A site of endless curiosity

What happended to watches with the radium dial?

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I recently bought an inexpensive dress watch.  This mechanical analog watch (you know, with “hands” to tell time and a “mainspring” and an “escapement” along with gears and such) has no backlight or any illumination to see it in the dark.  What it does have is a paint on the hands that, when exposed to light, will glow for some period of time.

Call me old-fashioned, but what happened to those good old watches with the radium dial?  You didn’t need to “charge up” those watches by exposing them to light.  Those were “always on” radium dials.

A trip to the internet can take you back in time to find out what happened to those watches.  If you want one, vintage watches with the radium dial can still be had on eBay for about $300.

So as you are checking on these sites to read about radium dials and vintage watches check your grandfathers collection of old watches and check if there is one with a radium dial.  Could be worth $300 or more on eBay and a good story from your grandfather on when he bought that watch with the radium dial.

Read about the girls who painted the watch hands with radium

Radium Girls: Women and Industrial health reform, 1910-1935

TIMEX – “Takes a lick’in and keeps on tick’in “– at least on the Geiger counter.  Check out this video

Alan’s vintage watch page

The history of timekeeping

Check out some high-end luxury watches (warning: large document)


Written by frrl

April 10, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. There are modern glow-in-the-dark watches that are “always on” too, and there were watches made in the 1950’s and before that needed to be exposed to light to glow in the dark. Today, however, instead of radium we use tritium. It is also radioactive (for this reason it can glow in the dark indefinitely) but it is considered less dangerous than radium. I think this is might have something to do with it being a much lighter element; it is an isotope of hydrogen. The radiation from it is so weak it cannot penetrate the glass (though if you somehow ingested it or breathed it in, it would obviously cause harm).


    September 11, 2011 at 5:52 am

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