When Rolex introduced their bluish “Chromalight” lume, many watch enthusiasts didn’t know what to make of it. Rolex touts Chromalight as being highly legible, long-lasting and easier to see in murky conditions – conditions you might encounter by diving 12,800 feet below the ocean surface with your Deepsea dive watch.
…The zero marker on the bezel, in the form of a triangle, is also visible in the darkest reaches of the ocean thanks to a capsule containing the same luminescent material. -From the Rolex Deepsea brochure
We first heard the vocabulary word Chromalight when Rolex added it to the company dictionary around the time the Deepsea Sea-Dweller was launched. It sounded exciting, but many new DSSD owners found that the green lume in their old Submariner and GMT-Master II watches was glowing brighter than the new blue stuff.
After the Deepsea got blue lume, the Sub was the next watch to be blessed by Chromalight, followed by just about everything else. It’s important to note that some reference numbers have the old lume (Super-LumiNova) and some have Chromalight. There is no official timeline, it just depends on where your watch was in the production line. For example, some Milgauss watches have bi-color lume while others have Chromalight. (KTT Tip: If you prefer one over the other, ask to see a lumeshot pic before pulling the trigger. Keep in mind that it’s sometimes hard to tell if the white balance in the photo isn’t right, not to mention the colors in the screen you’re viewing it on.)
Chromalight VS Super-LumiNova
We did a full post and video that compares Chromalight with SuperLumiNova here. There is speculation that Chromalight is essentially a rebranded Super-LumiNova type C9 (keep reading below). If that’s true, the Rolex Marketing Machine did a heck of a job. It makes sense, though, since Japan-based Nemoto & Co. still holds the patent for the original LumiNova which was invented by them in 1993 (Super-LumiNova is essentially a Swiss made and distributed product of LumiNova). What we think we know is that both Super-LumiNova and Chromalight are the same strontium aluminate based substances, but of course this information has not been confirmed by Rolex. If it’s the same, then the difference comes from how it’s applied to the hands and markers (more on this below).
What we know for sure is that Chromalight does not seem brighter than green lume, at least not by what the naked eye considers to be bright.
However, it does seem to last longer. This could be an effect caused by how the eyes process the light and color information put out by the luminous material.
Think of walking into a fully lit white room, like the one Neo was in when all shelves of arms and ammo started appearing out of nowhere in the Matrix. At first it is very bright, then your eyes adjust. One could interpret that as the brightness “fading,” but is the light really fading or just the initial shock factor wearing off?
Now look at Chromalight. A softer blue that doesn’t shock your eyes at first like the bright green lume, but does seem to linger on a bit longer.
Also, if the intensity of lume fades with age, then by the time Chromalight is used in every Rolex, you can only compare it to the older lume models that will already be fading slightly compared to when they were first produced. Just sayin’.
Is Chromalight Proprietary to Rolex?
Some say it is, some say it isn’t. Once a watch blog or magazine starts throwing around a statement on something watch related, other publications tend to follow suit.
There doesn’t seem to be any evidence to back up the notion that Chromalight is a “proprietary compound” invented by Rolex. However, there is proof that Rolex USA registered a trademark on the term “Chromalight” in 2009. It was filed as “watches and parts thereof.”
If it were an in-house invention by Rolex, wouldn’t they incorporate that fact into their marketing? Rolex renames stuff all the time, but when they actually invent something they go all out to let people know it came from them – as they should!
We think it’s safe to say Rolex’s Chromalight is as proprietary as the name it’s called. And nothing more.
Read what Rolex wrote in the Submariner brochure:
The Chromalight display on the dial is an innovation that pushes the boundaries of visibility in dark environments. The blue glow lasts up to eight hours with a uniform luminosity throughout, practically twice as long as that of standard luminescent materials.
They very carefully worded this in a way that makes it sound like a proprietary material, but is more or less poetically describing a proprietary use of a material. No where does it say it’s their own invention or product – only the display. You can apply more volume of luminous compound over a larger area to get a similar effect to what is mentioned in their copy.
A perfect example would be Lum-Tec. They created their own proprietary application (like Rolex) of an otherwise non-propriety compound (like Chromalight). They call theirs MDV for Maximum Darkness Visibility. To sum it up, MDV is their branded process of applying 6-8 layers of Super-LumiNova, resulting in what many watch enthusiasts consider a very impressive glow. In an interview with Lum-Tec founder Chris Weigand, he said:
…We are currently working on a way to make the lume even deeper into the dials to make them glow even longer. –source
Then What Is Chromalight Really?
If Rolex really didn’t reinvent the wheel and create their own luminous compound for watch lume, then they’re almost certainly using Swiss made Super-LumiNova with a color somewhere between C9 and C7. If this is true, then they can get away with marketing Chromalight as staying brighter longer because according to an official LumiNova chart, compared to green lume, C9 yields up to 5% more relative brightness 30 minutes after being charged.
What do you think about Chromalight?
Add your thoughts and experience with Rolex lume to the comments below. Post your lumeshots for others to see.
We hope this information was interesting and useful to you. Please consider buying your next watch from our shop.
Like lume? Check out our LUME WARS! video series. Like Seiko? Read All About Seiko Lumi Brite. The watch in the photo above is a Rolex Datejust II Rhodium Arabic dial and can be purchased in our shop here. The image was digitally enhanced to exaggerate the colors.