forging.
cast bulatTo obtain Damascus the steel band with high and low carbon content are welded along the entire length, then folded in half and welded again from 30 to 40 times. In the process of multiple re-forging an alternation of metal layers with high and low carbon content occurs. The number of layers in Damascus affects the size of the pattern: the more the layers, the smaller the pattern. More consumables are spent for making Damask with small-patterned surface: with each new layer the metal is forged, as a result of forging it is compacted and lose weight (up to 85% that explains its high cost). The patterns reflect the crystalline structure of metals, and the latter in its turn depends on their chemical composition, method of melting, solidification conditions and the nature of subsequent mechanical processing. The macrostructure of the metal carries information about its mechanical properties. The shape of the pattern and its contrast can determine the quality of steel. Traditionally, an indicator of quality is fine and dense pattern, formed on a dark background of the metal.

Welded Damascus steel (artificial or modern Damascus): Welded
forging of Damascus steel Damascus steel, as noted above, was made by special technology and had its secrets and traditions.
At the end of the XVIII century the technology of making Damascus steel was lost. Many great scientists tried to "reveal" the secret of patterned metal (Faraday, Wilkinson, Brea). To restore the lost technology of welded Damask numerous experiments with the addition of various additives to steel were conducted. In the course of studies they couldn’t obtain patterned steel, but those experiments have contributed to the discovery and development of alloy steels - the material, without which the modern civilization is unthinkable.
The ancient art of forging Damascus steel was revived in the late 70s of last century. In the second half of the XX century the welding presses were invented, thanks to which the production of patterned metal became widespread. With the welding press it is possible to weld a package of steel rods of the most incredible forms in a monolithic block for a few minutes. Subsequently, the software was developed that allowed to calculate the stacking of steel elements in a package that would provide a pre-devised pattern on the steel surface. At the beginning of 90th of XX century, several metallurgic companies established the production of industrial Damask, but the passion for technological innovations went down soon. Creation of Damask with the help of the welding press did not provide those high mechanical properties, which characterized the steel, obtained by forge welding. No high tech is able to replace the skill and talent of the blacksmiths.

knife ​​of Damascus steelSwords of fire and steel: "These swords hack even armor and are more expensive by the quality of iron than the value of gold. They seem to have the smallest binding of worms of so different tones as if the a glowing metal is impregnated with different colors ... the swords, which by their beauty could only come from the workshop of a Vulcan, developed with such grace and skill, which it seems to a product of divine work, not a mortal man". This description of Damascus swords is met in a letter, dated VI century.
The blades of Damascus were always surrounded by a mystical aura, legends were told about them. According to one of them, a real Damask blade could be worn instead of a girdle, winding it around the waist. A sword of Damascus could easily cut the stones and other metals, including armor and weapons made of conventional alloys.
The development of metallurgy coincides with the persistent bloody wars of the Middle Ages. The wars, in fact, stimulated the development of arms. The medieval craftsmen faced a difficult task: to get both tough and forging steel. With a great content of carbon the metal was hard, but brittle, and at small - malleable, but very soft. Damascus steel was obtained by multiple forging steel strips with different carbon content.
Exceptional strength and
toughness were obtained after a skilful forging. But making Damascus steel is not easy: after heating in the furnace the metal surface is oxidized, preventing itssword ​​of Damascus steel welding. It is necessary to maintain the appropriate temperature in the furnace and constantly remove oxides from the surface of steel. For obtaining the best Damask you must know how to remove oxides, the desired temperature of forging, the order of joining strips containing different amounts of carbon, the powders, used for welding as fluxes.
In the Middle Ages, the secrets of metallurgy, as well as professional secrets of shamans, were transmitted only to the initiated. It is the guarded art of blacksmithing secrets that led to permanent loss of Damascus production technology.
The swords, forged from Damascus steel, were famous for strength, sharpness and flexibility. They were easily bent at 90 degrees, then straightening back like a spring without any consequences, affecting the quality of the blade. The sabers and swords of exceptional beauty also possessed unexcelled martial qualities. The Damascus blades were expensive. The medieval knights bought them like gold dust. Unfortunately, the records on this haven’t survived. However, the information that in the 18-19 centuries the blades, made of welded Damascus, cost 7000-8500 imperial thalers, preserved.
The swords and blades of Damascus today are regarded as objects of decorative art: steel with a beautiful patterned surface is more often used for the manufacture of ceremonial weapons.

The first nanotubes. Damascus steelDamascus steel and nanotechnology: In the XXI century, the scientists have uncovered another secret of Damascus steel: the mysterious metal structure contains carbon nanotubes. The scientists of the University of Dresden have come to this conclusion by examining a sample, taken from Damascus saber of the XVII century. The studies of Peter Paufler and his colleagues from the Technical University of Dresden (TechnischeUniversität Dresden) have shown that the experimental sample consisted of iron, 1.5% carbon and metal impurities, such as manganese, which accompanies the iron in some ores, and cementite - iron carbide Fe3C, formed during the interaction of iron and coal in the process of its recovery from the ore. The scientists have tried to get Damascus with the same quantitative ratio of the constituentguardian of Damascus steel elements, but they failed to produce high mechanical qualities. The secret of Damascus steel was hidden not in the "recipe" of manufacturing, but in the structure. To study the microstructure of the steel, the scientists etched the sample with hydrochloric acid. After the metal was processed, unresolved structures of cementite were found. According to the scientists, the fibers of cementite haven’t dissolved in hydrochloric acid, as they had been enclosed in carbon nanotubes (the particles, which are obtained by twisting one or more layers of graphite into a cylinder). The thinnest fibers of cementite, in their turn, combined individual nanotubes with each other, thus giving Damascus extraordinary hardness, toughness and elasticity. According to the scientists, the strength of the legendary Damascus swords results from the presence of nanotubes in the structure of Damascus steel. The carbon nanotubes were discovered only at the end of the last century and are considered to be "material of the future". The nanotubes in the structure of Damascus steel once again confirm the truth of the saying "everything old is new again". One can only admire the ingenuity of Damascus artisans, created a structural material with high strength potential, without having any idea about the structure and how to get the nanotubes.

The magic of Damascus steel: The alchemists and mystics of the Middle Ages believed that Damascus steel, "rich by nature", had magical properties. The antiquity did not know about the chemical composition of the steel, therefore, could not explain the occurrence of the pattern on the metal surface. They often produced amulets, talismans, alchemy tools, and other magical items from that. To this day, making amulets of Damascus steel is very popular. According to legends, the energy invested in the creation of Damascus, increases the magic power of the runes, put on the amulets, several times.

bracelet of Damascus steelDamascus in the XXI Century:watch of Damascus steel Damascus is not just a composite, which consists of steels of different quality, but a new substance, the formation of which is affected by the man’s energy and his creative vitality. Each time Damascus is different, even if it is made from the same raw materials and to the same recipe. For many centuries, steel with patterned surface and rich graphics capabilities was used in the manufacture of knives, but in the XXI century it has lost its utilitarian purpose and become an object of decorative art, in which the collectors are mainly interested. In ancient times, the mechanical qualities of Damascus (flexibility, strength, etc.) were highly valued, and in the XXI century patterned steel is used in design purposes more often. Today the charming metal, embodied the traditions and art of ancient craftsmen, is applied in jewelry and watch production. The watch and jewelry masters clothed the beauty of Damascus steel in new space forms, "breathing" new life into it. And various graphic symbols and lines that appear on the surface of Damascus give each product a unique decorative individuality.

Damascus steel in watchmaking: In the XXI century in the watch industry a real revolution in material science has started. The modern design is based on the creation of watches in cases from rare materials, not used in traditional horlogerie. In connection with the new trend the strong composite materials, which include Damascus steel too, are paid much attention. Damascus using discovered new points of contact of the legendary weapon steel and time meters. Damascus watches are made by the companies, putting an emphasis on a unique design, not on a functional component. The cases, made of patterned steel by hand forging, change each model into a unique masterpiece of watchmaking.
Damascus watches aren’t mass products: they are produced in strictly limited series. Damascus steel isn’t widely used in watchmaking. Most likely, this results from production difficulties. The time meters of Damascus are made by technologically advanced companies: Gustafsson & Sjogren (GoS), Angular Momentum, Cornelius & Cie, Timelounge Manufacture, Burgond, design studio Elishewitz, Marcel Betrisey Creations.

Watch “Vile” from Gustafsson & Sjogren

Vile watch and Oden knifeGustafsson & Sjogren is a young company, specializing in manufacture of time meters. Over a short period of its existence the company managed to become the first in implementation of various new projects in watchmaking. A distinctive feature of the Scandinavian brand is the use of Damascus steel in the manufacture of watches. The company was established jointly by watchmaker Patrik Sjogren and master of metal processing Johan Gustafsson. The inspiration for creating unique masterpieces of watchmaking, as the founders of the company notice, "was the polar cold of Scandinavia". A "cold" Scandinavian style is transferred by them through Damascus - a metal that has endless decorative possibilities. Application of new material in the manufacture of time meters was offered by Sjogren as an alternative to the traditional Swiss watches, made of steel and precious gold. In material science researches the master of metal processing, Johan Gustafsson, helped him. In one interview he said: "Since my childhood I’ve been fascinated by the endless decorative possibilities of Damascus steel, and never doubted the fact that I will connect my activity with this material indeed".
Gustafsson & Sjogren uses the decorative metal for making cases and dials. With intricate patterns of Damascus Johan Gustafsson and Patrick Sjogren "reproduce" landscapes of restrained and cold nature of Scandinavia. These watches may include the new product of Gustafsson & Sjogren – the watch “Oden”, which is made of a new sample of Damascus, the alloy of which is developed by Johan Gustafsson. As he notes, "prehistoric corals of Baltic Sea, which contain the necessary components", were used for creation of the new sample. The new alloy is called "wild flower". The "flower" ornament adorns the watch dial, hand-forged and "fringed" with figured titanium ring. The straps also have a shape of a flower, its edges act as time indexes. In the center of the dial, on a background of free patterns, reminding of the wood cut, there are titanium central hands, and the figured second hand is situated in position of "6" hours. The Damascus crown, adjusting the time and putting the movement into action, is located on the side surface of the case in position of "3" hours. The black deer leather strap, completed with a buckle of Damascus steel, is harmoniously integrated into the case. The watch “Vile” is supplied with a knife “Oden”, also made of Damascus (total length is 250 mm, length of blade - 150mm). The set, consisting of watch and knife, is dedicated to Norse mythology. The masterpieces of the watch and armor arts are named after the brothers from Norse mythology - Oden and Vile. The watch comes in a gift box, manufactured by famous Swedish master Sture Nyberg. The box is made of birch with the ancient technique of «svepask». On the cover of the box Nyberg has created patterns that resemble large concentric circles, specific to Damascus. The watch and knife, completed with the gift box, were released by a limited edition of five copies (the back case is engraved with individual number of each model).
The company produces watches only by limited series. Within a short period of its existence, it presented to the fans of watchmaking numerous models that differ by unique design.
Chronsome 46 XY Tourbillon by Cornelius & Cie

Watch “Chronsome 46 XY Tourbillon” from Cornelius & Cie

Cornelius & Cie was established by watchmaker Paul Pertijs
and engraver Kees Engelbarts. The first model (Chronosome 46XY) was created by them in 2008, thus opening a new chapter in the history of Haute Horlogerie. That model became the basis for creation of the collection of the same name. In 2009, the company released a sport version of Chronosome 46XY, and in 2010, the collection was completed with complicated watches. The time meters from Cornelius & Cie are assembled based on vintage movements. The company specializes in producing exclusive watches, which are made with the help of engraving. That is what makes each model of Cornelius & Cie a unique masterpiece of watchmaking.
In 2011, the brand released another new product - Chronsome 46 XY Tourbillon, which harmoniously combined art and horlogerie.
The case and the dial are made of Damascus steel. The light and dark concentric circles on the surface of patterned steel create an intriguing play of light and shadow. The dial from Damascus is a wonderful backdrop for the image of imperial dragon, performed by master-engraver Kees Engelbarts. He creates engravings of various mythical animals on the watch dials. The creation of this model has resumed the legend of the dragon.
The dragon engraving is made of gold, silvered and treated with aqua regia, so that the image acquired prominence and depth. By their nature, engraving and watchmaking match perfectly, because the attention to details and impeccable craftsmanship equally characterize the nature of engraving and watch movement. The watch is provided with manual winding movement, based on 27 jewels. The frequency of balance oscillation makes up 28 800 al/ h, the power reserve - 120 hours. The work of artfully decorated movement is seen through the transparent back case.
Chronsome 46 XY Tourbillon is not just a device for orientation in time, but a work of art, which is created by the watchmakers and engravers.
The watch was presented at the Geneva Time Exhibition.

Watch “Blue Moon of Rangoon” from Angular Momentum

Blue Moon of Rangoon watchThe modern trends of horlogerie contribute to the creation of new effective methods of designing and the sequence of developing innovative design concepts. If the traditional watchmaking put functionality at the foreground, in the XXI century principle of design originality has become dominant.
Angular Momentum is one of the most famous design brands. The company was founded in 1998 by watchmaker Martin Pauli. In a short time the brand has earned the reputation of quality and aesthetically sophisticated watches manufacturer and won the attention of the society, indifferent to the watch delicacies.
The watches by Angular Momentum are an embodiment of fantastic designer’s pans of Martin Pauli, who has created many models with unique composition design and a variety of artistic techniques for 13 years.
The Angular Momentum time meters are specific for not only an original design solution, but also an impeccable quality. In decoration of watches Pauli uses centuries-old traditions of handicraft: glass gilding, engraving on silver, gold, mother-of-pearl, porcelain, etc. Practical mechanics in the hands of artists-miniaturists, engravers, jewelers and enamellists turns into a true work of art. Staying true to the "spirit" of innovations, Martin Pauli decided to create a watch of Damascus steel- the material, rarely used in the watchmaking. The company has released several models of Damascus - Blue Moon of Rangoon, Damascus steel Color-Tec, La Boulle Classic Damascus Watch, La Boulle Classic “Damascus”, etc.
Today Sweden takes the leading position in the production of Damascus, this is where the cases of Angular Momentum watches are made.
Blue Moon of Rangoon is, perhaps, the most original watch in this series. The case is made of martensitic Damascus steel, which has a high wear resistance and anticorrosion potential. To reveal the pattern on the metal surface aqua regia was used - a mixture of concentrated acids. After polishing and finishing the case was gilded. The watch case is like a frame for the painting of a tiger, stalking in the Moon light. The image on the front glass is created by Pauli with the use of decorating technique “Verre Eglomise”, which was widely used for decoration of furniture in the 18th century. For making mini-images the back side of the glass is coated with gold or silver foil, and then the specific patterns and pictures are cut out. By the use of “Verre Eglomise”, Martin Pauli turned the watch dial in a realistic miniature. The art of miniature painting requires high accuracy and craftsmanship, skillful creation of fine painting details so that the image was closest to reality, regardless of its size.
The fine line between the watchmaking and art in the watch “Blue Moon of Rangoon” is erased once and for all. This is the aesthetic component that comes to the forefront, but not the functional "bells and whistles".
The time in this watch isn’t indicated by central hands, but by the aperture, placed at "12" hours. Martin Pauli used an innovative system of rotating watch disk, equipped with a minute track with 12 time indices, which move along the hour track. The disk rotates clockwise, therefore, the digital markings are applied in the reverse order. The use of disk time indication allows you to focus on the design of the dial, gives space for the realization of design ideas.
Exclusivity of design, combined with unsurpassed quality, contributes to making the Angular Momentum watches specific on the background of other companies’ products. The models of the brand are exclusive, amazingly beautiful, and different from those presented in the global watch market.


Watch “Triomphe” from Elishewitz

Triomphe watch by ElishewitzElishewitz is a young American company, founded by the famous knife-maker, Allen Elishewitz, whose professional path and wide interests deserve attention.
From a young age Elishewitz expressed interest in art, architecture, guilloching and enameling, art of creating knives.
He first studied knifemaking at college, and later his hobby became his profession. In 2002 Elishewitz got interested in watchmaking, during four years he studied the technology of manufacturing time meters.
The company “Elishewitz” mainly creates watches by order. In the work with clients the principle of free choice and individual preferences are put to the forefront. By request of the client the watches can be completed with mechanical or quartz movements.
During a year the company produces several timepieces that can be safely referred to the masterpieces of watchmaking. The techniques of engraving and guilloching in the production process give unique individuality to every single watch.
A person with artistic taste will surely pay attention to the watch in the case of an unusual metal, the surface of which is decorated with straight and curved lines, which are combined with concentric circles and, intersecting with them, form combinations of different outlines. The dial is skillfully guilloched. The guilloched parts of the dial with bizarre shimmering play of light and shadow emphasize the beauty of the patterned body even more. The dial has a minimalist design: the screws, located on the inner side of the strap, act as indicators of time. The only indicator on the dial is the date aperture, placed in position of "3" hours. The laconic design of the dial emphasizes the beauty of the guilloche pattern in the form of intertwining wavy lines even more.

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