Electroplating

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Categories: Innovation
"Where colors are brought to life."
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Adding color through chemistry

A veritable laboratory within the Hublot manufacture, the electroplating department is where colors are brought to life.

Electroplating is a process where dissolved positively charged metal ions form a coherent bond with a base metal electrode by means of electrical currents. In other words, one metal plates another.

To create watches with chromatic harmony inside and out, the electroplating laboratory works on a wide range of components from movement plates and bridges to skeleton dials (like the Aero Bang) and even smaller components such as levers. Led by a chemist, the electroplating team works in close collaboration with the R&D departments to come up with advanced solutions and explore new color possibilities.

To plate the metal, the raw machined components are first cleaned ultrasonically then dipped into a mild acid to remove any oils or contaminants, as well as the layer of oxidation that forms on the surface of certain metals. Starting with a clean metal is vital to achieve uniform plating and to make sure the coating actually bonds with the metal’s surface.

Once cleaned, the components are added into a metal-acid solution to give the material its coated color. Depending on the desired colors, different metal elements are used including rhodium for a black color, Ruthenium for grey/silver, and many others. Parts can even be coated with precious metals like gold and platinum; including the various colored gold alloys such as yellow or 18k gold 5N.

Beyond just a cosmetic application, electroplating can also alter and improve a material’s properties by hardening it and providing a protective layer against corrosion and oxidation.

The Electroplating department are also responsible for not only checking on the final quality of the plated components, but also to check on the material composition of both manufacture-made and outsourced components and parts, thanks to an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) machine within the laboratory.

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