If you've ever been shopping for a watch, there's a good chance you've heard of "lume watches". Lume has been in the watch world for a long time. And while the glow-in-the-dark function of this watch type has largely stayed the same, the methods and materials that power it have evolved with time.

If you've ever wondered what lume watches are and how they work, you're in the right place. Keep reading to learn everything there is to know about lume in watches.

First, let's start with a basic overview and answer the question: what is lume that is used in watches?

What is "Lume" in Watches?

In the world of watches, "lume" is shorthand for the luminous phosphorescent glowing solution that is applied to watches to achieve that glow-in-the-dark effect.

This glowing solution is applied to various parts of watches including dials, indices and hands. The main reason that lume is applied to watches is to make the watch visible in the dark, but it also serves an aesthetic purpose.

Now that we have a basic understanding of what watch lume is, let's go into a quick history lesson.

The lume as featured on the limited edition Nixon Stinger 44The Limited Edition Nixon Stinger 44 and its lume dial

A Brief History of Lume Watches

The use of luminescent paint in watches started in the early 1900s.

During this period of human history, technological discoveries were occurring at a rapid rate. And those breakthroughs were being applied to improve everyday life.

One such discovery with a real world application was the glow emitted by radium paint and its ability to glow for over 1,600 years. Radium-based paint began to be used by watch manufacturers around 1908. In fact, in World War I, lume watches using radium paint were particularly useful for the military because they allowed soldiers to read time in darkness.

To learn more about the history of watches during war, read our post on What is a Field Watch.

Even though radium paint proved useful, it also proved deadly. Due to the radioactivity of the radium paint, women who worked in factories and applied the paint to watches suffered serious health problems as a result.

Eventually, in 1968, radium paint was outlawed.

In the 60s, watchmakers turned to promethium and tritium to make watches glow-in-the-dark.

Both of these elements were safer than radium, but they also had shorter lifespans. Promethium can only glow for 2.5 years before it begins to dim, and tritium for only 12-13 years.

And while each of these elements is safer than radium, neither is completely non-radioactive.

In 1993, strontium aluminate as a watch lume was invented by Kenzo Nemoto in Japan.

Finally, the world had a safe non-radioactive option for giving watch dials, hands and hour markers a luminescent glow.

Named "LumiNova", this version of watch lume doesn't decay during the life of a watch and is 10x brighter than traditional luminescence.

Today, in addition to LumiNova from Japan, "Super-LumiNova" is also featured in watches. Super-LumiNova is from the Swiss watch industry.

Before getting into some examples of this watch type, let's quickly go over how lume is generally used in watches today.

How is Lume Used in Watches Today?

Since being invented, LumiNova is now licensed by watch manufacturers around the globe for various proprietary versions. So, if your watch has a lume feature, it more than likely uses this technology.

Today, lume comes in a variety of brightness intensities and shades. The quality of the lume used in a watch will have an impact on the price of that watch, as you'd expect.

Fun Fact: Lume works by storing light energy when exposed to sources like sunlight. This exposure activates the electrons and creates a glow.

Colors that lume is applied to varies.

Green and blue are by far the most common because they are the easiest to work with and have the best brightness.

Other common colors for lume include:

  • Yellow
  • Purple
  • White
  • Red
  • Orange

The hardest color to use with lume is black. This is because when you mix luminescent pigment with black, you end up with a dark gray.

Getting a true black with lume is nearly impossible.

Finally, let's dive into some examples of watches with lume from the Nixon lineup.

3 Examples of Lume Watches from Nixon

Our collection of Nixon lume watches features a wide variety of styles from oversized dive watches to understated analogs. If you're shopping for "glowing watches", check out these three Nixon models.

Nixon Stinger 44 Dive Watch in Silver / Black / White
Nixon Stinger 44 in the dark showcasing the lume

Nixon Stinger 44

Nixon 51-30 Chrono Watch in Silver / Midnight
Nixon 51-30 Chrono in the dark showcasing the lume

Nixon 51-30 Chrono

Nixon Mullet Watch in Black / Black
Nixon Mullet Watch in the dark showcasing the lume

Nixon Mullet

Lume Watches in Conclusion

When lume is added to the parts of a watch, it provides a glow-in-the-dark function that adds to the usefulness (and value) of a watch. From watch dials to indices, lume can be applied in a wide array of places on a watch. And the lume might come in a variety of different colors.

If you're interested in shopping for a watch with lume, check out this Nixon collection of luminescent watches.