Old gold

I see that John Gruber saw the same thing Michael Schechter and I did: the gold in the Watch Edition is just a regular old alloy, not the metal matrix composite in the patent I discussed last week.

@drdrang You go and do all that work, get everyone hot and bothered, and it looks like Apple doesn’t end up using that patent :)
Michael Schechter (@MSchechter) Mar 9 2015 3:22 PM
@MSchechter Just a boring old alloy. No wonder the examples @gruber played with in September felt heavy.
Dr. Drang (@drdrang) Mar 9 2015 3:41 PM

The two-minute Gold film says nothing about ceramics, just an alloy of gold, silver, copper, and palladium. And the weight of the 42 mm gold case, at 67 g, is distinctly greater than that of the same sized stainless steel case (50 g) and aluminum case (30 g).1

Gruber, who had the advantage of actually holding the watches in his hands during the September introduction, was always skeptical about the metal matrix composite. He knew the gold case was heavier.

@gak_pdx @drdrang I recall the gold one felt about as much heavier than steel as steel did than aluminum. But I’m not a scale, of course.
John Gruber (@gruber) Mar 7 2015 7:08 PM

I think he said at one point that Apple’s people even pointed out the weight difference to make sure he noticed.

So if the gold isn’t a metal matrix composite, how does Apple make it “twice as hard” as regular gold. Based on the film, I’d say they’re using some combination of the three oldest tools in metallurgy: alloying, heat treatment, and work hardening. Boring, but effective.

What’s interesting to me has been the reaction to my metal matrix composite post. Before Monday, most of the Twitter users who linked to it were “Apple people” who were anticipating what was going to be announced. After the Monday event, when even the smallest amount of digging would show you that the Edition was using a regular alloy, more links came from Apple haters who were using the post to prove that Apple was ripping off its customers by delivering a bogus 18k gold. They paid no attention to what the Watch actually was and just squeezed my post into a tired narrative that goes back at least as far as Peter McWilliams and his The Personal Computer Book.

  1. I’m assuming that the case weights given by Apple include the screen and the innards. Otherwise, the stainless steel case would be about three times the weight of the aluminum and the gold would be nearly twice the weight of the steel.