This is an edition of the newsletter Box + Papers, Cam Wolf’s weekly deep dive into the world of watches. Sign up here.

At my heart, I am a man of science. The son of a developmental and cell biology major who carried a periodic table in his wallet (true story). And while intuition and taste help inform what I cover in this newsletter, at the end of the day there’s nothing sturdier to me than data. And, like Al Pacino announcing an Oscars winner, my eyes saw that the recent rash of new releases was filled with fewer steel watches than they have in a while. So I crunched the numbers—and what I found should scare the pants off Big Steel. (Hold another L, Charles Miner.)

I’m not kidding when I said I crunched the numbers. I tossed 72 new releases from Watches & Wonders into an Excel spreadsheet to see what I could divine from this mass of novelties. (Much more below on size, complications, and color.) What really popped out was the glaring lack of watches made in stainless steel. Let’s pass the mic to Steve Kornacki for the numbers breakdown.

Out of the 72 biggest releases from the 19 biggest brands—Rolex, Tudor, Patek, IWC, Tag Heuer, Cartier, etc.—only 20 have stainless steel cases. To put that into perspective, I tallied up just the new releases from Rolex and Tudor last year and found that those two brands alone announced 14 watches in steel (including two-tone, gold-and-steel pieces). That’s incredible! The fall off of steel watches at Rolex, the King of Sports, is what really makes my head spin. Only one new Rolex—the headlining “Bruce Wayne” GMT-Master—was made in steel, the dominant material in watches until very recently.

So does this mean that sport watches are disappearing? On the contrary: Sport watches seem just as popular as ever, but they’re now getting material upgrades. Rolex’s debuts, for instance, are flush with its sport models made out of higher-grade stuff—the chunky Deepsea in gold, two white-gold Daytonas, and a pair of Sky-Dwellers in rose and yellow gold. What this tells me is that the market is leaning even more heavily into the luxury sport realm, which has been buoyed mainly by the Patek Philippe Nautilus and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak over the past couple of years.

Another big reason for steel’s drop off is the rise of lightweight titanium. I tallied 12 watches—including high-end models like Vacheron Constantin’s Overseas Tourbillon, as well as more entry-level fare like Zenith’s Defy Extreme Diver—that opted for titanium where you’d typically find steel.

The last nugget I gleaned from steel’s tumble is how responsive these brands have been to recent trends. Over the past year, collectors have continued to wrap opulent vintage models in an ever-tighter bear hug. The trend toward vintage is not just pushing brands to offer smaller case sizes, but also conjuring new examples that are more extreme in their use of gold, diamonds, and precious stones. The white-gold, gem-set Daytonas with mother-of-pearl dials are perfect examples of that.

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