June 4, 2020

7 Best Watches with Tritium Lume (Review) 2020

June 4, 2020

A key feature in many active watches is luminosity; one of the most popular and controversial sources of this is tritium. Tritium is a radioactive isotope and is thought dangerous by some. It’s scientifically considered safe though, and a highly effective light source. The Spring Bar has collated the best tritium watch for 2020.

One of the biggest problems people had to face when it comes to watches and clocks, as far back as the inception of time-telling, is how to tell the time in the dark. Of course, way back, they had to use candles or other open flames, but what about when fire was unavailable? 1898 marked the year that famed scientist Marie Curie discovered radium, and reading watches in the dark hasn’t been the same since. 

Radium, like tritium, is a radioactive isotope and this radioactivity is what caused this element to glow faintly in the dark. At the turn of the century, painting watch hands mixed with radium became fashionable. However, as most of us know, this radioactivity – at the amount required for radium to be useful – was what killed Mme. Curie. Radium was eventually mixed with zinc sulfide to increase luminosity without endangering watch users, but hazards in manufacturing and fears against its use led to the ban of radium from use in watches altogether.

Tritium was eventually introduced in the 1960s as a much safer alternative to radium for radioluminescence. It has much less radiation and decays much faster even when ingested. Tritium is known for its perpetual-glow, and the Spring Bar team decided that the following watches best showcase the beauty of Tritium.

Products
PricesKey Features

Luminox Outdoor Mens Watch Modern Mariner Black Out
$595
200M water resistance
Swiss quartz
Heavy duty
Marathon Search & Rescue Medium Diver’s$960Smaller and sleeker than most options
Wonderful design
Sapphire crystal
Vostok Europe Lunokhod-2$852.4049mm diameter
Tritium coated subdials
300M WR
Traser P59 Aurora GMT H3$531.23
GMT Complication
Sapphire Crystal
Bright lume
Seiko Prospex SNE441
$281.45Very thin case
Solar Quartz Movement
200M WR
Isobrite Thin Blue Line Mid-Size Limited Edition $495Carbon fiber reinforced polycarbonate case
Sapphire Crystal with anti-reflective coating
Tissot PRS516$351Elegant Design
Relatively affordable
Swiss automatic

1 1. Luminox Outdoor Men’s Watch Modern Mariner Black Out

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The American brand, Luminox is not a stranger to heavy duty active watches. Among their wide selection is the Modern Mariner Black Out. It’s a sturdy black dive watch in a stainless steel case held by a leather strap. It boasts a standard 200M water resistance, a sapphire crystal, and a Swiss quartz movement. The nearly $600 price point of the Modern Mariner Black Out is a bit much for quartz movements, but the Swiss origin of the movement and the powerful tritium lume justifies the cost of the watch.

+PROS

  • 200M water resistance
  • Swiss quartz
  • Heavy duty

-CONS

  • Pricey for a quartz powered watch
The Basics:

Brand: Luminox

Model: Outdoor Mens Watch Modern Mariner Black Out

Price: $595

Reference Number: XS.6251.BO

Diameter: 44mm

Case Material: Stainless Steel

Crystal Material: Sapphire Crystal

Water Resistance: 200m

Strap/Bracelet: Leather

Strap/Bracelet Width: 24mm

The Movement/Specifications:

Watch Type: Dive 

Movement: Swiss Quartz

Functions/Complications: Date

Thickness: 15mm

Key Features:

Brand: Luminox

Model: Outdoor Mens Watch Modern Mariner Black Out

Price: $595

Reference Number: XS.6251.BO

Diameter: 44mm

Case Material: Stainless Steel

Crystal Material: Sapphire Crystal

Water Resistance: 200m

Strap/Bracelet: Leather

Strap/Bracelet Width: 24mm

2 2. Marathon Search & Rescue Medium Diver’s

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Marathon is relatively unknown compared to some of the watches on this list, but it is by no means a newcomer in the world of horology. It was founded in 1904 as Weinsturm Watches by the Wein brothers and even supplied timepieces for the Allied forces in WWII. The Search & Rescue is Marathon’s dive watch option. It is a stainless steel watch with a sapphire crystal and a swiss automatic movement. The design is the classic dive watch look inspired by the Rolex Submariner. As humorously indicated by the radioactive symbol on its dial, it’s indices and hands are coated in tritium for perpetual lume.

+PROS

  • Smaller and more sleek than most tritium options
  • Wonderful design
  • Sapphire crystal

-CONS

  • 100M WR only
The Basics:

Brand: Marathon 

Model:  Search & Rescue Medium Divers

Price: $960

Reference Number: WW194026 

Diameter: 36mm

Case Material: Stainless Steel 

Crystal Material: Sapphire

Water Resistance: 100m

Strap/Bracelet: Stainless Steel

Strap/Bracelet Width: 18mm

The Movement/Specifications:

Watch Type: Dive

Movement: Swiss Automatic

Functions/Complications: Date

Thickness: 13mm

Key Features:

Brand: Marathon 

Model:  Search & Rescue Medium Divers

Price: $960

Reference Number: WW194026 

Diameter: 36mm

Case Material: Stainless Steel 

Crystal Material: Sapphire

Water Resistance: 100m

Strap/Bracelet: Stainless Steel

Strap/Bracelet Width: 18mm

3 3. Vostok-Europe Lunokhod-2

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Vostok Europe is the Lithuanian arm of the famous Russian watchmaker, Vostok. The eastern european collaboration produces some of the largest, toughest, and most rugged watches available on the market. Among these rugged watches include the 49mm Lunokhod-2, a stainless steel chronograph dive watch. It’s a beautifully designed Rusian diver chronograph that would fit in quite well in a Russian nuclear submarine. It has a strong 300M water resistance, a quartz movement, and tritium watch coated subdials.

+PROS

  • 49mm diameter
  • Tritium coated subdials
  • 300M WR

-CONS

  • Pricey
The Basics:

Brand: Vostok-Europe

Model:  Lunokhod-2

Price: $852.40

Reference Number:  6S30/6204212

Diameter: 49mm

Case Material: Stainless Steel

Crystal Material: Hardened K-1 Crystal

Water Resistance: 300m

Strap/Bracelet: Leather

Strap/Bracelet Width: 25mm

The Movement/Specifications:

Watch Type: Dive Chronograph

Movement: Quartz

Functions/Complications: Date, Chronograph

Thickness: 17mm

Key Features:

Brand: Vostok-Europe

Model:  Lunokhod-2

Price: $852.40

Reference Number:  6S30/6204212

Diameter: 49mm

Case Material: Stainless Steel

Crystal Material: Hardened K-1 Crystal

Water Resistance: 300m

Strap/Bracelet: Leather

Strap/Bracelet Width: 25mm

4 4. Traser P59 Aurora GMT H3

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Established in 1989, Traser is another brand relatively new to most of the watches on this list but can boast that their parent company, mb-microtec, developed the world’s first self-illuminating Tritium filled tubes. The first Traser Swiss Made military watch was even supplied to the US Army. The P59 uses a Swiss Quartz movement in order to power a GMT complication. The stainless steel case, sapphire crystal, and 100M water resistance make it a formidable enough Tritium watch for outdoor activities.

+PROS

  • GMT Complication
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • Bright lume

-CONS

  • 100M WR Only
The Basics:

Brand: Traser

Model: P59 Aurora GMT H3

Price: $531.26

Reference Number:  107232

Diameter: 42mm

Case Material: Stainless Steel

Crystal Material: Sapphire

Water Resistance: 100m

Strap/Bracelet: Stainless Steel

Strap/Bracelet Width: 22m

The Movement/Specifications:

Watch Type: Field 

Movement: Swiss Quartz

Functions/Complications:  GMT, Date

Thickness: 10mm

Weight: 154g

Key Features:

Brand: Traser

Model: P59 Aurora GMT H3

Price: $531.26

Reference Number:  107232

Diameter: 42mm

Case Material: Stainless Steel

Crystal Material: Sapphire

Water Resistance: 100m

Strap/Bracelet: Stainless Steel

Strap/Bracelet Width: 22m

5 5. Seiko Prospex SNE441

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True to the Seiko brand, Seiko’s Prospex SNE441 is an affordable, very high-quality tritium watch. It is powered by a Solar Quartz movement with a 10-month power reserve once fully charged. The Prospex SNE441 is a straight forward 44mm dive watch that looks like the classic Seiko SKX007 diver line, but sets itself apart with its powerful movement and tritium lume. 

+PROS

  • Very thin case
  • Solar Quartz Movement
  • 200M WR

-CONS

  • Limited functionality
The Basics:

Brand: Seiko

Model:  Prospex

Price: $281.45

Reference Number: SNE441  

Diameter: 44mm

Case Material: Stainless Steel

Crystal Material: Hardlex 

Water Resistance: 200m

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Strap/Bracelet Width: 20mm

The Movement/Specifications:

Watch Type: Dive 

Movement: Solar Quartz

Functions/Complications: Date

Thickness: 12mm

Key Features:

Brand: Seiko

Model:  Prospex

Price: $281.45

Reference Number: SNE441  

Diameter: 44mm

Case Material: Stainless Steel

Crystal Material: Hardlex 

Water Resistance: 200m

Strap/Bracelet: Silicone

Strap/Bracelet Width: 20mm

6 6. Isobrite Thin Blue Line Mid-Size Limited Edition

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The Isobrite Thin Blue Line is a watch created by American watchmaker, Armourlite Watch Company. Established in 2007, Armourlite is a relative infant in the watch trade, and was founded on the premise that there is a need for an all-purpose tritium illuminated watch. The Isobrite Thin Blue Line uses a Swiss Quartz movement housed in a tough carbon fiber reinforced polycarbonate and a scratch resistant sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating. 

+PROS

  • Carbon fiber reinforced polycarbonate case
  • Sapphire Crystal with anti-reflective coating

-CONS

  • Pricey for the limited functionality
The Basics:

Brand: Isobrite

Model:  Thin Blue Line Mid-Size Limited Edition 

Price: $495

Reference Number: Iso3006

Diameter: 39.5

Case Material: Carbon fiber reinforced polycarbonate 

Crystal Material: Sapphire

Water Resistance: 200m

Strap/Bracelet: Rubber 

Strap/Bracelet Width: 20mm

The Movement/Specifications:

Watch Type: Dive

Movement: Swiss Quartz

Functions/Complications: Date

Thickness: 12mm

Weight: 85g

Key Features:

Brand: Isobrite

Model:  Thin Blue Line Mid-Size Limited Edition 

Price: $495

Reference Number: Iso3006

Diameter: 39.5

Case Material: Carbon fiber reinforced polycarbonate 

Crystal Material: Sapphire

Water Resistance: 200m

Strap/Bracelet: Rubber 

Strap/Bracelet Width: 20mm

7 7. Tissot PRS516

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Tissot is one of the most famous Swiss watch companies and needs no lengthy introduction to prove its seal of quality. The PRS516 is their tritium illuminated offering. It is powered by a Swiss Automatic movement and is encased in stainless steel and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. The PRS516 is a simple and sleek dive watch with its black dial and bezel, but its calf-skin leather strap gives it an appearance elegant enough for it to work on dressier occasions.

+PROS

  • Elegant Design
  • Relatively affordable
  • Swiss automatic

-CONS

  • Low 100M water resistance for a dive watch
The Basics:

Brand: Tissot

Model:  PRS516

Price: $351

Reference Number: T1004301605100

Diameter: 42mm

Case Material: Stainless Steel

Crystal Material: Sapphire

Water Resistance: 100m

Strap/Bracelet: Leather

Strap/Bracelet Width: 20mm

The Movement/Specifications:

Watch Type: Dive

Movement: Swiss Automatic

Functions/Complications: Day, Date

Thickness: 12mm

Weight: 102g

Key Features:

Brand: Tissot

Model:  PRS516

Price: $351

Reference Number: T1004301605100

Diameter: 42mm

Case Material: Stainless Steel

Crystal Material: Sapphire

Water Resistance: 100m

Strap/Bracelet: Leather

Strap/Bracelet Width: 20mm

Key Features to Consider In Buying a Tritium Watch

In this guide, we compared the best tritium watch options in terms of luminosity, functionality and design, and durability.

 

  • Luminosity is our first and foremost factor in choosing the best tritium watches. Tritium in essence is an illuminating substance and watches must first showcase excellent luminosity in order for it to be worth the money at all. Otherwise there are plenty of other watch options a connoisseur could buy.

 

  • Functionality and design are the next criteria considered for this list. These criteria are inevitable as they are the prime factors in choosing any watch and they are the clearest defining factors between an average, pedestrian watch from a good timepiece. Also, functionality and design dictate the occasions for which a watch is useful and fashionable to wear.

 

  • Durability is the factor that defines a good watch from an excellent watch worth every penny. A watch can be interesting and useful, but without durability, a watch will be doomed to far-too-consistent repair runs or even a short overall useful life. Tritium watches are usually for outdoor purposes too, so low-quality watches won’t survive long enough to accompany its wearer in his adventures.

Are tritium watches worth it?

The value of tritium watches is measured by one’s need for them. Tritium illuminated watches are functional in essence as they are used primarily for activities in low-light conditions. They stay illuminated even without a pre-existing light source. Tritium, however, costs some money to include in a watch as it is not chemical one can easily obtain anywhere. 

Are there other ways watches are illuminated?

Tritium is an example of radioluminescence or illumination via the use of radioactive paint. Other examples of radioluminescence include promethium and radium. Another kind of illumination is Luminova which uses strontium aluminate to act as a “light bank” which is charged by exposure to other forms of light in order to glow in the dark. This is unlike radioluminescent paint which is perpetually glowing even without another light source. The only advantage of Luminova is that it glows in different shades of blue or green, and that it lasts way longer than radioluminescent paint which decays eventually.

Are tritium watches safe to wear?

Yes. Tritium paint was used to replace the more dangerous gamma ray radioactive Radium. Tritium releases beta particle radiation which does not penetrate human skin making external exposure safe.