Is most vintage lume tritium?

Thread: Is most vintage lume tritium?

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  1. #1
    Member smoovebloveman's Avatar
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    Is most vintage lume tritium?

    I just got a vintage Wittnauer that appears to have its dial discolored by its lume and it got me wondering. Is most vintage lume tritium? The watch is from the late 50s if I had to guess. Is it possible itís radium? How would I know?




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  2. #2
    Member U5512's Avatar
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    Re: Is most vintage lume tritium?

    Does it say "T Swiss Made T" below the 6:00 marker?

    If not it could be radium if it's from the '40s and '50s....

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    Member TwentiethCenturyFox's Avatar
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    Re: Is most vintage lume tritium?

    Yes from the 60's forward like my vintage MKII---Name:  FD15F681-D388-459A-829B-8C54DB1C4F8F.jpeg
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  5. #4
    Member smoovebloveman's Avatar
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    Re: Is most vintage lume tritium?

    Quote Originally Posted by U5512 View Post
    Does it say "T Swiss Made T" below the 6:00 marker?

    If not it could be radium if it's from the '40s and '50s....
    There is no designation on the dial.


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  6. #5
    Member sticky's Avatar
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    Re: Is most vintage lume tritium?

    If there’s no indication it’s probably best to play safe and assume it’s radium.

  7. #6
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    Re: Is most vintage lume tritium?

    Radium was still in use into the late 1960s, though its use was in decline through the 60s. There's a good chance that a 1950s era watch is radium.
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  8. #7
    Member smoovebloveman's Avatar
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    Re: Is most vintage lume tritium?

    Yeah Iím thinking it probably is radium. It seems that the worst thing about radium is the decay to radon gas. Iíve sealed it in a bag to contain any possible offgassing. Thinking Iíll service it and move it on to someone whoís less concerned about having a nuclear reactor strapped to their wrist ;)


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  9. #8
    Member ExpiredWatchdog's Avatar
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    Re: Is most vintage lume tritium?

    Does it glow at all (try a closet at night and give your eyes some time to adjust)? I have a Wittnauer aircraft clock from WWII that still glows a little and it's certainly radium. Radium has a half-life of 1,600 years but the zinc sulphide breaks down from the radiation and stops glowing.

    The radiation itself is not dangerous as it consists of alpha particles (helium nuclei) that can't get through the layer of dead skin we all wear. It is dangerous if you get it inside of you, hence the epidemic of bone cancer in people that painted the dials in the first part of last century. It does give off radon gas that you can inhale, but not very much.

    I have a few vintage watches with radium dials and I'm not worried about wearing them. I would like to figure out how to get them to glow again though, maybe paint something over the existing lume.
    Last edited by ExpiredWatchdog; March 24th, 2019 at 04:38. Reason: half life 11,000 -> 1,600 per the entire internet
    It rubs it's skin with the lotion, or else it gets the hose again!
    I love the smell of carbamide in the morning, it smells like VICTORY.
    That ain't a double, I just like to stutter.

  10. #9
    Member ExpiredWatchdog's Avatar
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    Re: Is most vintage lume tritium?

    This subject inspired me to do some searching and I found this https://www.watchrepairtalk.com/topi...-luminescence/.

    It appears that both activated zinc sulphide and Super Luminova will glow when applied over a radium base. Hummm... what color would look best?

    Pink looks good (more of a magenta), should make a '40s watch pop!
    It rubs it's skin with the lotion, or else it gets the hose again!
    I love the smell of carbamide in the morning, it smells like VICTORY.
    That ain't a double, I just like to stutter.

  11. #10
    Member ExpiredWatchdog's Avatar
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    Re: Is most vintage lume tritium?

    More searching brought me to this article Radioactive luminous radium paint.

    Fascinating take on the whole vintage radium dial issue. He indicates that radium decay emits gamma radiation, but several sources show the same decay chain and none indicate gamma radiation, just alpha and beta, both blocked by our skin and the watch case/crystal. Did you know that it becomes lead three different times?

    The real danger is ingesting dust that may have flaked off and will float in the air once you crack the case. Oh, and there's the radon issue, same as with houses with basements in certain geographies. Your risk depends on the amount and how drafty your house is, but the safe approach is to keep them out in the garage when not wearing. And don't place them in the bag you wear over your head for seven days.
    It rubs it's skin with the lotion, or else it gets the hose again!
    I love the smell of carbamide in the morning, it smells like VICTORY.
    That ain't a double, I just like to stutter.

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