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Old 7 April 2010, 08:52 AM   #1
mike
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Tritium lume markers-CREDIT JEDLY1

before it gets lost in the bevel thread..and it is another thing that quite a few myths exist around. to summarise the discussion to date from years of study and debate over on VRF and elsewhere... a quick précis.

On Rolex watches tritium was introduced as a safe alternative to the previously used radium circa 1962, and is most commonly identified on the dial with swiss < 25t until it was discarded for the safer luminova in the 90's - i wont digress into the whole underline thing.

Although we simply call it tritium it is actually a compound containing a phosphorous substance and within that overall compound there is some tritium which acts as the power source for the phosphorous material ((like the battery).

From the introduction onwards it appears that various different 'recipes' were used for this compound, as well as different physical applications to the dial.

If you line up a whole load of watches in consectutive years you can actually see the pattern of how these mixtures/applications changed, even more so if you use an ultraviolet loupe and can see the make up of the marker and its response to light.

what you tend to see - not as an exact science :

1. up until about 64/5/6. the gilt dials... markers tend to be quite domed and textured in their appearance and when exposed to a strong light source the luminous material will glow green for a short time. Put a UV loupe on them and it is a uniform green finish.

2. 67/68 first of the matt dials.. this seems to have been a cross over period in the manufacturing approach, two extremes along side.. very domed markers like half maltesers for those who know what they are, glow green for a short time if exposed to a strong light source. I guess this is why there are often so many posts requersting opinion from watches in this period as they seemt o create the most confusion.

OR

very flat very thin layer completely dead to light exposure.

3. 68-74/5 - greatly reduced amount of compound applied ,flatish application of the mixture nearly always dead to any light stimulation. you get used to see-ing how the application was made on different models in this time period, some with a very weaved texture., some dead flat. Usually greenish/bluish crystals present as the only glow under a UV loupe. tends to yellow over time.

4. mid 70's back to a more textured appearance with a bit more dome to the markers, often orangey crystals are the only things stimulated as visible under UV loupe. Does not tend to respond to light stimulous but there appears to be some small amount of power left in the tritium and often in a dark room in the middle of the night the markers/hands can be read/seen. Examples often tends to orange/brown as well as just yellow as they age.

5. early 80's - new mix again flat, glossier, no repsonse to light stimulous but often some power left in the tritium that will give some luninous in darkened conditions once the eyes have become accustomed.


thats pretty much where we leave vintage.


the tricky bit is the 60's stuff that still glows green, if you pick up a watch and it does , then it doesnt neccessarily mean its relumed, neither does it mean its OK, the relume question tends to be the trickiest (unless its just a crap job of physical application), is often virtually impossible to address over the net, and even in hand can leave a room split down the middle.

what we do know for the late 60's/70/870's stuff is that it appears from all the long term stored examples discussed, is that left to its own devices the tritium based compound will age, and gain patina. From what we have seen and a few experiments conducted we see that light has a bleaching effect on the mixture which slows the development of patina and keeps it light.

the tricky bit with this is that the mixture can also gain patina through moisture ingress ( especially for example in a humid climate). The trick here is to look for any other seconday signs of mositure.. staining, corrosion etc ..

Ok, not an authorative guide, and off course there will be examples that maybe buck this, it is after all Rolex.
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Old 26 April 2010, 06:50 AM   #2
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already noted in my book

many thanks for the GREAT INFO

bests,
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Old 20 July 2010, 01:03 AM   #3
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Newbie first question,
Would say a 96 GMT be the older tritium or luminova dial?

EDIT: just checked and it has "Swiss-T< 25" so I guess that would be a yes!
must read posts more slowly.

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Old 24 July 2010, 10:19 PM   #4
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Great info!

Awesome info Mike! I am sure that that has been a topic of discussion both on and off TRF for quite some time. I know I have been wondering that for a while now. I have other tritium pieces and my Prez does not glow nearly as bright as them; now I know why.
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Old 26 July 2010, 05:45 AM   #5
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Why doesn't Rolex put trititum hands and markers on all their watches?
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Old 11 November 2012, 12:29 AM   #6
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Great info thanks
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Old 11 December 2012, 04:14 PM   #7
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Very interesting reading...thanks for posting.
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Old 19 January 2013, 09:54 AM   #8
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What color is the lume on the "hulk" sub suposed to be? Green(old style) or new blue style
color??

Thx
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Old 28 February 2013, 02:15 PM   #9
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Markings Information:

"T SWISS MADE T" indicates that the radioactive material Tritium is present on the wristwatch. The amount of radioactive material emitted is a maximum of 25 milliCurie.

"SWISS T < 25" more specifically indicates that the wristwatch emits an amount of Tritium that is less than the 25 milliCurie limit.

"SWISS T 25" indicates that the wristwatch emits the maximum allowable amount of Tritium at a full 25 milliCurie.

"Swiss" and "Swiss Made" are now used for Luminova, but were previously used for Radium dials prior to ~1960
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Old 19 January 2014, 12:11 AM   #10
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How come tritium paint is still available.Opps...not the nanny state just Rolex decision I guess.TE]
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Old 19 January 2014, 12:42 AM   #11
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i love the knowledge and the detail on this site is amazing ,, great info , interesting read too.
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Old 21 July 2014, 04:31 AM   #12
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Great read- vey informative and much appreciated!
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Old 24 October 2014, 03:07 PM   #13
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Excellent reference on Rolex watches and some history. thanks!!
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Old 19 February 2015, 12:48 PM   #14
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I have a 95 GMT. It doesn't glow in the dark anymore. Is there a way to revive the glow? Mine says Swiss T <25
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Old 20 February 2015, 12:56 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jkyrolex View Post
I have a 95 GMT. It doesn't glow in the dark anymore. Is there a way to revive the glow? Mine says Swiss T <25
You can get a Service luminova dial.
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Old 21 February 2015, 10:47 PM   #16
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You can get a Service luminova dial.
Does that devalue the watch?
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Old 23 February 2015, 01:52 PM   #17
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Does that devalue the watch?
To a collector...Yes.
To others wanting luminova on the dial/hands, maybe not so much.
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Old 19 April 2015, 03:15 AM   #18
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this is my first post.

many thanks for this great info
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Old 3 June 2015, 08:41 AM   #19
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Recently picked up an early 90s 16570 that shows no apparent lume on the markers. The markers appear super clean and just very slightly off white. Under a UV flashlight, I can see some small bits of glowing residue on a few of the markers. The dial also shows the period expected T<25. Am I safe to assume this is an all original dial whose tritium markers have just worn out completely?
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Old 8 August 2015, 04:41 AM   #20
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Mike, thanks for the great article, myself being new to vintage watches found it highly informative. I came into a 1967, 5513, 1,73x,xxx ser.# a few month back, I have left it in the bright sun for an hour, brought it into to a dark room, but no glow. The other night the I had a LED flash light shining on it and got the green glow , was very bright for about 2 minutes, and slowly faded.

SAM_0527.jpg
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Old 10 August 2015, 08:32 PM   #21
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Hi, welcome to this forum site . I think you should ask for this query to the expert .I apologize that I can't help for your problem
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Old 23 August 2015, 09:58 AM   #22
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5513 1967 tritium

Quote:
Originally Posted by R-H View Post
Mike, thanks for the great article, myself being new to vintage watches found it highly informative. I came into a 1967, 5513, 1,73x,xxx ser.# a few month back, I have left it in the bright sun for an hour, brought it into to a dark room, but no glow. The other night the I had a LED flash light shining on it and got the green glow , was very bright for about 2 minutes, and slowly faded.

Attachment 647879
Hey Robert,
did you find out any information about you dial. I'm looking at buying the same year Sub for myself and it seems to exhibit the same glow only to artificial light.

Cheers, Lou
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Old 15 October 2015, 11:27 AM   #23
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Icon14

Wow, that is some great info. I think the fact that it was written 10 years a go, makes even cooler!

Anyway, my question is towards the late 60s models. I recently saw a GMT that the color in the markers had a bit of white in one of the markers. Is this normal??

This is marked as just Swiss, and is an "exclamation point" dial.

Thanks
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Old 8 August 2016, 08:38 AM   #24
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great information mate
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Old 8 August 2016, 08:49 AM   #25
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Great stuff here. Thanks for the excellent summary!
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Old 27 October 2016, 05:14 AM   #26
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good job
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Old 11 March 2017, 09:54 AM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R-H View Post
Mike, thanks for the great article, myself being new to vintage watches found it highly informative. I came into a 1967, 5513, 1,73x,xxx ser.# a few month back, I have left it in the bright sun for an hour, brought it into to a dark room, but no glow. The other night the I had a LED flash light shining on it and got the green glow , was very bright for about 2 minutes, and slowly faded.

Attachment 647879
Not bad!! I'm wondering if I have a tritium dial with Luminova hands
Attached Images
File Type: jpg tritium luminova.jpg (45.5 KB, 770 views)
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Old 23 June 2017, 05:27 AM   #28
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Wow, that is some great info. I think the fact that it was written 10 years a go, makes even cooler!

Anyway, my question is towards the late 60s models. I recently saw a GMT that the color in the markers had a bit of white in one of the markers. Is this normal??

This is marked as just Swiss, and is an "exclamation point" dial.
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Old 13 July 2017, 08:21 AM   #29
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Tritium

Thanks for the reminder. Read up on this a while back and forgot that I forgot. Ive been buying newer models so that info was shelved but I agree its important to remember (at least some of it), so I'll work on my memory. Thanks for taking the time to post that.
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Old 24 October 2017, 12:33 AM   #30
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Thank you, very helpful info as I am just getting into my Rolex History
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