- PVD = Physical Vapor Deposition
- IP = Ion Plating
Physical vapor deposition (PVD) is a variety of vacuum deposition and is a general term used to describe any of a variety of methods to deposit thin films
by the condensation of a vaporized form of the desired film material onto various workpiece surfaces. [source]
Ion plating is a physical vapor deposition (PVD) process that is sometimes called ion assisted deposition (IAD) or ion vapor deposition (IVD) and is a version of vacuum deposition.
So, IP (Ion Plating) is one of the means of PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition). All IP is PVD but not all PVD is IP.
You will usually see these two terms used interchangeably when watch makers are refering to platings on cases and other components.
In watch making, PVD/IP is often done to plate a stainless steel case to give it another color. Such as Black, Gold, Rose Gold, Gray, Coffee or even a "Rainbow" effect.
These are colors, not actual materials. So a "PVD Gold" case is not plated in gold (the metal). It is plated with materials such as titanium nitride which gives the finished piece a gold appearance.
Or with titanium aluminum carbon nitride which gives the finished piece a black appearance.
Titanium nitride + copper is used to produce a rose gold color, etc.
Besides the color difference, IP plating with most materials produces a more scratch resistant (harder) surface.
This is why you may see premium drill bits with a gold color that are coated to increase their wear resistance.
Can ion plated surfaces be scratched? Yes, but the finishes used on Individual Design watches are more scratch resistant than the stainless steel case itself.
And PVD is very resistent to flaking. Much more so than traditional electro-plating.