Luminescent materials have been a part of watchmaking for generations. The use of radioactive materials in the last century was fundamental in the design of tool watches that could allow the owner an opportunity to tell the time in darkened conditions. Thankfully, we no longer have to rely on radioactive materials to achieve this outcome, but lume continues to enamor watch enthusiasts worldwide. For many, owning a watch with a fully luminescent dial brings childlike glee. But today, IWC goes one step further with the introduction of Ceralume.

The brand from Schaffhausen has unveiled the first fully luminous ceramic watch. Unfortunately, it’s a concept piece, so we will have to wait and see whether it becomes a product we can buy. Still, it looks incredibly cool and marks the debut of a new material for the brand. According to IWC, the Ceralume material results from mixing Super-LumiNova with ceramic powder.

Introducing IWC Ceralume

Creating this material was not without its technical difficulties. “One of the main challenges in the development of Ceralume was achieving a perfectly homogenous mix of raw materials despite their different particle sizes and avoiding particle accumulations. To achieve this, IWC’s engineers reverted to a dedicated ball milling process, which had to be customized to the raw materials used. In addition, the parameters of the sintering process and the grinding of the sintered ceramic body also needed to be specifically adapted to the luminous ceramic,” IWC said.

IWC Ceralume

The watch itself

For this specialized Ceralume project, IWC chose its Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41. Photos circulating on social media show Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton wearing this watch while off the track at the Monaco GP.

Besides the watch’s Ceralume case, the dial is also luminescent (much like the Pilot’s Watch Black Aces edition, which I wrote about last year). The brass dial base is sprayed with Super-LumiNova before printing is added on top. Interestingly, the white rubber strap is also luminescent thanks to a Super-LumiNova pigment. IWC claims that the watch emits a bright blueish light for more than 24 hours when fully charged. There’s no way I can independently confirm this, but IWC’s other heavily luminescent projects, like the aforementioned Black Aces, have achieved this in the past.

Closing thoughts

I love how this watch appeals to the kids in all of us who would cup their hands around watches to see them glow in the dark. It didn’t matter whether the watch was a Casio using a backlight, a Seiko or Citizen dive watch, or your father’s Swiss timepiece. The cool factor of luminescence never fades away (see what I did there?).

Lewis Hamilton IWC Ceralume

On that level, then, this new IWC project is very cool. On a practical level, I wonder what it would be like to go to a dark cinema with this thing strapped on your wrist. But maybe those who could acquire this concept watch have home cinemas anyway.

What do you think of Ceralume, Fratelli? Do you hope to see IWC take this material beyond the concept stage? Let me know in the comments.