In the space of a few months, the price of rhodium has climbed to record highs, peaking at over CHF 800 per gram! Used to cover certain components in watch movements, rhodium poses a new challenge for the watchmaking industry as it becomes the most expensive precious metal in the world. STS Saulcy Traitement de Surface has recently announced some attractive alternatives to rhodium. STS founder and director Frédéric Saulcy explains more.
Your recent announcement that you’d found a credible alternative to rhodium, now the world’s most expensive metal, must have sparked a lot of interest among brands?
Yes, it’s been a real tsunami. All the brands are reacting, not only because of the soaring rhodium prices, currently at CHF 844/g, but also because of the shortage that this could create.
No doubt watch manufacturers have asked you about the actual similarity between the properties and rendering of white platinum compared with rhodium. How exactly would you describe it?
Everyone who’s started testing it has been amazed. White platinum is an effective replacement for rhodium. All the tests are validated quickly and no difference is detected.
Does this mean that you will gradually stop using rhodium for finishing watch movements?
No, I don’t think so, but it’s our customers who will decide. All I can say is that the decision will be a strategic one. Because currently STS is the only one with this alternative treatment and that could pose a problem for manufacturers who have their own galvanic workshop. But I should point out that we are thinking about sharing our bath.
If brands continue to show an interest in your alternatives to rhodium, in particular white platinum, are you ready to meet the demand?
Yes, we’ve taken the necessary organisational measures to be operational at our three production sites.