THE BAKELITE STORY

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koimaster (Online)
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THE BAKELITE STORY

Post by koimaster » March 20th 2021, 10:48pm

A HISTORY OF BAKELITE

The watch industry is no stranger to using interesting materials. From peculiar alloys that make up the tiniest of components to full-on bronze cases whose popularity only seems to grow. One of such material was Bakelite, and it was used for quite some time not only in the watch industry but in almost every industry. It was popular on dive watches in the mid-20th century but also pilot’s watches with rotating bezels.

Bakelite was invented in 1907 by scientist Leo Hendrik Baekeland. Baekeland was an American born in Ghent, Belgium in 1863. He received his doctorate at the age of 21 from the University of Ghent and taught there until he started his own company selling his invention called “Vetox”. Bakelite is the trademark for the synthetic resin known as phenol-formaldehyde – a hard and resistant synthetic plastic that is also shatterproof and resistant to acids and electricity. An excellent start to making robust watch bezels. It was the first thermosetting synthetic plastic meaning it was heat resistant and did not melt. Bakelite came up during the ‘Age of Plastics’ when many different plastics were invented that are still used today.

Baekeland first begun looking for a replacement for shellac in 1905 and discovered ‘Bakelite’. He was already wealthy from selling Vetox and tried improving the hardness of wood by impregnating it with a synthetic resin similar to Bakelite. He eventually found the right formula and created Bakelite – named after himself, of course. He applied for the patent in 1907 and founded the General Bakelite Company in 1910. Bakelite was first used in home appliances and in the electric power industry in the early 20th century, specifically right after WWI. It continued to be used for electronics parts for the next decades. Bakelite really became popular in the 1920s when new colours were introduced and used in kitchenware and furniture. It was seen as a distinctly American achievement and widely praised in the press. The first issue of Plastics Magazine even had it on its cover.

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Re: THE BAKELITE STORY

Post by 3Flushes » March 21st 2021, 2:57pm

Good read. Interesting applications in watches.

I have a friend who made a fortune from the sale of his grandmother's attic full of carved bakelite jewelry from the late 1920's and 1930's. The earliest pieces brought insane prices.
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