In what seems like a comparatively simple task, various techniques have been employed in the history of watchmaking for the best glow-in-the-dark timepieces. Radium paint, invented in 1908, was applied to dials and hands to make them glow in low light conditions. It excelled at this task but was abandoned in the 1970’s due to the toxic nature of Radium. Super-LumiNova, a non-hazardous phosphor, has since become the standard for watch luminescence.

Known by many names, such as Seiko’s proprietary LumiBrite or Rolex’s Chromalight, LumiNova glows after absorbing energy from outside light sources. When applied correctly to a timepiece, this safe and affordable material can glow for up to several hours. However, we’ve all encountered lume that fades within an hour, making it a far from perfect solution.

Tritium gas tubes, a safe yet perpetually glowing material, have emerged as the goldilocks solution for luminescence. Rather than relying on an external light source to charge the material, tritium gas releases electrons as it naturally ages, which in turn charge the phosphorous material with which it’s been paired. This allows the wristwatch to perpetually glow.

While tritium watches are slightly more expensive than their Super-LumiNova counterparts and may lack that initial intense glow, they have some serious advantages. Rather than fading within hours, the glass tubes glow for up to 25 years! Despite its benefits, tritium remains the illumination underdog. This list of the best tritium watches celebrates the few brands currently using this exciting technology.

Luminox Original Navy SEAL 3001

Image: Luminox
Case Size:41mm x 46mm x 14mm
Movement:Ronda 515 (Quartz Movement)
Battery Life:60 Months
Crystal:Hardened Mineral Crystal
Price Range:$445 – $475

Over the decades, Lunimox has gained the trust of first responders the world over. Thirty years before Barry Cohen was turning heads with the USMC over at Protek, he was making robust dive watches for the Navy SEALS at Luminox.

Like the original Luminox SEAL, today’s version prioritizes comfort, reliability and legibility. The modern version is aided by the benefits of technological innovations, including CARBONOX- a proprietary carbon compound material that is durable yet 6 times lighter than steel. Despite its size, this 43mm beast weighs only 30 grams, which is less than every single watch on our recent list of the best titanium watches! Securing its spot on this list, tritium tubes are generously applied to the dial, hands, and even the bezel.

ProTek Dive Series

Image: ProTek Watches
Case Size:42mm x 49mm x 14mm
Movement:Miyota 2S60 (Quartz Movement)
Battery Life:10 Years
Crystal:Sapphire Crystal

Some brands spend years finding the perfect balance of materials and design. ProTek seems to have cracked the code right off the bat, likely thanks to Founder Barry Cohen’s decades of experience creating robust mil-spec watches for Luminox.

Despite the fact that ProTek was only recently established, they have already been designated as an official watch of the USMC. Their Dive Series makes it easy to understand this immediate show of confidence from watch enthusiasts and first responders. With a quartz movement that won’t need a battery change for 10 years, a generous 300 meters of water resistance, and T25 tritium, these watches take the concept of “grab and go” to a new level. If a ProTek dive watch is good enough for the USMC, it’s certainly up for anything I’m going to throw at it.

Marathon General Purpose Automatic (GPM)

Image: Marathon Watches
Case Size:34mm x 44mm x 11mm
Movement:NH35 (Automatic Movement)
Power Reserve:41 Hours
Crystal:Sapphire Crystal

I’m guilty of ignoring the Marathon General Purpose Automatic due to its modest 34mm case. Getting too caught up in dimensions, 36mm has become the standard cut off point for “too small” for myself and many others. Today, I’m here to atone.

A general purpose watch should have the perfect balance of legibility and comfort. While a military watch like this may feel counterintuitive for watch enthusiasts accustomed to chunky stainless steel divers, a petite, unobtrusive composite case with a light nylon strap makes for the ideal tool watch. This is the type of watch you can (and probably will) forget you are wearing, but is there when you need it. Powered by the reliable NH35, the GPM offers strong value at $450, And, if you’re not afflicted with quartz snobbery, the tritium battery powered versions start at only $300.

Traser P67 Officer Pro Automatic

Image: Traser Watches
Case Size:45mm x 53mm x 12mm
Movement:ETA 2824 (Automatic Movement)
Power Reserve:38 Hours
Crystal:Sapphire Crystal
Price Range:$999 – $1200

Vertical integration in the watch industry is an automatic way to gain street cred. In the world of tritium, Traser has the bragging rights of being owned by mb-microtec, the company that manufactures the tritium tubes used by other brands on this list. For Traser watches they’ve called their in-house tritium technology Trigalight.

Measuring in at 45mm, the P67 Officer Pro Automatic is ideal for anyone looking for a generously sized field watch with a classic 3-6-9 dial. At around $1000, a decent price for a tritium Swiss automatic, the P67 provides an opportunity to scratch that Explorer itch without paying Rolex prices. The bronze case/blue dial combination is my personal favorite and has the quintessential field watch look, but you also can’t go wrong with the PVD-coated stainless steel options.

Traser P68 Pathfinder Automatic

Image: Traser Watches
Case Size:46mm x 55mm x 12mm
Movement:ETA 2824 (Automatic Movement)
Power Reserve:38 Hours
Crystal:Sapphire Crystal
Price Range:$1000 – $1200

Let’s face it, a compass bezel is not a practical complication for daily use. I wear my Seiko Land Turtle often and love the bezel’s charm, but in the unlikely event that I’m lost in the wilderness with only my watch and the sun to lead me back to civilization… TBWS readers might as well divvy up the contents of my watch box.

The P68 provides a tritium enhanced alternative to other popular compass watches. And, unlike the bezel on my Land Turtle which has a habit of rotating on its own throughout the day, the inner bezel on the P68 is operated by a screw down crown. For additional functionality, check out the quartz version, which is also a GMT with a 24 hour track added to the bezel.

Marathon GSAR Automatic (GPM)

Image: Marathon Watches
Case Size:41mm x 48mm x 14mm
Movement:Sellita SW200 (Automatic Movement)
Power Reserve:38 Hours
Crystal:Sapphire Crystal
Price Range:$1350 – $1800

Tritium dive watches are often quartz. Because tritium is more costly to manufacture than LumiNova, a battery powered movement helps to maintain a reasonable MSRP. Quartz movements are also less finicky than their mechanical counterparts and make an ideal choice for those (by profession or hobby) that require an accurate perpetually glowing watch. Delivering a niche within a niche, Marathon’s GSAR Automatic is something truly special.

This military watch is arguably the best value Swiss automatic dive watch featuring tritium tubes currently on the market. It’s hard to find ANY quality diver with an SW200 for less than $1000, and I think the GSAR’s use of tritium, 1000 feet of water resistance and military provenance justifies the price tag. Specs aside, kudos to Marathon for offering dial options! The GSAR is available in both white and black and can be purchased with or without government markings. There is also a quartz version of this exact watch called the TSAR, which would shave off a few hundred dollars if you weren’t too concerned with having an automatic moveme

Nite Watches MX10

Image: Nite Watches
Case Size:39mm x 52mm x 11.6mm
Movement:Swiss Ronda 715 (Quartz Movement)
Battery Life:4 – 5 Years
Crystal:Sapphire Crystal
Price Range:$400 – $520

Nite, a fitting name for a perpetually glowing watch, was the first privately owned British watch brand to use Tritium illumination back in 2003. Considering tritium’s impressive longevity, the watches made that year might still be glowing today!

Today, Nite stays true to their roots, producing field, dive and tactical watches featuring tritium illumination. Their catalog includes case sizes ranging from 39mm all the way up to 51mm, with the MX10 on the small end. The MX10, Nite’s original field, boasts 100 meters of water resistance, a sapphire crystal, and illumination technology that will actually be visible in the field at all hours. With a few different variations, the green dial on rubber strap is a classic combination, and comes in at only $400.

Ball Roadmaster Marine GMT Ceramic

Image: Ball Watches
Case Size:40mm x 48mm x 14mm
Movement:Ball RR1203-C (Automatic Movement)
Power Reserve:38 Hours
Crystal:Sapphire Crystal
Price Range:$2750 – $3500

When I think of tritium watches, Ball Watch Company is the first brand that comes to mind. The brand was founded in 1891 and has a tragic but fascinating history in American rail travel, which led to founder Webb C. Ball being given the actual title “Chief Time Inspector”- hands down the most badass name in horological history.

This luxury Swiss brand has made tritium tubes a hallmark of their design DNA. No watch better exemplifies this than the Marine GMT Ceramic. This list is full of dials using tritium tubes as markers and indices. Setting itself apart is a not-so-subtle way, Ball is the only brand to construct numerals out of the material (however please note that the bezel markers are Super-LumiNova). I just can’t help but love the dichotomy of these brash blocky numbers housed in an expertly polished stainless steel case. Creative use of tritium aside, this chronometer is also the world’s first day-date GMT!

Ball Engineer III King

Case Size:40mm x 47mm x 13.6mm
Movement:Ball RR1102 (Automatic Movement)
Power Reserve:38 Hours
Crystal:Sapphire Crystal
Price Range:$2200 – $2500

If the Ball Roadmaster is too audacious for your personal taste, don’t fret. Ball’s extensive catalog includes an eclectic collection of sport and dress watches, with the Ball Engineer III King finding the perfect balance of sporty elegance.

At first glance, the Engineer III looks like a quirky yet fairly standard dress watch. Its high polish case houses a refined dial, with a generous amount of text calling attention to its chronometer certification and Ball’s patented shock protection system, and easily the fanciest second hand (with the brand’s logo as the counterbalance) in the industry.

Impressive indeed, but the real show starts when the lights go out. Featuring a combination of blue, green, and orange tritium gas tubes, the outter perimeter of the dial is lined with 64 microtubes for maximum tritium luminesce.

ArmourLite Field Series AL115

Image: ArmourLite Watches
Case Size:42mm x 49mm x 10.8mm
Movement:Swiss Ronda 715 (Quartz Movement)
Battery Life:60 Months
Crystal:Armourglass (6,000 Vickers)

I recently purchased a cheap, no-name flieger on Ebay. I’d been wanting a simple Arabic numeral dial, and was duped by the impossibly low price. Anyone who has made a similar purchase won’t be surprised to learn that the sparingly applied lume was severely disappointing. After all, you get what you pay for.

The ArmourLite Field is everything I wanted (but didn’t get) with my Ebay gamble. Coming in at $350 and available in a variety of colorways, it features high contrast hands, full numerals, and a 24 hour inner track. The best part? ArmourLite doesn’t skimp on the lume! The hands and indices are equipped with green tritium tubes, with orange being used at the 12 for easy orientation even in any environment.

IsoBrite T100 Naval Series

Image: IsoBrite Watches
Case Size:44mm x 50mm x 14mm
Movement:Swiss Ronda 715Li (Quartz Movement)
Battery Life:10 Years
Crystal:Sapphire Crystal
Price:$549 – $595

The tritium corner of the watch world is small. There are only 9 brands on this list, and two of them were founded by the same person. Isobrite, part of the AmourLite Watch Company, continues this tight-knit trend.

You might experience déjà vu while browsing their catalog of oversized tactical style watches. If you’re in the market for a tritium illuminated quartz diver with a 45 – 50mm carbon case, you’ll be spoiled for choice from IsoBrite and other brands. For the sake of variety, I recommended checking out their 300m stainless T100 Naval Series. With perpendicular double tubes on the dial at 3-6-9 and 12, and a tritium pip on the ceramic bezel, it offers a refreshing take on a tritium dive watch.

Yes Watch

Image: Yes Watches
Case Size:46mm x 55mm x 16mm
Movement:In-House 24 Hour Ana-Digi Solunar Movement
Battery Life:Rechargeable Batter – 3 Months Of Battery Life On Full Charge
Crystal:Sapphire Crystal
Price:$696 – $995

Tritium is all about improving on something subpar (LumiNova) with a practical solution. And, for the most part, the watches on this list have been extremely practical- designed solely to tell the time (and maybe time a dive or two) in the dark. YES Watch challenges that trend in the most loveable way. It’s got everything you never thought you needed from a watch… but could probably find a use for.

With brands everywhere forcing their way up-market into higher MSRP territory, the YES V7 looks like a solid bargain at $795. Seriously, where else will you find a titanium watch with tritium tubes, a custom built movement, and a laundry list of complications (sunrise, moonphase, timers, compass, etc) for less than $1000?

10 thoughts on “The Best Tritium Watches | Ever-Glowing Lume That Can’t Be Beat”

  1. Great article! A good read too. Make an amendment to it though to include the tritium dive watches from Deep Blue. They have an excellent range and no – I don’t work for them or do business with them etc. Etc.

    • My deep blue triumph automatic SUCKS and loses three mins each week. Customer service for Deep Blue won’t fix under warranty because they cant find record of my purchase which was brought via their website. Terrible customer service.

  2. +1 more for Deep Blue. I’ve got a 41mm DayNight that’s become my default “go anywhere, do anything” watch. Water resistant to 500m, uses an NH-35, so replacement parts (or movements) are trivial to find if needed, and was under $300 (plus the sunburst dial is beautiful!). Unfortunately, I think they quit making the 41mm, although I believe they quit making that they one. There is a larger version still available, though.

  3. Good overview. Marathon watch Co pay watches have and have had since the 1990s the current US Government contract. Why? Because their products are built and tested to strict Government specifications.

  4. I have had 2 armourlite watches. In 4 months the first one allowed condinsation under the crystal. It was replaced under warranty (took 2 months to get). Second one same thing happened in a few months use. Contacted armourlite, they ignored my issue. At 8months the watch just stopped.
    Very frustrating.


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