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Review of the Luminox EVO SEAL Colormark 3051

Luminox Military Tritium

Face If you’ve ever wondered what sort of watch would suit military personnel, SWAT teams and police departments, then today’s review of the Luminox EVO SEAL Colormark 3051 might be of interest. Let’s start off with the specifications:

  • Waterproof to 200m (660ft)
  • Mineral crystal
  • Non-screw-down, double-gasket crown
  • Quartz movement with end-of-life indicator (second hand starts jumping when the battery is low) and date complication
  • 45 month battery life
  • 60 click ratcheting bezel
  • 44mm wide case, 14mm high. Case is made of a matrix of polycarbonate with carbon filler. Screwed caseback with SEAL logo.
  • Very light weight at 55g.
  • Beveled 23mm rubber strap with two-pin thorn buckle, double strap keepers and Luminox logo. Non-tapering, and quite comfortable.
  • The standout feature of this watch is the self-powered illumination. (More on this below). There are small vials of tritium-based light at each hour, on all three hands and the bezel pip. It’ll glow for years without maintenance. On this model, the vials are green except for the one at 12, which is orange. The Colormark line is also available in other dial and lume colors.

Please continue reading for the full review.

The case is a composite polymer, comprised of polycarbonate with carbon black filler for color and abrasion resistance. This sort of composite makes good use of the light weight of the plastic, and lends it the color, abrasion resistance and toughness of the carbon black. Until a few years ago, many automobile tires were a similar mix of polyisobutylene and carbon black.

In this closeup, you can see the nicely curved lugs, toothed bezel, raised numeral indices and the understated logo on the strap.

Right-side The crown is light grey, unsigned and well protected by squarish guards that extend just past it.

Wrist-profile The side profile shows it sitting well on the wrist. The tapered bezel doesn’t seem to snag long sleeves, though obviously this would never pass for a dress watch! The bezel clicks quite firmly, though I find it a bit slippery when wet.

One thing that particularly struck me about this watch is the lightness – 55g is very light, and since some of that is the polyurethane strap, the weight is balanced around your wrist, making it seem even lighter. This is a great watch for exercise; you’ll hardly know it’s there.

Wrist-angle There’s a few things I’d change – switch to a sapphire crystal for increased scratch resistance, coat same for anti-reflectivity, and reduce a bit the amount of white on the dial. As you can see here, it can seem a bit busy. At night, of course, it’s a non-issue.

As I said in the introduction, the standout feature of Luminox is, of course, the luminosity. Let me explain a bit to give it context. In the 1900-1950’s, watch and clock dials were painted, often by hand, using luminous paint based on radium or tritium. Both are bad stuff, and the paint caused some awful deaths among the factory workers and has since been banned. (As an aside in watch trivia, if you see ‘T<25’ on an old watch dial, it denotes tritium, less than 25 microcuries.) Since then, chemical-based lume has been the rule, which is charged by ambient light and slowly dims as time passes.

Somewhere in the late 80’s or early nineties, a Swiss company figured out how to vitrify tritium into glass vials along with phosphor, creating safe self-powered illumination. Since tritium has a half-life of 12 years, these are guaranteed to meet minimum brightness for at least ten years. In 1994, Luminox created a model for the Navy SEALs, and the watch you see here is its direct descendant. As promised, it glows quite cheerily all night. Given that the light is guaranteed for ten years, this gives you the safety of chemical lume with the brightness of beta decay, a neat trick. I like it.

Overall, this is a totally no-nonsense, low-maintenance watch. (I’d like it even better if they reduced the maintenance by switching to a perpetual calendar movement and solar power, but there you are, never satisfied.) It’s exceptionally rugged, inexpensive (list price is $295) and the tritium lume provides  unmatched visibility in low-light environments. In materials, design and construction, it exemplifies the idea that ‘form follows function.’

By Paul Hubbard

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