Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Tritium Watch Guide

I love technology and what better way to express my gratitude for technology than to be able to own a piece of it. My latest craving or craze has been for tritium based watches. The all mystical, glow-in-the-dark luminous watches.

In this review, we are going to embark on the following topics to get the basic understanding of a tritium based watch and perhaps, help you make a decision in owning one.

1)      Understand tritium without the chemistry.

2)      Producers of tritium - for watches.

3)      A list of watches that have tritium tubes (vials).

4)      My choice of tritium watches.

5)      Authorised dealers / stores and my experience.

1) Understand tritium without the chemistry
Tritium is a radioactive gas. There are 2 designations (labels) that are being used on watches these days, the T25 and the T100 (T). The T100 which is also simply known as “T”, is said to glow much brighter than T25. At least, that is what some people think but in my personal view, I see little or no difference between the two. Most commonly used is the T25 designation on majority of the tritium based watches. The T25 or T100 (T) designation (label) is clearly marked on the watch itself. Neither are considered to be harmful. These levels won’t cause any radiation or health risk and it is heavily regulated by the countries where it is produced. On the other hand, it is always good to check the source, country of origin and the production facility where the tritium is produced. For more information on the producers of tritium, please see topic #2.

In a "technical" nutshell, T25 means the watch has between 1 and 25 millicuries (mCi) of radioactive tritium and T100 (or T) has between 26 and 100 millicuries. The mineral glass tube or vial is coated with a phosphorescent paint (zinc sulfide) in the color of choice. Tritium gas is then introduced into the tube which is then sealed. As tritium decays, its electrons excite the zinc sulfide coating thus, producing a constant glow / light that doesn't require any battery source or ambient light to charge. The glow and some may call it decay, happens immediately once these tubes / vials are sealed. So the light in these tubes (vials) are said to have a conservative shelf-life of 12 years and 25 full years as advertised by many commercial tritium producers and watch manufacturers. In other words, after 12 years the brightness of these tubes will start to fade and I’ll be damned, if you do not change your watch in the next 12 years!

2) Producers of tritium - for watches.
Basically, there are 2 producers at the moment in the market who use tritium for commercial purpose. 3 producers, if you count rumours too. The most well respected or rather the pioneer in tritium production for watches is mb-microtec ag. The rest are listed below.

a) mb-microtec ag
mb-microtec ag is based in Switzerland and is said to have the best tritium tubes (vials) available out there compared to any other. Watch manufacturers that use tubes from this company proudly, engrave mb-microtec seal onto the watches itself. In a way, the seal represents trustworthy and good quality tubes inside.

b) SRB Technologies Inc.
SRB Technologies Inc. is based in Canada. There are watch companies that buy tritium from them but strangely enough, these watch companies never disclose the source of the tubes as being from SRB Tech. Inc. even when you inquire. I suppose, this could be attributed to the trouble it got into with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Tritium Awareness Project (TAP) some time back for its manufacturing facility in Pembroke Ontario, Canada. The site had its worst environmental tritium contamination in Canada owing to the SRB’s past activities. But that was in the past; and at present, they are operating within the CNSC’s guidelines and their license to operate is still valid. Aside from the past troubles, the word is that tritium tubes by SRB are cheaper to acquire but are not as bright as the ones from mb-microtec.

c) Rumoured, China based company.
Rumour has it that there is a third company out there producing tritium and supplying to watch manufacturers. This tritium producing company is supposedly, based in China. Now how far that rumour is true, simply beats me but the word has been spreading around within many forums and among the tritium watch enthusiast about this "phantom" company. For all you know, this rumour may be nothing more than gas in its purest form but again; what isn't made in China these days?  ;-P

3) A list of watches that have tritium tubes (vials).
This list provides a rough guide to the many different watch brands that are available with tritium technology. There may be more of such brands and models in the market but this list summarizes the mainstream in tritium based watches. Each brand on the list has been linked to the respective manufacturer's website. If you encounter a broken web-link then try to do a Google or check on eBay for some of these listings.

Brand
Tritium Source
Unknown
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
Unknown
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
Not all mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
Unknown
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
mb-microtec ag (trigalight)
Unknown
Unknown

4) My choice of tritium watches.
I am sure one can be totally spoilt for choice especially, when you are greeted with so many different brands and models. But how do you single out the right one for yourself? Well, it is quite simple actually. JUST ASK YOURSELF WHAT YOU WANT??

I shortlisted 3 brands and 5 models from the above list based on what I was looking for in a tritium based watch –

a) Traser H3 Black Storm Pro P6405 (Rubber Strap)
b) Traser H3 Black Storm Pro P6405 (PVD Stainless-Steel Strap)
c) Luminox 3402 (PVD Stainless-Steel Strap)
d) Luminox 3152 (Stainless-Steel Strap)
e) Firemark F1094 (Stainless-Steel Strap)
Note: Some of the designs may look identical because traser also sells its watches as “private label” to other watch companies therefore, everything is traser except the logo and engraving.

And this is what I wanted in a tritium watch -

1)      It had to be not more than $350 for a tritium watch.

2)      I wasn’t looking for a dress watch so I went for a more rugged, tactical look.

3)      I wanted good quality tritium by mb-microtec and majority of the tubes had to be green in colour. Green coloured tritium emits a more favorable wavelength for our eyes to see thus, we perceive this colour to be much brighter. Also, this conclusion is based on my observation which held true when I compared it with other colours. See graph below on the “brightness yield level”.


4)      I wanted a watch to last so its case had to be made of steel and not the so-called “durable” material, Carbon Reinforced Polycarbonate (CRPC). CRPC in my humble opinion is rather flimsy. My friend broke his brand new Luminox 3001 within a week after the purchase. All he did was stretch and one of the pin came loose from the lug. When he tried to fix it he realised the lug was cracked. To have it repaired, a whopping $130 to change the whole casing. You can buy a brand new watch at $200! So, the moral of the story, I stood far and clear from CRPC. Food for thought, the difference in price between a CRPC and Steel made watch is about $150 or less.

5)      I wanted the glass to be sapphire crystal and not the usual mineral crystal which gets scratched easily.

6)      The crown had to be screwed-on to maintain a good and tight water resistance.

7)      Case back, you’ve guessed it. Screwed-on too for the same reason as #6. Not the type that has 4 little screws on the back.

8)      Colour of the watch case, wasn’t that particular either PVD coated black stainless-steel or silver stainless-steel.

9)      Steel 60-minute diver bezel, 24hr markings on the dial, date function and perhaps; as a bonus a different coloured second hand.

10)   Strap, did not really matter as I can change that myself.
  
And my final pick, Traser Black Storm Pro P6504 (Rubber Strap). It basically met all of the above criteria except one - the bezel wasn’t made of steel but CRPC. Well, 9 out of 10 is very good as I couldn’t find any watch that met all 10.

5) Authorised dealers / stores and my experience.
Choosing a right store to buy your watch or merchandise from can make a huge difference too. Some stores can be a blessing while others, a painful experience. Bear in mind, all customer experiences are not equal. The check list below will provide you with some pointers on making that informed decision for your next purchase. Especially, if it is online.

a)     Look out for the feedback / ratings if these stores operate via eBay or other such portals. Do take note, 100% good ratings doesn’t necessarily mean good product or service as I will go on to explain that below.

b)      Look at the number of successful similar transactions the seller has conducted. Although, this point can be subjective too but it is definitely a check in the right direction.

c)      Read about the seller on different forums and ask around for opinions.

d)     Manufacturers Original Warranty (MOW). This is something some stores provide while others don’t and the price differs. Without MOW you may get a certain brand of watch at a cheaper price. It all comes down to whether you want to pay that extra for the Manufacturers Original Warranty or walk away $100-$200 rich without one. Every watch that I have owned, never really broke during or even after the warranty period. It is simply, a personal decision that you will have to make based on your wallet size. Do bear in mind; wear and tear is not covered under any warranty by any manufacturer. You will still need to pay for the repair even if the lug of the watch cracks during the first week of your purchase.

e)      Finally, communication is the key to what make or breaks a deal. Try communicating with the seller. See how fast and accurately they respond. Seller should be prompt, helpful and also be able to render advice on situations that you may have concerns on regarding the deal.

If you are filthy rich or the sort who loves to gamble and don’t really value money then forget about point A to E and just place an order with whomever, you feel comfortable with.

Anyhow, I shortlisted the following online stores –

Store
Website (click on link)
eBay (click on link)
Blue Tritium
Discountshop
Infinite Pursuits

Discountshop
Previously known as Countshop has re-branded their company to Discountshop.  If I wanted to get a Luminox I would have definitely, gone with Discountshop. Good feedback and ratings. Countless successful transactions and many good reviews on forums. Unbeatable price-list for Luminox range of watches all with 1-year sellers’ warranty. Good, prompt and very helpful communication via email.

Blue Tritium
Everything seemed perfect about this online store but they lacked in communication. I sent a query via eBay messaging about the Traser P6504 watch and never really got a response. I took my business elsewhere and bought the watch from another store mentioned below. Yes, one can easily assume that they may not have received my message. So after a month, I wrote to them again for a watch accessory that I needed and BINGO, I got a response from someone by the name of Nicole. She asked if I wanted to order this item that I was interested in and I replied favorably, but silence is all I got. I wrote a total of 4 emails thereafter, 2 via their website and another 2 via eBay messaging but the trail was dead cold as ever. I could never understand why a store with a good reputation of 100% go silent on genuine customers? But then again, nothing is ever what it seems.

Infinite Pursuits
I am extremely glad that I decided to go with this store. Extremely prompt and flawless communication. Authorized dealer for traser watches and unbeatable price offers. Rendered good advice throughout the whole transaction and fast shipping too. Though, we did run into a minor problem but it was ironed out almost immediately, and the whole experience was nothing less than 110% to my satisfaction!

Finally, we have come to the end of this article. If you have any feedback and or comments then do feel free to share it with us. We will do our best to respond to both your praise and criticism alike. Till then, stay RADIANT.

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Edit : After a year and a half, I sold the Traser P6405 and got me the Luminox 3152 (Stainless-Steel). Not that it wasn't good but just felt that the dial was slightly small for my hand and the colour black didn't really suit me that very much. Otherwise, it was a good watch.


tritiumreview

24 comments:

  1. Nice review. Very detailed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Been considering getting a traser for the longest time. You just made it easy for me.

    Thanks!
    Bradley

    ReplyDelete
  3. Am glad that I could be of help. Do get in touch with Infinite Pursuits the authorized dealer for traser.

    Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Didn't really know there was a T100?? Thanks for the heads up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad that this blog is able to provide with some answers. Yes, there is indeed a T100(T) but the difference as mentioned in the review is really not noticeable to the eye. If you compare T25 and T100 in a same setting side-by-side where the colour and size of tubes(vials)are identical you may not be able to tell the two grades apart. At least, that is my observation.

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    2. Ah, that is because there should be no difference given the two tubes are of the same quality, size, color, etc. T25 and T100 are not grades of tritium. They are restrictions set forth by the NRC. T25 means the watch has up to 25 mCi (unit of radioactivity) of tritium, while T100 allows up to 100 mCi. A company must file for a separate license to be able to sell T100 watches, and some countries prohibit it altogether.

      Delete
  5. Hi

    Is Carbon Reinforced Polycarbonate (CRPC) that weak?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, let me put it to perspective. Yes and no. Definitely, yes if you compare it to steel and no if you compare it plastic. CRPC is more durable then your average plastic watches.

      My advice, choose a watch based on your ruggedness. If you are a very careful person who wants a tritium based watch basically, for wearing in theaters or for the occasional night safari then CRPC should do just fine. And if you need something that you can wear and forget about; or if you enjoy doing lots of outdoor sports/activities then I would recommend a steel (cased) watch. Anyway, that's just my personal opinion.

      Delete
    2. Take a look at these reviews at the link below on CRPC watches + the Luminox 3001. I really don't know what to believe?

      http://www.amazon.com/Luminox-Mens-3001-Original-Watch/product-reviews/B000F1OGWW

      Delete
    3. CRPC works fine for some and not so for others. You certainly won't go wrong if you picked steel.

      Delete
  6. I think the Traser P6504 with PVD steel strap looks much wicked and stealthy among the rest. That's just my 2 cents worth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tim,

      I couldn't agree with you more. I actually replaced the rubber strap with a PVD Stainless-Steel as soon as I got the opportunity. It looks great. Also, I wouldn't discount a zulu/nato strap on the P6504 as they look equally good.

      Delete
  7. What companies replace tritium vials? Ball won't do it for the Fireman II

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The reason they don't replace it or attempt to replace it is because the vials are literally, attached/glued to your dial. By attempting to remove you may end up breaking the vial and or damaging the dial surface itself thus, attaching a new one will become impossible. The only way around would be replacing the whole dial but then that may cost you an arm and perhaps, a leg.

      On certain forums I have read that it is possible if done carefully but none have shed any light as in who does it or even if it is really truly possible. However, I did come across a watch repair website sometime back that claimed they do just that but unfortunately, I didn't give much attention to that site.

      What you could do is perhaps, write to mb-microtec directly (the manufacturer of the vials) and see if they can assist or advice you on this matter. They have agents in several countries too. (http://www.mbmicrotec.com)

      My advice to anyone is, if you are buying a watch mainly for its cool tritium vials get a cheaper alternative because you won't be disappointed once these vials go dim after 7-10yrs. Repairing them won't be worth it cause you can just simply buy a new one. For a more expensive watch (e.g. Ball)if the vials go dim, in my opinion there is no cause for concern because you have a better watch aesthetically, mechanically and perhaps, will get you a better re-sale value too.

      Cheers!

      Delete
  8. Good pointers and excellent review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Am glad that you see it that way.

      Cheers!

      Delete
  9. http://www.smithandwessonwatches.com/ is no longer a working website and smith and wesson watches are now, and have been made with mb-microtec tubes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the information. I have updated the URL for Smith & Wesson watches and also feel that you are partly correct. Not all tritium based S&W watches have mb-microtec tubes in them and especially true, for the older stocks. They have not been using mb-microtec from the very beginning but only so recently, from what I have gathered. Besides, there is not much literature on S&W website to validate that all their tritium based watches come with mb-microtec tubes. There is only 1 or 2 models at present, on their website that seems to indicate that mb-microtec is being used.

      To make matters worst, a lot of these other models are not even listed on S&W website. Also by indicating "Swiss Tritium" on many of their models does not equate to mb-microtec. From what I understand, "Swiss Tritium" just happens to be a name of a company that manufacture some of these watches and it is not mb-microtec or related to it in any way. This is the weblink: www.swisstritium.com

      Anyway, before writing the above entry I made relevant checks and also wrote to S&W and Swiss Tritium for clarification but unfortunately, never got any reply on this matter. So there you have it.

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  10. This is an e-mail I received from Reactor Watches regarding their GTLS source:

    Aug 19, 2013

    MB Micro Tec makes our Tritium tubes.

    Regards

    Branden Olmes

    REACTOR Watch, LP
    bolmes@reactorwatch.com
    800/291-6600

    Aug 19, 2013

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the information. I received the same email from the same person when I tried to verify the authenticity of the email, just to be sure. I wrote to their CS email address though. But strangely enough, there is no mention of this on their website and even their sale staff are quite oblivious to the GTLS source. Anyway, not really concerned on how they market their products but how they make it and what goes into it. I suppose the email confirms that it is using MB Microtec as their GTLS light source.

      Cheers!

      Delete