Captivating and intriguing, luminescence is arguably one of the “coolest” features a watch can possess. Believe it or not, watches with dials that can be seen in the dark have been around for a while and they used to be made with radioactive (yep, radioactive!) radium. Luckily, they have come a long way since the 1920s. Let’s take a look…
First off, what makes a dial glow?
Lume, short for luminescence, is the glowing solution often applied to a watch’s bezel, hands, hour markers and sometimes the actual dial itself.
Luckily, radium hasn’t been used in watchmaking for a long time. Most modern luminescent watches today (such as those with Super LumiNova) use materials called phosphors, which absorb energy from light (basically, they are “charged” by the light), and then release that energy as photons, emitting light back. Phosphorescent materials release their stored energy slowly, so they essentially “glow in the dark.”
The reason most luminescent watches have a greenish glow is because of the particular phosphorescent pigments used, usually strontium illuminate and zinc sulfide. And depending on how those pigments are mixed, they can either glow more brightly or for longer duration. The brightness can also depend on other factors such as the size of the lume powder particles (the bigger, the brighter!), the properties found in the binder and how many layers of paint are applied.
Will my lume ever wear out?
Yes, the lume could get dimmer but it will take a very, very long time—usually decades. Ultraviolet light can deteriorate it over time, and water and humidity could also damage the pigment.
What are the benefits of lume?
A luminescent watch provides legibility in all lighting conditions, which can prove incredibly useful, especially for diving, camping or other low light sports and hobbies. Not to mention, it’s just plain cool.
Our top picks in lume watches
Watch brands today are continually striving to create new technologies to make luminescent watches better, with brighter, longer lasting luminescent capabilities. Here are some of our favorites at Feldmar:
Tudor Pelagos LHD 42mm Titanium and Steel
The Pelagos from Tudor is a classic all-in-one mechanical divers’ watch, waterproof up to 500 meters and powered by the Tudor Manufacture calibre. The black ceramic dial features beige luminescent graduations on the bezel, and white, angular luminescent hands and hour markers. The look is finished by a titanium bracelet with a steel folding clasp.
Seiko Prospex SLA043 – 1965 62mas Diver’s Re-Creation
The watches of the Seiko Prospex collection were developed for sports lovers and adventurers, ideal for both recreational and professional divers. This watch features an ever-brilliant steel case and anti-reflective box sapphire crystal, deep blue dial and coordinating extra-silicone black strap. The Lumibrite hands and hour markers boast state of the art luminescence.
OMEGA Seamaster Diver 300m Ceramic Rhodium Grey Dial – Bracelet
The watches of the OMEGA Seamaster collection are justly celebrated as chronometers of strength, style and sophistication, crafted for discriminating watch enthusiasts. The Seamaster takes design cues from the waterproof watches of the British military. The grey ceramic dial features an engraved wave pattern, blue ceramic unidirectional rotating bezel and blued hands and indexes with white Super-LumiNova.
Breitling SuperOcean Automatic 48
Breitling created the classic SuperOcean dive watch in 1957 to equip professional and military divers, but it was soon discovered by leisure divers and watch enthusiasts. This watch features a titanium case with a black ceramic bidirectional rotating bezel and a glare proof convex sapphire crystal. The yellow dial is highlighted with luminescent hands and indexes and the look is finished with a bold black rubber strap.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Automatique
The watches of the Fifty Fathoms collection are rugged yet stylish, crafted for both the diver and the discriminating watch lover. The Fifty Fathoms Automatique features a steel strap with a folding clasp and a crisp, black dial adorned with luminescent hands and hour markers.
Tag Heuer Aquaracer Calibre 7 GMT
Aquaracer is an innovative collection of professional, superbly functional sports watches known for precision and reliability under even the most challenging circumstances. Features include a stainless steel case with blue and red minute scale top ring, engraved caseback, and uni-directional rotating bezel. The watch is finished with rhodium-plated luminescent hands and indexes.