The Best Watch Lume
Luminous phosphorescent, also called lume, is a very important element to many watch collectors. You might use it for deep dives, or simply to read the time at night, but you probably couldn't go very long with a lumeless timepiece.
Most watches built today come with a nice coat of lume, but vintage collectors might have a few timepieces that came without lume. If this is your case, you might want to add lume to one of your watch.
Since lume isn't permanent, you might need to re-lume an older timepiece to give it the same glow it once had. No matter your situation, this guide will help you choose the best lume.
I will spare you the boring history of luminous phosphorescent, but we still need a bit of context before we start talking about the best lume. At first, the lume applied onto watches was a mixture made using a great amount of radium. It didn't take long for scientists to realize this was too radioactive and dangerous to man.
Since then, lume recipes were changed to much safer, and sadly, less bright substances. The most common pigments used today are strontium aluminate and zinc sulfide.
The Types of Lume
First, I will describe the different types of luminous phosphorescent that are available out there.
The use of photoluminescent material, such as the previously stated strontium aluminate, is the most ubiquitous lume technique. It is a pasty/liquid material that is painted usually onto the hands and minute marks of the watch.
It uses the power of light, stores it, then re-emit it when needed. This means the lume will not work properly if the watch hasn't seen light in a long time. On most models, this type of luminous phosphorescent will last 7 or 8 hours in the dark before losing all its juice.
Tritium Gas Tubes
Tritium used to be much more widely used than it is now. This is because photoluminescence is much cheaper and often as effective.
The tritium gas tube is a glass tube that is coated in phosphor, then filled with tritium. I'm not scientifically inclined enough to explain what happens to produce light, but you can find a pretty detailed explanation here, if you're into this type of stuff.
Electroluminescence uses a conductive material which will emit light following the passage of an electric current. It is much more common in digital watches, where you will usually press a button (which will emit the current), to make the screen glow. It is also, in rare occasions, present on analog watches, such as Timex Indiglo models.
What Lume Do I Need?
There are several ways to add lume to your watch, and most of them are cheap. Before thinking about applying some new lume, you must first open your watch case. You can find out how to open your case in this article.
Next, you need to determine what type of application you want, and which brand best answers your needs. We can already forget electroluminescence or tritium gas tubes, as they are both too expensive and complicated for individuals. We will focus our analysis on photoluminescent lumes.
In its rawest form, lume will be sold to you as a powder. This route is the cheapest, but will require a bit more work. As you can imagine, you can't simply sprinkle powder onto your timepiece.
To use a powdered watch lume, you will need to mix it with a varnish and a thinner. Common substances used as such include acrylic, epoxy, glues and slimes.
Art N Glow hasn't been around for a very long time, but they have made quite a name for themselves in the last few years. Their product aren't made specifically for watches, but it will serve you just as good, and it is the cheapest quality lume on the market. They offer a very wide range of colors, which helps differentiate your watch from the others.
Art N Glow's basic package includes 30g of strontium aluminate based powder for a small cost of 6.50$. The downside is that you will need to buy your own thinner and varnish. They sell epoxy resin separately, but we suggest you buy a different, cheaper brand.
Watchlume is one of the most famous lume brands. It has a simple to remember name, and it offers a very good product.
Their product might be a bit more expensive than the competition, due to the notoriety of their name, but it is a surefire way to lume your watch without a problem. They sell kits that include both the alkaline pigment that produces the glow, and a 30ml thinner to mix it. This will run you 16.50$.
They claim that their mixture is the brightest on the market. While we can't prove that scientifically, it is definitely hard to find a lume that shines brighter in the same price range.
source: Ebay user genuineparts1570
Super-LumiNova is the last powdered brand I recommend. At first, I didn't plan on including it, since it is primarily used for professional purpose. It is much more expensive than the rest of the items presented today, but it will be worth it if you want the very best product on the market.
This very brand is used by renowned manufacturers such as Rolex, Patek Philippe, AP, etc.. It comes with an accordingly huge price-tag; around 60$ per gram. Fortunately, a gram will be plenty to re-lume a single timepiece.
A lume kit is a cross between a powder and a pre-mixed solutions. These kits will give you all the elements you need to produce a great lume, but you will still have to mix it yourself.
Ask anyone with watch luming experience about NoctiLumina and you will hear nothing but good things. Their pigments are of good quality and their prices are fair.
They offer 3 different kits directly from their website. The small package contains 2 grams of powder, 2ml of binder and thinner, a mixing bowl and a rod. It is offered for 44.95$. It might seem like a lot, but you get twice the amount of pigment compared to competitors.
Also, the prices get more advantageous with bigger quantities. The standard package offers twice the materials of the small package, and costs 62.95$. Finally, the large kit contains 20 grams of pigments and 20ml of thinner/binder for 220$.
The Bergeon Luminous Kit is one of the most praised lume kit in the industry. It includes everything you need: powder, varnish and thinner. It even comes with a small brush and mixing bowl.
Bergeon has been making luminous phosphorescent for a long time, and you can be assured to get quality material when buying from them. Of course, such a good product comes with an imposing price, which is 48.95$ per 1 gram kit.
If you're not much of a craftsman, you might prefer to buy a pre-mixed lume. This is perfectly okay, but be aware that you will pay a premium for the mix.
These packages are sold as an easy to apply paste or paint that you can put directly on your watch hands without preparing anything.
Best Pre-mixed Solutions
Once again, Watchlume is the first name to come up in this category. Their basic pre-mixed lume kit includes a 5ml syringe with a micro-nozzle. The ''alkaline silicate-aluminate oxide europium'' pigment is pre-mixed with acrylic resin.
It is available in the 5 following colors : green, vintage patina, blue, white and orange. You will have to fork out 25$ to get this kit.
There are other pre-mixed solutions out there, but we haven't tried them. Most of them have very few reviews and are from unknown brands. We recommend you either use Watchlume for pre-mixed, or go the powder or kit route.
Also, it is important to know that pre-mixed will often offer a lume of lesser quality, compared to a freshly mixed powder/thinner solution. It doesn't make a huge difference, but you should use powdered lume if you want to have the brightest lume possible.
Paint vs Paste
When you're mixing your powder, or buying a pre-made mixture, you can either get a paint or a paste. The way to get paint is to mix the pigment with the binder using a 1:1 ratio. To get a paste instead, you should use a 2:1 pigment to binder ratio.
The paint will be easier to apply, but the paste will offer the brightest luminescence. You will usually only need the powdered pigment and a binder such as acrylic for you mixture. If you find that your mix is too thick, you can add a bit of thinner (bought separately).
If you need help to apply lume, you can use this page.Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions related to my article.
This Post Has 7 Comments
Great article. By the way, Burgeon kits ARE superluminova (according to Cousins website) so its definitiely worth a go.
Hey Jonathan, Thanks for your feedback!
Great article, thank you!
Watch Lume also sells on Ebay in the UK – https://www.ebay.co.uk/usr/watchlumecom
and USA – https://www.ebay.com/usr/watchlume
Thanks for the info Lee!
Great article. Thanks for sharing
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Thanks for taking the time to put this together!