Sources for luminous materials, some comments and a brief howto...

by Radioman


Sources for luminous materials, some comments and a brief howto...
by RadioMan

If you have a steady hand, you can do this yourself with a fine model painters brush. Regarding the materials, I
would highly recommend one of the new superluminous componds (known by the Nemoto/Seiko trademark
"Luminova")but otherwise quite available generically.... These superluminous materials are non-toxic, do not not
have a finite number of charge cycles, and are as bright if not brighter than tritium. I have successfully applied the
pigment to the hands of an old Heuer Autavia and a Seiko Sportsmatic which I am very attached to...

Now for the sources... first, if you want to do this the easy way, just go to

This material is premixed, available in small quantities, inexpensive ($24) and quite well suited for redoing dials and
hands. If you are more of a do it yourself type, I have also purchased the raw pigment from such sources as:

Note that if you ask nicely they will sell to you in smaller quantities.

The pigment itself (strontium aluminate in one form) will be available in a fine powder - for our purposes, the finer
the better, so choose the smallest particle size. The makers also have variants with different colors and durations of
afterglow. The extremely long afterglow products are worth the money, although they command higher prices.

As a carrier for the pigment, you want to use a water-free oil or solvent based clear paint. I purchased mine in a
perfectly sized small bottle from a local hobby shop. Generally, you want this to be fairly watery and thin - the
thicker material is harder to apply accurately.

It is important to note that you cannot premix and store the paint very successfully... especially if the carrier is
water based. Water seems to degrade the performance of the material...

I would mix this up in tiny batches just before you use it.

If you examine the application of superluminous material on newer Seiko and Citizen or Omega watches, you can
see that the luminous properties of the compound are enhanced by by a few techniques -

- Application of many layers - Seiko stacks the compound into what appear to be almost tiny "blocks". These are
not markers in the traditional sense of removable metal objects - just thick built up layers of pigment on a white

- Application on a white or reflective background. Citizen actually places the material into small steel or nickel plated
cup like markers. The bottom of the marker, beneath the pigment is polished to an almost mirror like brightness-
which reflects the light from the pigment back up toward the viewer. Seiko appears to apply the pigment to a white
marker on the dial.

Make sure the surface you apply the compound to is clean and white or reflective. If necessary, apply a plain white
base coat of paint first - this really helps.

Apply many thin coats, and let the earlier coats dry completely. I let mine dry for a day between layers. If you are
patient, you can get excellent results.

I like to use a very fine brush with short bristles - cutting them down if necessary.

Hope this helps,


Posted on Oct 1, 2000, 8:23 PM

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