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3 Fully Luminous Watches That Guarantee Maximum Visibility Anytime

The Bell & Ross BR-X5 Green Lum.

This has been the year when the full ‘glow-in-the-dark’ trend is reaching mainstream popularity.

In the last few years, luminescence has become another innovation front in watchmaking. This is a field that, up till recently, hadn’t really seen much change since strontium aluminate-based Super-LumiNova was developed in the 1990s.

Luminescence in wristwatches was an important aspect of watchmaking during the First World War when soldiers needed to be able to tell the time in the field to execute manoeuvres in low-light settings. This necessary invention using radioactive materials would become a watchmaking standard, and only in the late 1990s was tritium fully phased out of the industry.

Bulgari's Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT "Nuclear Option" Limited Edition.
Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Chronograph GMT’ Nuclear Option’ Limited Edition.

In the last decade or so, however, luminous materials have also been used as an aesthetic enhancement to watch designs. Bulgari, Roger Dubuis, and even Citizen have developed varied-coloured lumes and glow-in-the-dark gems, and integrated luminous materials into watch cases today. Mainstream watchmakers are starting to see the light on the full ‘glow-in-the-dark’ watch trend. Here are three recent watches that are lighting up the dark.

The IWC Pilot's Watch Automatic 41 "Black Aces".
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 ‘Black Aces‘.

IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41 ‘Black Aces‘

IWC has partnered with the US Navy for many years with its Professional Pilot’s Watches Programme. The latest is its Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41  ‘Black Aces‘, which is based on a model that the watchmaker created for Strike Fighter Squadron 41 (VFA-41) members. This team is also known as the Black Aces for its expertise in performing night operations.

The IWC Pilot's Watch Automatic 41 "Black Aces" in black ceramic case and textile strap.
The IWC Pilot’s Watch Automatic 41  ‘Black Aces‘ in black ceramic with textile strap.

The watch has the first fully luminous dial for the brand. Lumicast combines Super-LumiNova pigments and a binder, which is injected into a mould and then cured to create a highly durable material. This disc is affixed to a soft iron blank and then imprinted with black indexes and the Black Aces patch. The result is a dial with a maximum light emission of up to 23 hours. Housed in a black zirconium oxide ceramic case, the 41mm watch is lightweight, durable, and scratch-resistant. The matte black case contrasts entirely with the lit dial.

Powering the watch is the IWC Calibre 32100 with an anti-magnetic silicon escapement, a soft iron cage, and a power reserve of 72 hours. It’s also equipped with IWC’s double-pawl winding system that enables bi-directional winding. The watch has a black textile strap and stainless steel pin buckle and is exclusively available on IWC’s website.

The Bell & Ross BR-X5 Green Lum.
The Bell & Ross BR-X5 Green Lum.

Bell & Ross BR-X5 Green Lum

Bell & Ross has been integrating luminous materials into its Lum collection in interesting ways. The latest is the BR-X5 Green Lum, a watch housed in an innovative composite material, LM3D. It’s a photoluminescent composite made from quartz fibres that produce a green glow. The watch has a two-layer case with a microblasted grade 2 black DLC titanium case middle clasped between a two-part LM3D injection-moulded case.

The BR-X5 has a LM3D composite case that glows fully in the dark.
The BR-X5 has a LM3D composite case that glows fully in the dark.

The dial also features luminescent details on the skeletonised indexes, date window, and power reserve indication. The 41mm BR-X5 is a sportier, rugged version of the BR 05, powered by the BR-CAL.323 calibre. The Kenissi-developed movement is highly durable, matching the exterior of the watch, and has a power reserve of 70 hours. It’s limited to 500 pieces globally and paired with a black openworked rubber strap and a black DLC steel folding buckle.

The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300M Night Diver.
The TAG Heuer Aquaracer Professional 300M Night Diver.

TAG Heuer Monaco Chronograph Night Driver

Always one step ahead of everyone else, TAG Heuer has been creating fully lumed dials since the 1980s with the 1000 series of watches. It even made one for a Bond movie. In 2021, it introduced a full-lumed dial on the Aquaracer Professional 300M Night Diver in a 43mm stainless steel case with a black DLC coating. As per all Aquaracers, the watch has a 12-sided bezel with a ceramic insert, a 60-minute scale with a 15-minute countdown, and a blue-lumed 12 o’clock triangle marker.

TAG Heuer's latest fully-lumed dial is the Monaco Chronograph Night Driver.
TAG Heuer’s latest fully lumed dial is the Monaco Chronograph Night Driver.

Then, this year, it introduced the Monaco Chronograph Night Driver for the Singapore F1 Grand Prix. The watch’s charcoal grey dial features a partially lumed display with a square dial and chronograph registers in blue lume that mirrors the atmosphere of the night race. More details on the watch have been written by our colleague Joshua Yap.

Sports watches are definitely getting an upgrade with fully luminous designs. This is a trend that buyers are excited about, and it really adds a new layer to the watch design. Blade Runner, here we come.



Darren has been writing about, and admiring the craft of watchmaking for over a dozen years. He considers himself lucky to live in a golden age of horology, and firmly believes that the most difficult watches to design are the simplest and the most intriguing to discover.