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All You Need to Know about Tritium Watches

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Tritium is an isotope of hydrogen; in other words, a normal hydrogen atom contains zero neutrons, whereas a tritium atom contains two neutrons. Although it’s naturally radioactive, it’s not harmful when used in a watch. Tritium is used in military watches to provide nighttime readability and illumination.

In the 1960s and 70s, tritium watches used to have tritium coated directly on the watch’s dials and numbers. This triggered a concern among soldiers of developing cancer as they were constantly being exposed to low levels of radiation. As a result, major watch manufacturers started injecting tritium in small glass vials and used them as dials.

Since the isotope is sealed in a glass tube, the amount of radiation exposure is reduced drastically. A phosphorescent paint is utilized to produce a chemical reaction which generates a glowing colorful light. Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years which means that its brightness will decrease by half after a period of approximately 12 years.

Most of the watch manufacturers claim that their tritium watches will last from 10 to 20 years. After the illumination is reduced, the watch is sent back to the producer where the glass vials are replaced.

Tritium watches are better than conventional military watches because there’s no need of an ambient light source to charge tritium. It decays itself and releases Beta particles or high-energy electrons which react with the phosphorescent paint to produce glowing light. Secondly, the intensity of the light generated from tritium remains constant and doesn’t fade after hours.

Tritium watches are used by hunters, campers, Special Forces, and night divers. These watches are able to provide adequate illumination under water as well.

The Best Ones in the Market
There are many tritium watches offered by different manufacturers, but the best ones are highlighted below:


It’s a Swiss company founded in 1968 that is well-known for manufacturing tactical watches with tritium inside the dials and numerals. Traser utilizes white tritium for all the dials and numerals except for the 12 o’clock indicator which is orange. This is known as ‘trigalight’. For example, the aviator series, Traser H3 Jungmann is inspired by airplanes before the Second World War and it contains a leather strap and a unidirectional navigational bezel.

An American company based in Florida that manufactures tritium watches. Their watches are made of high impact and high intensity shatterproof glass along with a ring made of rubber that absorbs shocks and impacts. These military watches consist of a steel case and green tritium is used to illuminate the markers and dials. The watch is waterproof up to a depth of 100 meters.

An American company founded in 1989, Luminox produces watches containing tritium inserts. For example, the Luminox 3053 Evo Navy Seal Dive Watch is suited for divers and navy seals. It is made of carbon reinforced polymer and has tritium dials that glow black. It can withstand water pressure up to a depth of 200 meters.