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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I thought I would share my research and thought on 're-lumed' early Radium Trench Watches. We see thousands of these now a days with a thick green material covering the , what was a lovely dial.

I am now quite sure the Radium material originally applied was a grayish white - I can prove this later.

In time that 'radium' does either two things:
1) Turns to a lovely rusty reddish orange - the patina color is magnificent (see first watch LHS below)
2) Crumbles away (like in the hands of the first piece) or is completely removes as can be seen on the second piece from LHS.

Now the disaster happens. Jewelers and Re-Lumers had never seen an original radium applied dial from 1918s. But they saw the adverts that it glowed BRIGHT GREEN. So that is what they applied.
In watch 4, we can see this on the hands a horrible dark green, by picture 4 it seems a bit better but still re-lumed



Here is another example of an original aged Radium dial from 1915


Here is my 1917 Patria - same as first pictures - SURELY re-lumed! Say picture 3?


Now we see a modern disaster, which is becoming the typical normal for Trench Watches:


Of course re-lumers can make it any color, I see white, but its too clean and bright white, I believe the original radium applied was a grayish white.

Thoughts?
 

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These 'modern disasters' are very sad. They look messy and rushed; though I do appreciate that the lume would be extremely difficult to apply.

My opinion is that these watches do look excellent with the lume removed (like in some of the first picture), unless the original orange/brown lume is still mostly covering the numerals, in which case I would leave it as it is.

I know this is probably not 'true' to the watches history/heritage to have the lume missing, but it is something which does not bother me at all.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I dont mind them without the lume, but if I was adding lume then an aged look suits it better.
ABSOLUTELY BUT VERY DIFFICULT TO BOTH MATCH AND DO. BUT certainly not green, it should glow green.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
That does look very correct, good job
thanks for posting
a
 

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Just straight out of the bottle.;-)
 

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Great topic! As James Bond once said, "as long as the cuffs and collar match". Nothing more off-putting than mismatched color between the dial and hands. I love the look of aged radium which really adds a pop of color. Besides, a vintage watch should look its age. Many are offered with the radium material cleaned off, which doesn't look right IMHO but understandable if the material is flaking or there are real health concerns. I've yet to hear of any tests on residual radioactivity, has anyone?

CofE pair 013 small.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #10
No I have not. Those are two outstanding examples of correct ageing. That color is just magnificent.

Thanks for posting
a
 

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Adam, it seems apparent that the radium was originally applied with a stencil or some other mechanical means. Have you heard any details on this process?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Adam, it seems apparent that the radium was originally applied with a stencil or some other mechanical means. Have you heard any details on this process?
Only a little. but I will study it. We have a book here called the Radium girls.
They died licking the paint brushes (with radium on it)

I do have a USA patent for how to apply radium on skeleton hands, will post that too.

regards
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Here is a lovely original dial.
Watch is mine a 1920s Gallet with very early shock protection and waterproof.

Original lumed dial and hands , aged perfectly.



 

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Discussion Starter #14
Adam, it seems apparent that the radium was originally applied with a stencil or some other mechanical means. Have you heard any details on this process?
As I thought, it was applied purely with tiny paint brushes, which the girls licked to get a fine point.

I have a video to watch too.
Two excellent books here on the story.
a
 

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Great topic! As James Bond once said, "as long as the cuffs and collar match". Nothing more off-putting than mismatched color between the dial and hands. I love the look of aged radium which really adds a pop of color. Besides, a vintage watch should look its age. Many are offered with the radium material cleaned off, which doesn't look right IMHO but understandable if the material is flaking or there are real health concerns. I've yet to hear of any tests on residual radioactivity, has anyone?
Interesting topic Adam, thanks for kicking it off.

You might want to check out my page at Radioactive paint on luminous dials of vintage watches where I discuss my experience with a Longines watch with only small amounts of radium paint on the dial. I was quite surprised by what I measured.

If you want my two-penneth, I think that radium paint should be removed for the safety of future generations. You never know whether a curious grandson will one day open up grandad's watch and start licking the dial or sniffing up the dust of the old paint. I think it should be replaced by modern luminous paint that looks as near as possible the same colour and texture as the original, it is easy then to tell that the paint has been changed because of the characteristics of light charged paint, the way it glows brightly then quickly fades. Replacing old radium paint (that no longer glows because the fluorescent compound has burned out) with non-glowing paint doesn't provide this easy way to tell that the radium has been removed. And it doesn't glow in the dark!

Kind regards - David
 

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Thanks for posting this link David...your test results are most enlightening! Did you happen to test how quickly the radiation diminished as you moved the watch away from the detector? In other words, is there a "safe" distance? That would be relevant for those who store or display these types of watches rather than wear them. Personally, I'd have trouble cleaning off a pristine and original radium dial and would rather minimize handling and find a storage or display solution.

Speaking of aesthetic considerations; the New York boutique edition of VC's retro-style American 1921 watch has a faux-radium dial that doesn't actually glow in the dark; its non-luminous paint :-(

82035-000J-9717_RV.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #17
Thanksc all your inputs

Here is mine, an original 1918 Elgin , pretty rare.
The original Vacheron was launched 1919 and had two variations:
1) Crown at 1.30
2 crown at 11.30

cool



 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
Interesting topic Adam, thanks for kicking it off.

You might want to check out my page at Radioactive paint on luminous dials of vintage watches where I discuss my experience with a Longines watch with only small amounts of radium paint on the dial. I was quite surprised by what I measured.

If you want my two-penneth, I think that radium paint should be removed for the safety of future generations. You never know whether a curious grandson will one day open up grandad's watch and start licking the dial or sniffing up the dust of the old paint. I think it should be replaced by modern luminous paint that looks as near as possible the same colour and texture as the original, it is easy then to tell that the paint has been changed because of the characteristics of light charged paint, the way it glows brightly then quickly fades. Replacing old radium paint (that no longer glows because the fluorescent compound has burned out) with non-glowing paint doesn't provide this easy way to tell that the radium has been removed. And it doesn't glow in the dark!

Kind regards - David
Dear David
Thanks your link. I had not noticed (read) that page of your web site. another outstanding job

It is worth mentioning that the British Museum is forbidden from displaying watches with Radium!!

Regards
 

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I've yet to hear of any tests on residual radioactivity, has anyone?
I'm sure you are aware that radium and the amount of radiation coming from the lume has been discussed ad nauseum on this forum and others. I've tried to add to the conversation (LINK) with some solid data on the sources (i.e., which specific isotopes) and the amounts of radiation. Is there residual on a dial that has been relumed? Yes. Can I show you anything? No. I did my second test using a high-end portable gamma counter to look at the radiation amount, it was above back ground but well below what it was with the intact lume. I didn't keep the data. This residual is likely due to some remaining radium lume on the dial.

As to kids licking the dial... aside from my initial thought of bad parenting or possibly Darwinism at work, I think working on a large number of radium dialed watches with small kids in the house could be more of a hazard to them. You will generate small amounts of dust loose in the air just by opening them. This is part of why I limit the number of radium watches in the house. I also don't let the 4-yo in the work area. Then again I live on the north side of the Denver metro area where Rocky-Flats "lost" ~1000 lbs of plutonium over the ~50 years of operation: LINK. So, it might be a moot point here.

More specifically on the topic of the OP's intent behind this thread, I'd like to add that as watches this old, ie., 1910s to 1930s, these went in for service. This is a time period were most watch makers had their own pot of luminescence paint. Presumably, the lume on these was getting replaced by the watchmakers. As it has been pointed out it wasn't the radiation source, it was the phosphor material that 'wore-out' with time. The emissions from the material would be diminished normally in 10 years or so. Lume would get scraped off, and new applied. Though some people have posted watches boasting of original and glowing lume. I'm however, skeptical of these until I see one in person. I digress (again)... I like the aged lume look and have been trying to find a material that looks good. Marrick's post is exactly what I'd like and it glows in the dark too. I would use this to restore hands and dials. I have sent several dials to International for reluming as they can remove the radium lume and apply new photo-luminescent material without altering the rest of the dial. They have done a good job on this aspect for me but the new lume is often bright white.
 

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Just threw out a (quite worthless) watch after reading all this.

Definitely worth bearing the radiation issue in mind as I continue to obsess over early military watches. Especially with a two-year-old in the house, and me working on watches at a small table in the bedroom.
 
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