The legendary Italian brand Panerai is generally acknowledged as the grandfather of luminescent dive watches, following a brilliant breakthrough in 1916. By mixing radioactive radium bromide and zinc sulphide, Panerai patented a luminous substance known as Radiomir, which out-glowed its rivals and lit the way for the Italian Navy’s underwater stealth commandos deployed on WWII missions.
With the re-edition of the iconic Radiomir and Luminor Panerai watches, the brand continues its underwater saga, particularly with this impressive diver’s watch complete with a flyback chronograph and blue and green luminescence. Rest assured, toxic radium was discarded a long time ago and replaced with SuperLumiNova - the leading brand name for photoluminescent material.
In a less bellicose context, luminous watches for men have become inseparable companions of recreational divers and pilots, or anybody who wants to consult the time in the dark. Beyond the practical aspect, luminous material - or lume - is being used in an assortment of colours to decorate watch dials, providing a groovy glow that is hard to resist.
Working in tandem with James Thompson, founder of Black Badger luminescent material, MB&F has baptised its 2015 HMX watch in a swathe of cool coloured light. Christened Radar Green, Phantom Blue and Purple Reign, the three HMX Black Badger limited edition watches are eye-catching by day and riveting by night. Unlike liquid SuperLumiNova, which is painted onto surfaces, Black Badger concocts lume from solid blocks that are milled into the desired shape, in this case to cover the engine visible under the supercar sapphire crystal of these MB&F watches. As mesmerising by day as by night, the jumping hours and trailing minutes of the HMX engine glows with a life of its own.
Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is not the most conventional choice of decor for a watch dial, but Romain Jerome pulled off one of the best and most moving interpretations to date, thanks to the judicious application of luminous material to highlight aspects of that historic night in November 1989. The dark 46mm Berlin-DNA watch presents an aerial view of the city with the Wall outlined in red and highlighted with green SuperLumiNova; the blue glow represents the River Spree. The mission was to recreate the atmosphere reigning in Berlin the night the Wall came down, and SuperLumiNova plays a fundamental role in the scenery highlighting the streets and open spaces of the city at night. Limited to 25 pieces, the caseback replicates the “Fraternal Kiss” by Dmitri Vrubel, one of the most famous graffiti murals on the Wall.
Finally, this beautiful watch by Laurent Ferrier shows how luminescence can enhance even the most sober, classic and elegant of watches. The Galet Square Boréal, with its hallmark pebble-shaped case, is a study in purity and sensory attraction, with its smooth, rounded edges that emulate the surface of a pebble. However, when the minimalist dial is placed in a dark environment, these Laurent Ferrier watches come to life, glowing with a cool, green SuperLumiNova that accentuates the chapter ring and hands.