Many of today's demanding applications require thin-film coatings with high hardness, toughness, and thermal stability. In many cases, coating thickness in the range 2-20 microm and low surface roughness are required. Diamond films meet many of the stated requirements, but their crystalline nature leads to a high surface roughness. Nanocrystalline diamond offers a smoother surface, but significant surface modification of the substrate is necessary for successful nanocrystalline diamond deposition and adhesion. A hybrid hard and tough material may be required for either the desired applications, or as a basis for nanocrystalline diamond film growth. One possibility is a composite system based on carbides or nitrides. Many binary carbides and nitrides offer one or more mentioned properties. By combining these binary compounds in a ternary or quaternary nanocrystalline system, we can tailor the material for a desired combination of properties. Here, we describe the results on the structural and mechanical properties of the coating systems composed of tungsten-chromium-carbide and/or nitride. These WC-Cr-(N) coatings are deposited using magnetron sputtering. The growth of adherent nanocrystalline diamond films by microwave plasma chemical vapor deposition has been demonstrated on these coatings. The WC-Cr-(N) and WC-Cr-(N)-NCD coatings are characterized with atomic force microscopy and SEM, X-ray diffraction, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and nanoindentation.