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Hey y'all,
First timer here. I came across a new (to me) piece this weekend and bought it. I then decided to do research. May have been a backwards approach. Anyway-

I have read about the use of radium in watches and am now curious about a couple things:
1. What watch is this?
2. How does one get a look at the movement when the back plate is worn smooth?
3. Should I bother opening it up if radium is dangerous? I'm a millennial. I didn't grow up in the 50s-70s where talk of nuclear war was matched with a radium safety unit in high school.

Anyway, here's the watch and what I know about it. Timex 100 model in an aluminum case. Very lightweight. The dial has what I've been calling "atomic" symbols for numeral positions and teal colored dots as well as teal filled hour/minute hands. I believe these are radium filled due to burn marking around the center of the dial. The only thing I can see from the back of the watch is "Aluminum" stamped on there. It's been well-worn and if there was any doubt, aluminum is a soft metal - or a woman/man with shark skin was wearing this watch before me.

Any help would be appreciated. My safety and health could be depending on it. Thanks in advance for your kindness and patience with my potentially silly questions.
Matt

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Discussion Starter #2
Forgot to mention, in case it wasn't clear - it is a mechanical movement. As you can tell from the pics, it still ticks!
 

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From your pictures, that aren't good enough to enlarge, it looks like your watch might be a "front loader" which means you gain access to the movement from the front after the crystal and the stem are removed. That case appears to be in pretty bad shape.

Yes, radium is extremely dangerous...find a watchmaker with experience.
 

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Yeah, I would suspect that is radium judging from the burns to the dial. I don't think tritium leaves those types of burns owing to its short half life and absence of gamma particle emissions.

I wouldn't necessarily consider those markers to be "atomic symbols" which would look like this...

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Or this...

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I think the markers look more like the Star Fleet insignia from Star Trek, which may have been the look they were going for.

As for the watch itself, since it's a Timex and with a case in as such poor condition, I wouldn't mess with it, even if it didn't have radium markers and hands. Most watchmakers I know wouldn't even take it as a job since Timex movements are not very easily serviceable. They were really meant as disposable watches. If you have some sentimental attachment to it, then by all means, see what you can do for it - but otherwise, I would advise moving on and finding a better example that would be more suitable to restoration. Look for watches in quality cases and movements that have jeweled levers as they can be much more easily serviced and brought into top form.
 

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Just for my own clarification, I haven't seen radium paint done in that color before and always thought that the teal/green lume was a sign it was re-done with non-radium paint at some point in its history.

Was there radium paint in such colors?
 

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Just for my own clarification, I haven't seen radium paint done in that color before and always thought that the teal/green lume was a sign it was re-done with non-radium paint at some point in its history.

Was there radium paint in such colors?
It would be a first for me.

I was wondering the same thing.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
It would be a first for me.

I was wondering the same thing.
The only reason I believed that the hands were painted with radium is the burn marks around the center of the dial. If something else can cause that, by all means, let me know. I just don't know what else it would be.

Seems the jury is still out on radium burns vs. other reasons in other Watchuseek threads.
 

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The only reason I believed that the hands were painted with radium is the burn marks around the center of the dial. If something else can cause that, by all means, let me know. I just don't know what else it would be.

Seems the jury is still out on radium burns vs. other reasons in other Watchuseek threads.
Not arguing the radium burn diagnosis on this. Looks like it sat for a good long while on 10:05 until someone took it in to get the lume redone, perhaps.

In the off chance any residual radium dust remains on the movement, I'd avoid opening it unless necessary for repairs. My understanding is the worst thing one can do with radium is ingest it or breathe it in. There have been MANY threads on this in the past and just as many opinions.

I don't open my radium-dialed watches to enjoy the looks of the movement inside.
 

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The only reason I believed that the hands were painted with radium is the burn marks around the center of the dial. If something else can cause that, by all means, let me know. I just don't know what else it would be.

Seems the jury is still out on radium burns vs. other reasons in other Watchuseek threads.
It is more rare to see it in that color but I think that towards the end of its use, Radium was seen in the teal green variety. I know that Timex in particular did use radium. I've also seen radium often used by Wyler in this color as indicated by "Ra Swiss Ra" on the dial. The best way to have any type of certainty with this particular piece would be to test it with a Geiger counter. Those burns really look indicative of radium though, as I've never seen anything remotely like that on a tritium dial, but who knows, I haven't seen every watch in the world.
 

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I wanted to close the loop on this identification and determining if the hands were in fact radioactive or not... I ended up selling it in eBay, and the buyer saw this thread and shared her findings once she received it!


"Hi, I just happened to run across a thread on a watch forum that I believe you posted on, about this watch. I collect anything radioactive, from minerals, to watches & clocks and I took a reading of this on my Geiger counter and I'm sending you a picture. It is a radium watch and it's hot! I am new to watches and clocks, but have many minerals and antiques that are U or Ra based.Thanks so much for this watch! I'm a Star Trek fan as well."

Radioactivity Reading_Timex.jpeg
 

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What are the odds that a collector of radioactive items happened to buy this particular watch? Amazing.
 

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I can safely say to my knowledge, time new used radium paint.
I've got some great old pocket and wristwatches with radium hands and dial, none of the are the colour of your hands.
If in doubt, just bin the watch and proles solved.
there a great piece on th e Internet about the Radium girls if your interested, the dial is discoloured because of the quality of the watch , much like the case.
 

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How cool is that! A nice convergence. Plus, a Sci-Fi fan to boot
~D


I wanted to close the loop on this identification and determining if the hands were in fact radioactive or not... I ended up selling it in eBay, and the buyer saw this thread and shared her findings once she received it!


"Hi, I just happened to run across a thread on a watch forum that I believe you posted on, about this watch. I collect anything radioactive, from minerals, to watches & clocks and I took a reading of this on my Geiger counter and I'm sending you a picture. It is a radium watch and it's hot! I am new to watches and clocks, but have many minerals and antiques that are U or Ra based.Thanks so much for this watch! I'm a Star Trek fan as well."

View attachment 12426999
 

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Discussion Starter #14
What are the odds that a collector of radioactive items happened to buy this particular watch? Amazing.
It's the small interactions like this that make it clear we live in a very relatable world. You just need to take the time to show genuine interest in others!

These forums can be really great for that!
 
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