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Tritium vials

Tritium is a radioactive isotope of Hydrogen that emits Beta rays as it decays. Sealed inside a vial, the gas activates the luminous inner coating, making it glow 100 x brighter than conventional non-radioactive luminous materials.

In Europe, regulations on the use of isotopes like Tritium in commercial products is very strict. The radioactive Beta rays of Tritium are weak enough to be stopped by a watch crystal, as long as the vials are not  broken or burned.

With the improvement of materials, Tritium vials boast a lifespan of 23 years. The atoms have a half-life of 12.3 years, which means that the brightness of the vials will drop by 50% after 12.3 years, by another 25% after 24.6 years, by another 7.5% after 36.6 years, and so on…


4 Responses to Tritium vials

  1. I recently bought an Atomic watch from Sauer. Its timekeeping is perfect, but the luminesence that is spoken of in the data summary is thoroughly unsatisfactory. After being charged by a 20 LED flashlight it will glow brightly at first but within10 minutes the glow fades to invisibility. Though it would void the warranty there is a nearby jewler who could remove the watch from its’ case and apply either 0.5 mm Tritium vials to the hands and hour markers. I’ve seen an online reference to a Tritium paint, but I’m also aware that sealed vials are the common carrier. Would you happen to know where one might buy such vials. Ideally I believe that I’d need a 0.5mm X 10mm section; and a 0.5mm X 3.0mm section for the hands as well as 12 0.5mm X 1.0mm pieces of vial to attach to the hour dots on the watch periphery. For the record you might go to Stauer.com, select watches and then click to the second page of Watches and you’ll find my Atomic watch which is their part # 17468. I’m very happy with the watch other than this intolerable fading luminescense. I know that this a bit of an off the wall request, but I really do want to correct this deficiency. Thank you.

    • Pancho Sanza says:

      Dear Charles,

      You should do a search on http://www.cpfmarketplace.com. There’s a certain B@rt who sells Tritium vials. However, I need to bring to your attention the fact that tritium vials are cylindrical. Fitting them on hands and dials that were not designed for this purpose might be quite tricky. Furthermore, companies usualy use the higher pinion version of a calibre to have enough space between the hands and the cylindrical vials.

      Alternatively, you can ask a specialist to relume your dial and hands with top-grade Super-Luminova. Everest Watch Works is one of them.

      • llbster says:


        I also wondering if anybody can recomend a watchmaker who can fit Tritium tubes as an after market mod.
        Any information appreciated.


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