Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Getting Tritium to glow

Ok you have to be into Panerai (or other watch brands) to know what the heck Tritium is. But if you do, you know that Tritium is no longer used and that newer watches are fitted with Luminova dials instead. The purpose of both Tritium and Luminova is to make the indexes, numerals and hands glow in the dark for improved legibility. An important difference between the two is that Tritium always glows... until it so to speak runs out. Luminova is charged by light and lasts much longer. Tritium develops a nice patina when it ages but Luminova does not. The patina is what makes these watches loved so much by collectors.

I could have sworn that the Tritium on my 2A (1998) was very dead. I love the watch but you can forget about trying to read the time in the cinema or some place like that. So getting a nice lume shot (a photo that shows how the hands and numbers glow in the dark) is out of the question according to most. Sounds like a challenge to me...

Luckily my SB-800 has a little button called "strobe". If you press that button the flash starts to fire until you let it go. We're obviously talking very very bright light here.

If you do this in front of your t-dial for about 10 seconds in a darkened room... Tritium back from the dead!

© 2009 M.Wilmsen

The ten year old Tritium in the above photo really glows this bright. No Photoshop boosting or anything like that. Oh... you have to be quick to take your photo because it lasts about 30 seconds or so.


  1. that is just beautiful

  2. And who would have thought it isn't a PAM 112 or something. Genius! ;-)

  3. Does anyone know why that happens? I thought tritium glowed by itself and not from using external light sources?

  4. BTW > Tritium itself doesn't glow. The tritium paint is a combination of phosphor and tritium and it is the phosphor that actually emits the light. The phosphor is activated by the radio active tritium. That's how the paint can emit light without it being charged by an external light source. Even though the radio active part (the tritium) is basically gone or inactive after about 10 years or so, the phosphor can still be charged by external light sources - it just won't store the energy very long.