August 16, 2022

Watch luminescence’s brilliance has evolved over the years, with new glow-in-the-dark material constantly being developed or improved. Let’s take a look at the history of watchmaking.

Watch Luminescence

Since the discovery of fire, humans have sought new and better ways to see in the darkness. Today, we’ll explore the amazing evolution of luminescent material over the years it has been used to make luminous watches.

  • How does Lume work in a watch? It can work differently depending on what type of lume is used, but all lume has certain characteristics that can be explained if you understand a little bit about the science behind light.
  • How much time does watch luminescence last? This depends on the type of lime used. It also depends on the amount of lime used. Watchmakers may use a thin layer to illuminate a watch, while others will use multiple layers to ensure it shines brighter and lasts longer.
  • What’s the Lume of a watch? You can make it from many things. There have been many types of lume over the years. Learn more about the various types of lume used throughout the watchmaking industry’s history.
  • Which watch has the highest Lume? There are many levels of brightness and different colors. We have created a chart to show the differences.

What is the working principle of luminescent watches? We will answer all your questions in this article and describe watchmakers’ chemical processes over the years to create luminescent watches.

Some Light Science

Light is a form of energy that forms on the electromagnetic field in the form of an elementary particle called a photon, a quantum particle within the EM field. A photon, a stable particle without mass or an electric charge, travels at the speed of light and is considered stable. Photons are created when an electron spins around an atom and absorbs a photon. Once it is exciting, it releases a photon that we recognize as light.

Let’s not get too focused on light and quantum science. Let’s not get too distracted by light or quantum science. Instead, let’s examine how light is created and used in watchmaking. Also, how different methods of creating photons in luminescent materials can be compared.

1908- Radium Paint was invented

Radium was used as a lume in watches until the 1960s. Radium can glow for more than 1,600 years, about the material’s half-life before the luminescence starts to dim. That’s amazing. But here’s the catch! The catch? Well, it’s radioactive, just like the name implies!

Are radium watches still glowing? No, but watchmakers have made progress to safer materials. If you have an antique piece with radium dials and want to verify that it is real Radium, you can use a Geiger Meter. It will go off if it does.

BFS* (The Federal Office of Radiation Protection Germany) states that Radium (Ra-226) is not used because of radiation exposure to the watch’s wearer. Still, because of the danger, it presents to watchmakers.

Promethium (Pm-147)

For a time, Promethium was used to replace Radium as a radioactive alternative that is less dangerous. Because it emits beta particles, the risk is lower than that of Radium. Promethium’s downside is its short half-life. This is a far cry from the 1,600+ years of Radium.

Tritium (H-3)

This material was used until the mid-1990s. It is a beta emitter, similar to Promethium and safer than Radium. It is a low-energy beta emitter with a decent half-life of 12.3 years compared to Promethium’s 2.6 years.

This radioactive Hydrogen was made into a paint type. The material could be problematic in this format. The plastic case backs of watches using Tritium-based luminescence were common up until the mid-90s. Tritium can diffuse and find its way into the dial, crystal and case back, where it can reach the skin of the person wearing it.

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