Preserving radium dials?
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  1. #1
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    Preserving radium dials?

    Hi All,

    I've recently been trying to gain a greater understanding of radium and tritium especially as my interests are working on vintage Watches.

    But one thing that came to mind was that considering how radium basically destroys the material that it's mixed with and crumbles.
    How will watches that contain radium be preserved for the future?


    I read somewhere that around 80% of a watches value is based on the original condition of the dial?



    Many thanks

    Lee

  2. #2
    Member YuriyV's Avatar
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    Re: Preserving radium dials?

    Radium is very destructive. I saw plexiglass crystals cracked under Radium emission. Luminescent compound components should degrade as well.
    Vintage Zodiac addict.

  3. #3
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    Re: Preserving radium dials?

    Lee,

    My 2 cents is that these watches were NEVER designed to last for hundreds of years, and the use of "radium" was just a gimmick to sell more watches until the poor ladies who used to apply the radium to the dial started dropping dead from radiation poisoning.

    Sure in a perfect world, if the watch would last forever, everybody would be happy campers....However, in the real world, if they did last forever, these company's wouldn't have been in business very long....
    Last edited by simpletreasures; September 29th, 2017 at 04:58.
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  5. #4
    Member Dan S's Avatar
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    Re: Preserving radium dials?

    Quote Originally Posted by eldridge View Post
    Hi All,

    I've recently been trying to gain a greater understanding of radium and tritium especially as my interests are working on vintage Watches.

    But one thing that came to mind was that considering how radium basically destroys the material that it's mixed with and crumbles.
    How will watches that contain radium be preserved for the future?


    I read somewhere that around 80% of a watches value is based on the original condition of the dial?



    Many thanks

    Lee
    I am seeing quite a few collectible watches where the radium has been deliberately removed (and sometimes replaced), with the justification of safety. I have even read articles advocating this as a deliberate policy. I initially expected the market to reject this entirely, but surprisingly, my sense is that the collector's market is actually divided on the practice. Some people have apparently been convinced that it is unsafe to wear a watch with radium on the dial, and feel that the proper thing to do is to replace it.
    -- Dan (formerly known as @badbackdan)
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  6. #5
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    Re: Preserving radium dials?

    Quote Originally Posted by badbackdan View Post
    I am seeing quite a few collectible watches where the radium has been deliberately removed (and sometimes replaced), with the justification of safety. I have even read articles advocating this as a deliberate policy. I initially expected the market to reject this entirely, but surprisingly, my sense is that the collector's market is actually divided on the practice. Some people have apparently been convinced that it is unsafe to wear a watch with radium on the dial, and feel that the proper thing to do is to replace it.
    Personally I am torn, if the lume is in good condition, it is my preference to keep it. If it is degrading at all, I will replace with period sympathetic lume.

    However, as time goes on, the balance is shifting to replace - I am becoming more uneasy with it as I increase my potential exposure.

  7. #6
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    Re: Preserving radium dials?

    Dial condition is a big part of the value, but there are divided opinions about originality. For some, any redial no matter how correct and perfectly executed, will ever be acceptable.

    Others, particularly collectors of American vintage watches, note that back in the day, watchmakers often offered redialing as a part of the service - remember, most vintage American watches are not the least bit waterproof.

    So, a lot depends on what part of the market you're in.

    I know a number of American vintage collectors who have had radium-lumed dials redone, but with fluorescent lume instead of radioactive. Gives you some idea what they originally looked like.
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  8. #7
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    Re: Preserving radium dials?

    Given that the radium was usually hand painted, I have no problem with replacement as the quality should be equal to that of the original. I don't have a problem with any restoration work that is indistinguishable from the original. Yes the new lume may be a very slightly different coloUr, but two things make this acceptable to me:
    1/ Give the safety implications of crumbling radium based lume, it's definitely the lesser evil.
    2/I'm severely coloUr blind and wouldn't notice anyway!

  9. #8
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    Re: Preserving radium dials?

    They were not made for hundred years??????
    I doubt this....

    My 73-years old Excelsior Park with genuine radium dial looks very nice for that age.
    The Minerva with radium dial (not serviced yet, as found, with yellowed crystal) was not in such good conditions.
    I think, the conditions depends on the behavier of the previous owners....

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    I do not know, how to preserve the good dial of the excelsior park, but I do not think about next 50 years....

    Best regards,
    Peter
    Last edited by KP-99; September 29th, 2017 at 13:32.
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