The first wristwatch in history is exactly 200 years old. In these two centuries, the wristwatch has undergone numerous evolutions, and each technological change is closely related to the advancement of science and technology- Luminous technology on watches is one of the most interesting examples.
Luminous is just a decoration on the dial, but it is very important for watches, and even becomes the biggest selling point of watches
‘Ra’ light first appeared
In 1898, Madame Curie discovered radium, and only in 1910 did humans obtain this mysterious metal through electrolysis. After only 5 years, it was applied to the product by Panerai and applied for a patent, which can be described as keeping up with the times.
Panerai PAM312 watch
Panerai recently opened a large wall clock in the world’s largest concept store in Singapore. This clock shows the unique “sandwich” dial structure of Panerai watches: two identical dials The layer is sandwiched with a Super-LumiNova luminous coating to show the hands and digital scale. The sandwich structure allows luminous materials to be placed in the grooves in the dial. The dial with sandwich structure is composed of two overlapping discs. A large amount of luminous material is placed on the lower disc, and its light is transmitted from the corresponding hollow hour mark and number on the upper disc. In this way, a large amount of luminous material produces a large amount of light, which can be revealed through this design, showing the maximum degree of readability. The dial scale is clear and easy to read, even in the extremely dark environment underwater.
On the official website of Panerai, three proud patents are listed. The first one is the British patent GB191512270 corresponding to Radiomir’s luminous technology. Guido Panerai, the current Panerai family, developed the Radiomir technology and applied for a patent on August 25, 1915.
The reason why this technology is called Radiomir is because the radioluminescent material used is radium. All compounds of radium are radioactive, and the Latin name Radium means radioactive. The nature of radium is not stable. It will decay into plutonium in about 1600. Because of continuous decay, it will emit light blue light. The first-generation Panerai Radiomir Ref. 3646 produced in the 1930s was also called ‘Rolex Panerai’ because it adopted the ‘California Noodle’ dial made to Rolex.
Rolex Oyster Perpetual Deep Sea Watch
Although radioactive elements are harmful to the body, radium has been used as a dial lighting material for more than 40 years, until new materials appeared in the 1960s. Nowadays, the radioactive element radium is no longer used, but in order to reflect the taste of re-engraving, the designer has specially made the luminous material old, so you can see that some re-engraved watches have a yellowish luminous effect.
In 1949, another important luminous technology of Panerai, Luminor, also applied for a patent, which used the other radioactive material plutonium as a luminescent material. This technique is more secure, but still has time constraints. Both radium and thallium materials are self-luminous luminous materials, and do not need to absorb energy from the outside to continue to emit light. The half-life of plutonium is 12.5 years, that is, the effective life of luminous light produced by plutonium is about ten years. After more than ten years, the cormorant began to age, turn yellow, and gradually lost the luminous effect.
Most current watches use materials with longer afterglow, such as the current mainstream Super-LumiNova, which only needs 30 minutes of exposure and can emit green light for 8 hours. This material appeared in the 1980s. Its main component is strontium aluminate. After adding rare-earth thorium, it can emit light for several hours as long as it is exposed to light for several minutes.
Rolex’s luminous dial shows that Chromalight, an innovative fluorescent material, is used. The so-called ‘Chroma’ is ‘color, saturation’. This material emits blue light and is used on a series of Rolex professional oyster watches hands and clocks. Compared with general standard fluorescent materials, Chromalight’s luminous time is almost doubled. Its luminous intensity is more stable during a complete dive and lasts more than 8 hours. In 2008, Rolex used the Chromalight fluorescent material for the first time on its Oyster Perpetual DEEPSEA, a diver’s professional watch with a waterproof depth of 3900 meters. It is the blue color of the Rolex diving watch.
Ball MIL-W-46374F Watch
Hundred times brighter
In recent years, Ball has gathered more and more popularity among watch fans, the most attractive of which is the gas light technology (Gas Light). The steam lamp technology patent, like Panerai’s Radiomir patent, was originally designed for weapon targeting. In this patent, the structure of the luminous body is designed. The mineral glass tube coated with phosphorescent phosphor material on the inner wall is filled with gaseous radon, and the tritium reacts with the phosphorescent substance to form a cold light source, that is, the radon tube.
Today, there are two regular radon manufacturers in the world: mb-microtec in Switzerland and SRB in Canada. The former invented this technology in the 1980s, and is also a radon supplier for Boll Watch.
According to Ball’s official description, this steam lamp luminous technology can provide high-quality and long-lasting brightness, which is 100 times brighter than existing luminous coatings, and can continue to emit light for up to 25 years. In the author’s own experience, the digital scale composed of this steam light tube is indeed much brighter, and the most intuitive feeling is as if it is a miniature fluorescent lamp driven by a power source. And relying on this technology, it is natural to be able to easily reach the visibility standard of 25 cm in the deep sea, without having to rely on any ambient light to ‘charge’ in advance.
After realizing the advantages of the self-luminous miniature gas light (3H), the US military immediately requested that this light source be equipped in its watch (MIL-W-46374F). In 1991, the radon tube watch was formally assembled by the US military and was widely used in the first Gulf War.
Blancpain Fifty Fathoms
Now that luminous technology is so mature, how to present this technology has become the focus of attention of various brands. In 1997, Blancpain produced the Fifty Fathoms watch with a water resistance of 300 meters. In 2003, in order to commemorate this legendary watch model, Blancpain specially launched a new limited edition watch, this watch has a black arc-shaped scratch-resistant sapphire crystal bezel, and different materials, different hardness This kind of professional technology, which is combined with different heated rigid bezels, fluorescent scales and sapphire crystals, is also patented.
To achieve the luminous effect through the dial, it is time to talk about Lange’s German patent. This design was applied to Lange’s famous ‘owl’ ZEITWERK luminous version. Lange’s luminous design, the dial is made of sapphire, and then plated on sapphire. The coating consists of two layers. The first layer is a metallic silver coating and the second layer is a titanium oxide coating. The thickness of the titanium oxide coating is only 65 nanometers. 100 nanometers. This design has only one purpose. It does not transmit visible light and only transmits ultraviolet light. The phosphorous phosphor is excited by the transmitted ultraviolet light to emit light. The choice and thickness design of titanium oxide and silver coating materials are such that the transmitted ultraviolet light has a wavelength between 250 nanometers and 430 nanometers, which can maximally excite phosphor phosphors to emit light.