Believe it or not, luminous watches have been around since 1910! During those times, radium, a radioactive element, was used, and it was painted on hands. The fascinating part is that it glowed throughout the night! This gave it a competitive advantage over previous early watches. The main disadvantage was that it is radioactive, it posed some major health challenges to people who applied this type of paint in various watch companies.
With time, the amount of radioactive elements in watches reduced and it was eventually banned altogether in 1968. Tritium replaced radium. While both are radioactive elements, tritium has significantly reduced radioactivity compared to radium.
In the 1990s, safer alternatives like strontium aluminate were found which are still in use today. The fascinating fact about all luminous watches is their ability to glow in the dark. They usually absorb light during the day and emit it at night. Some of the most frequently used colors are white, green, and blue.
What Makes a Luminous Watch Glow?
With the massive advancement in science and technology, luminous watches presently have more value in the market. Luminous watch technology is used as an added feature and not a necessity. For this reason, it is most often taken for granted.
They provide a convenient way of telling time in the dark. They are also commonly used in military applications. While there may be few luminous watch designs in the market today, watch manufacturers are constantly innovating on the luminous dial to find a perfect illuminator. All in all, you may be wondering what makes a luminous watch glow?
Radioactivity was first discovered in the 20th century and with it, came the production of radioluminescent elements: radium paint. Radium paint is naturally luminous. It produces its light through radioactive decay. This is what gave the watches their glow initially. However, radium paint gradually loses its shine with time as a result of phosphor deterioration.
It only takes a few years up to a decade before the glow is gone. Our present paints are using non-radioactive photoluminescent materials which contain strontium aluminate that acts as light banks. They absorb light during the day, store it, and gradually re-emit it at night as a bright glow. They do not shine very long especially in absence of light. Photoluminescent technologies like Super-LumiNova, LumiBrite, and Chromalight are presently used to make luminous watches.
Technologies Used to Make Luminous Watches
Chromalight: This technology was introduced in 2008 by Rolex with its Deepsea watch. Chromalight is portrayed to have superior brightness and longevity compared to other technologies. Chromalight comes in distinctive blue color. It can only be found in Rolex watches.
Super-LumiNova: This was invented in 1993 and it uses strontium aluminate to absorb and emit light. Presently, Super-Luminova is available in over 3000 different colors in varying brightness.
LumiBrite: This technology uses a strontium aluminate base together with europium and dysprosium that makes it more effective at emitting light. With only 10 minutes of exposure to light, LumiBrite can shine up to 5 hours in the dark.
With the knowledge and history behind luminous watch production, we explore whether owning a luminous watch is dangerous for your health.
Are Luminous Watch Dangerous?
Given that luminous watches obtain their glow from radioactive elements, you may be wondering whether they are dangerous to you as a user. This totally depends on the type of luminous watch dial you are using. Most of the watches in the market today are phosphorescent watches. They are coated in paint and they absorb light and later re-emit it to produce their glow. If this is the case, the watch is completely harmless.
But there are different types of watches. The second one is a tritium watch. In here, phosphorescent paint are mixed with small tubes that are filled with tritium which is radioactive in nature. They emit beta particles which are not very energetic. They cannot penetrate beyond the outermost skin layer.
The third type is a radium watch. They use radium instead of tritium. They may not appear to be as radioactive because the phosphor in paint is eaten with radium. These type are extremely radioactive but they are not too harmful to a user unless you inhale or ingest the radium directly.
How Long Does Luminous Watch Glow Last?
The nature of luminous materials is that they later dim to the point they are no longer useful. Luminous watches gain their ability to glow in the dark because of a special element called phosphorescence, which is a special case of photoluminescence. This means they can only emit light after they are exposed to light.
Photoluminescence comes in two types, namely: fluorescence and phosphorescence. In the case of fluorescence, they will only glow as long as there is a source of light. When the source of light is removed, they lose their glow. Fluorescent materials are not normally used in the creation of luminous watch dials. Instead, phosphorescent materials are used. They absorb light and slowly re-emit it later. This makes it last longer than a fluorescent light. Luminous dial watches can last up to a few hours of glow.
In conclusion, luminous watches are designed to provide you with a fascinating adventure. They can also be worn every other day. Most of the designs are classic and come at affordable prices, making them an excellent choice for simple looks and long-lasting illumination.
When purchasing one, consider the extra features that come along with it. Consider whether you are capable of operating them. Investing in luminous watches can be worth it in the end.