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Desc:In 1936, Officine Panerai and Rolex teamed up to make a glowing watch for the Italian Royal Navy.
Category:Science & Technology, Military
Tags:Rolex, 1936, radioactive, safety hazard, horology
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Comment count is 7
cognitivedissonance - 2017-12-31
The Watchfinder General OR: The Conq’ring Wyrm
sasazuka - 2017-12-31
Just the Youtube preview shot alone tells part of the story, both those watches started out looking identical, the one on the right had ionizing gamma rays from the radium bleach the black dial face, the one on the left was made a few years later, after they realized that radium was deadly, especially to the women tasked with painting the dials and watch hands, and replaced it with a non-ionizing (but still radioactive) glow-in-the-dark paint similar (identical maybe? not sure) to the ones used on watch dials today.
sasazuka - 2017-12-31
I think the answer to another obvious question is, "I don't think you're going to get cancer from handling this watch for a few minutes to make a Youtube video, but you wouldn't want to wear it."

memedumpster - 2018-01-01
What was the name of the documentary about the watch makers? Radium Town? It was amazing, whatever it was called.

Didn't indiglo replace glow in the dark watch hands?

The Mothership - 2018-01-01
The watches pictured here are modern, not vintage, they are made to look like a 1936 original. Vintage inspired watches are very in right now.

sasazuka - 2018-01-01
Re-watching it, you're right, even the one with the faded watchface is only a replica of what a gamma ray-faded watchface would look like. I suppose a legit 1936 radium watch probably isn't something you'd want to handle without at least thick gloves on.

It's still an interesting and tragic story, though.

sasazuka - 2018-01-01
Memedumpster: The name of the documentary you mentioned appears to be "Radium City" from 1987.

I was surprised to find out that radium was still used in watches (in small amounts mixed with Zinc) until around 1960, though most mid-century glow-in-the-dark watches used promethium and then tritium, relatively benign beta wave emitters (with tritium being safer than promethium). Most modern glow-in-the-dark watches use phosphorous paint, which doesn't emit any kind of ionizing radiation but the drawback is that you have to charge it in light, though some watches intended for military or diving uses still use tritium to this day for more permanent illumination.


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