The Seven Watches With The Most Spectacular Lume Dials
Let there be light! Lume is often referred to because of its functional properties. But there is something magical about it. Not too long ago, I was researching the best Heuer/TAG Heuer watches from the 1980s. During that quest, I was reminded of the brilliance of the brand’s full lume dial diving watches from the 1980s. On top of that, our Fratello master of lume Lex wears his Chronoswiss Timemaster with a full lume dial regularly. It triggered me to find out more about the brilliance of lume dials and put the spotlight on some of the best lume watches. Fiat lux!
At first, the idea was to select the best full lume dial watches from the past and the present. But during the research for this article, the scope kept getting wider as the magic of lume is not restricted to full lume dials. While there certainly is a list to be made with the best full lume dials, it would put some amazing watches that play brilliantly with the theme of light by using lume out of scope. So in that light (pun intended), let’s take a look at some of the best lume watches.
1. Chronoswiss Timemaster Lume Dial ref. CH 6233LU
The first watch on this list had to be the Chronoswiss Timemaster CH 6233LU with a full lume dial. It is the watch that our own Lex wears quite regularly. What I love most about the watch is the clash of styles. The use of lume automatically somehow awakens feelings of the 1980s. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the ’80s, where neon and bright colors played a huge part in defining the decade’s style. Without delving too deep into the psyche of luminescence, the bright dial is the perfect contrasting “modern” element for Chronoswiss’ classical style. This clash of styles looks amazing in real life.
Chronoswiss produced more than one lume-inspired model in the early 2000s. Lex’ CH6233LU is a 44mm manual winding beast that pops off the wrist. Chronoswiss also produced a 40mm automatic version and a 40mm chronograph that is also stunning. If you are looking for something a bit more modest, those could be an option. But the overall proportions of the 44mm version look better.
On top of that, the impact of the dial that is coated with Super-LumiNova C3 creates even more impact than on the smaller model. It contrasts perfectly with the black numerals and black varnished hands. I have seen this puppy light up in the dark, and it is truly an amazing sight to see. It hasn’t lost the tiniest bit of its impact, even two decades after its release.
2. TAG Heuer Night Divers
Another must on this list are the full lume dial diving watches from Heuer/TAG Heuer, released in the 1980s. This series is also known as the Night Divers because the full lume dials were created for divers who would dive in the dark. Officially the series was introduced as part of the Heuer 1000 series that later was renamed the TAG Heuer 1000 Professional series. The mid-size black PVD version of the watch (ref. 980.031) can be seen around the wrist of Timothy Dalton in the 1987 Bond movie The Living Daylights. As it’s a Bond watch, it has become a classic and is highly sought-after by collectors.
But the one that stood out for me is the Heuer/ TAG Heuer ref. 980.032L. Forget about the black PVD versions; steel is the way forward here, in my opinion. This 42mm quartz diver still looks as relevant as ever. They don’t show up for sale often, but I will be on the lookout for one as this is the one that I would like to add to my collection. Recently, TAG Heuer released their new Aquaracer Professional 300 Night Diver, a great reminder of the great full lume divers from the 1980s.
3. Linde Werdelin × Black Badger Oktopus Blue Sea
A list like this would not be complete without one of the collaborative efforts of James Thompson, also known as the Black Badger. Thompson has a history of working with brands on spectacular lume dials. In the past, he worked with Sarpaneva on the spectacular Korona K01 Northern Lights series, the MB&F HMX Black Badger, the Zenith El Primero Superconductor with Bamford, and the De Bethune DB28GS Grand Bleu. And those are just some of the amazing projects Thompson has worked on. The one collaboration that I love is his work with Linde Werdelin. Together with the London through Copenhagen brand, he came up with a special version of Linde Werdelin’s Oktopus.
For those of you that don’t know, James Thompson’s work revolves around lume. As Dave explained in the review of this watch, nuclear lume is somewhat of a signature of Thompson’s. The dial of the Oktopus is normally already a sight to see. But after Thompson was done with it, the watch shines in the dark. He used three colors of his proprietary lume material called Badgerite: Aqua Blue, Ultramarine, and Violet. The results are simply stunning. I am not a jealous person by nature, but after seeing and reading how much fun Dave had with the Linde Werdelin × Black Badger Oktopus Blue Sea, I must admit that I was a bit jealous.
4. Citizen Promaster Aqualand NY0040-50W
A full lume watch does not always have to cost you an arm and a leg. The perfect proof comes in the form of the Citizen Promaster Aqualand NY0040-50W. This Citizen NY0040 diver is famous amongst Citizen enthusiasts. This is what many called the Seiko SKX007/009 killer. I like it better than the Seiko but let’s not make this a comparison review. Earlier this year, in February, Citizen released a full lume version of the NY0040. It’s not the first version of the NY0040 that features a full lume dial. The brand has released multiple versions of the same watch with different references over the years. This is just the latest version that has become available.
The 42mm diver looks great, is built to withstand daily wear, and features a spectacular dial. Citizen uses their proprietary lume material, and it is universally praised for being better than Seiko’s Lumibrite. Inside the stainless steel case, you will find Citizen’s automatic Miyota Caliber 8203. Previous iterations of the watch often came on a rubber strap, but Citizen decided to go with the stainless steel bracelet this time. I think it looks a lot better on the bracelet despite the so-so quality. But in combination with the full lume dial, this is a beauty of a watch that you can still pick up between €200 and €250. It makes this a great affordable option in this list of lume dials.
5. A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Lumen
If you are a Fratello regular reader, you knew this had to be on the list. The A. Lange & Söhne Datograph Lumen made it to the finals of our March Mania contest earlier in the year. It shows how much you all like this beauty of a watch. In the finals, it was up against ‘my’ Czapek Antarctique Terre de Adélie, where the Czapek took the grand prize. But that does not take anything away from the spectacular Datograph Lumen. This is one of my favorite watches currently out there from a brand that is considered industry royalty.
Bert summed it up perfectly in the final of March Mania: “There are so many details to talk about; it truly is an exceptional timepiece.” The 41mm platinum case with its smoked sapphire dial reveals the amazing in-house L951.7 caliber. It’s a flyback chronograph movement with a big date and a power reserve. The power reserve lights up in the dark as a triangular block of lume fixated on a small rotating sapphire disc. The chronograph complication also lights up in darker light conditions. The registers, chronograph seconds hand, and tachymeter scale join the hour and minute hands and the mentioned power reserve indicator in creating a magical lume show in the dark. This brilliant timepiece shows that A. Lange & Söhne might create watches according to the great watchmaking traditions, but they do not have to look that way. What a timepiece!
6. MING 20.11 Mosaic
When the MING 20.11 was first announced, I stopped what I was doing to gaze in amazement at that incredible dial. Dave mentioned in his introduction article that the dial would probably be polarizing. Looking at it, my thoughts were: “What’s not to like?” The word gimmicky was mentioned in the reactions, and I get that. Honestly, all of the watches on the list are gimmicky, aren’t they? But that doesn’t make them less fun, or impressive for that matter. Especially if you find out to what great lengths MING has gone to develop these spectacular dials.
As Dave explained: “The dial pattern comprises 2,650 individual trapezoids of varying opacity, each created with a linear diffraction pattern. They are etched with a high-power femtosecond laser (one femtosecond being a quadrillionth of a second), on three different levels within the sapphire crystal dial.” In low light conditions, the HyCeram in the sapphire dial will reflect off the Mosaic and result in a soft and almost ghostly glow. The sapphire hands are also coated with HyCeram, and the brand also uses it for the luminous indices and on the sapphire dial. The results are simply spectacular. Different gradations of light ensure that your focus will be on nothing else but the watch when it gets dark outside. This is using lume on a different level, and I love it.
7. Panerai Luminor Marina Fibratech PAM01117
The last watch on this list is more than just a timepiece with spectacular lume on the dial. No, this PAM01117 uses lume to show the outlines and the iconic dial elements of the watch. So lume is not just used on the dial. It can also be found on the 3D-printed titanium case and even on the stitching of the strap. Panerai did this by using Super-LumiNovaTM X1 to outline the case and essential elements. It’s the latest generation lume, and it glows like there is an ’80s neon party taking place on your wrist.
All jokes aside, I love that the Panerai designers used lume to draw a watch. Not just any watch, but a Panerai watch. You don’t need anything more than the lume to recognize the iconic appearance of the brand’s Luminor. But do not think for a minute that this is just a spectacular watch in the dark. The PAM01117 is a spectacular watch all around, also during the day. The titanium case, in combination with that stunning dark blue dial, looks amazing. Combined with the Sportech strap, this truly is one of the most spectacular releases we have seen from Panerai recently. But in all honesty, in the dark is where this watch truly shines. As Rob perfectly stated: “If ever there was a watch made for the world of Tron, this is it.”
There you have it, a list of some of the most spectacular lume watches around. If you want to know more about the workings of lume, go ahead and read Rob’s in-depth article about which watches glow in the dark best. It’s an interesting read that shines a light on the different producers and materials used to light up a dial. After reading that, please let us know what some of your favorite lume watches are in the comment section. Did we miss out on some of the great lume monsters? Let us know!
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