Are lumes different than tritium?

Thread: Are lumes different than tritium?

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  1. #1
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    Are lumes different than tritium?

    It wasn't until recently when I started reading more about watches that I even heard the term lume. Is it another term for tritium or something different? Since how long have lume markings/tritium been used on watches? What is the lifespan... how long should I expect lume or tritium markings to glow (enough to see them relatively easily)?

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    Member cnmark's Avatar
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    Re: Are lumes different than tritium?

    Quote Originally Posted by iamerror View Post
    It wasn't until recently when I started reading more about watches that I even heard the term lume. Is it another term for tritium or something different? Since how long have lume markings/tritium been used on watches? What is the lifespan... how long should I expect lume or tritium markings to glow (enough to see them relatively easily)?
    "Lume" is just a short word commonly used on watches fora, referring to "luminosity" or the luminous elements on a watch dial. There are three types of luminous materials in use: Tritium vials, Tritium paint and Superluminova paint.

    For further information about these materials please read this thread:
    https://forums.watchuseek.com/showthread.php?t=34303

    And in case you are concerend about the radioactivity of Tritium, please read this thread:
    https://forums.watchuseek.com/showthread.php?t=57645

  3. #3
    Moderator Fortis Forum J.D.'s Avatar
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    Re: Are lumes different than tritium?

    Quote Originally Posted by iamerror View Post
    It wasn't until recently when I started reading more about watches that I even heard the term lume. Is it another term for tritium or something different? Since how long have lume markings/tritium been used on watches? What is the lifespan... how long should I expect lume or tritium markings to glow (enough to see them relatively easily)?
    I'll take a shot at this one, though many who are way more knowledgable than I am will follow up with more accurate responses, I'm sure. Here goes...

    "Lume" is simply short for luminosity or luminous material. A "lume" shot of a watch on this site is usually a picture of a watch in a low/no-light scenario after it has been charged under external light (or in the case of tritium tubes, simply as-is).

    Many watches today use Superluminova paint on their dials to illuminate their hands, indices, markers, etc. Superluminova needs to be charged under an external light source and will then glow in low light or total darkness for a period of time thereafter. In my experience, this can vary anywhere from 30 min.(terrible lume) to 8 hrs.(great lume). Seiko makes a watch nicknamed "the Monster" (SKX779/SKX781) that is one of the standard-bearers of luminosity which other watches are often weighed against. Of course, as with all their parts, Seiko does not outsource their luminous material, they use their own which is called Lumibrite, but is similar to SL.

    As far as tritium goes; used to be they used tritium or radium (which are radioactive materials) painted on the dial, often denoted by T-Swiss-T for tritium, not sure if the dial is marked for radium (a search on this site for "tritium" or "radium" should pull up a host of info, tons-better than I can give!) Superluminova has become the replacement for tritium and radium in modern-day watches. The one exception is tritium tubes, which are glass capsules or vials that contain tritium, and do not require an external source to charge them. Trituim tubes do not glow as brightly as Superluminova will initially; meaning immediately after SL is exposed to light it will typically glow brighter than tritium tubes will for the first few hours. However, after that, Superluminova will eventually fade until it is no longer visible, while tritium tubes steadily emit a glow at a fixed level. Tritium tubes are said to last around 20 years or so, never needing a charge. Some watches that use tritium tubes are Ball, Traser, and Luminox.

    The question of whether tritium or radium are dangerous per usage in watches comes up fairly often and the answer seems to usually be something along the lines of: No, just don't try to eat it. Also there is Indiglo, but I am already going beyond my scope of knowledge here so I will let someone else explain Indiglo, although I believe it is an electrically charged light source (internal). All I know is you press a button and the dial lights up! Hope this was illuminating for you.
    Last edited by J.D.; April 8th, 2007 at 09:19. Reason: added really bad pun

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    Member lysanderxiii's Avatar
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    Re: Are lumes different than tritium?

    The luminous marking on watch a dial can be one of several different types.

    On older watches, those dating back to before WW1 and as late as the early sixties, you can find radium based luminous material. Sometimes marked on later watch dials as Ra-SWISS-Ra.

    Promethium based luminous material was sometimes use in the sixties.

    After radium and promethium fell out of favor tritium became the standard for quality watches. Photoluminescent materials used in early watches was not very strong and tended to fade out rather quickly.

    Increased regulation on radioactive materials lead to a desire to replace tritium with something non-radioactive. Luminova and the improved Super-Luminova are now pretty much the industry standard for civilian watches.

    Radium based material burns out the luminous paint after a time and glow very weakly after a time. Tritium, which is not as "hot" as radium, tends to die out after 10 or fifteen years, for a variety of reasons.

    The makers of Super-Luminova claim that SL will not weaken over time.

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    Re: Are lumes different than tritium?

    Very helpful stuff. Wow, so these luminous markings have been around a while.

    Does charging Superluminova longer give it a longer charge... do you just need to shine a light on it for a few seconds?

    Even though tritium does not need to be charged... can it be charged to make it brighter? Or charged once the tritium has significantly dimmed over its lifetime?

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    Moderator Fortis Forum J.D.'s Avatar
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    Re: Are lumes different than tritium?

    Quote Originally Posted by iamerror View Post
    Very helpful stuff. Wow, so these luminous markings have been around a while.

    Does charging Superluminova longer give it a longer charge... do you just need to shine a light on it for a few seconds?

    Even though tritium does not need to be charged... can it be charged to make it brighter? Or charged once the tritium has significantly dimmed over its lifetime?
    I'd say thirty seconds to one minute under a strong light source will do the trick for a full charge. Fluorescent lights work well; sunlight works best.

    Tritium tubes are the ones that don't need to be charged. As far as I know tritium tubes will not accept an external charge, and once they finally dim, that is it for them until they are replaced (if they can in fact be replaced ). Tritium paint however, still needs an external charge the same way SL does.

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    Member lysanderxiii's Avatar
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    Re: Are lumes different than tritium?

    Tritium paint however, still needs an external charge the same way SL does.
    No, Tritium paint should glow without charging. If your tritium painted dial is acting like SL, the tritium is no longer producing enough beta particles to sustain luminesences.

    Since the stuff that actually glows in tritium paint is photoluminesent it will start of slightly brighter and bleed down, however, when the paint is new, this is not very noticable, but as the tritium decays, the phenomenon will become more pronounced.

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    Moderator Fortis Forum J.D.'s Avatar
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    Re: Are lumes different than tritium?

    Quote Originally Posted by lysanderxiii View Post
    No, Tritium paint should glow without charging. If your tritium painted dial is acting like SL, the tritium is no longer producing enough beta particles to sustain luminesences.

    Since the stuff that actually glows in tritium paint is photoluminesent it will start of slightly brighter and bleed down, however, when the paint is new, this is not very noticable, but as the tritium decays, the phenomenon will become more pronounced.
    Like I said, others more knowledgable than I roam these halls. I am learning stuff with you, iam.

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