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All About Super-LumiNova

Super Luminova Watch Lume

Super-LumiNova has become a ubiquitous name in watch lume, but there is a lot of untold history when it comes to the glowing technology. In this post, we aim to educate watch enthusiasts about the inception of Super-LumiNova, what it is, and where it’s made.


First, let’s get the name right. You will see SuperLuminova; SuperLumiNova; Super-Luminova; maybe even Super-Lumi-Nova. Admittedly, even KeepTheTime was guilty of this in the early days. The correct spelling of this widely used watch lume is capital S, hyphen, capital L, no space, capital N: Super-LumiNova.

History of Super-LumiNova

A Japanese man named Kenzo Nemoto started a luminous paint business in 1941. He was contracted to equip Japan’s military aircraft and submarines with glowing gauges and meters during World War II.

After the war, there wasn’t as much demand for this service so Mr. Nemoto had to find other uses for his luminous product. That’s when he began going to homes to paint the hands and markers of clocks, and later moved onto applying the paint to watches. At this point in time, Nemoto & Co. was born, and went on to further developed new phosphorescent pigment technology. This officially became known to the watch industry as LumiNova in 1993. The invention was patented by Nemoto and is licensed to other watch brands and manufacturers.

In the same year (1993), RC Tritec AG was founded as a Swiss based company that holds the licensing rights to produce and distribute LumiNova under the registered name Super-LumiNova.

So is it Swiss or Japanese?

If you see Super in front of the LumiNova, then it’s 100% Swiss made. Although, be wary of watch brands that are not educated about the history of LumiNova and Super-LumiNova. Newer microbrands may be misinformed by Chinese, Swiss, or Japanese factories that they are using Swiss made Super-LumiNova lume, when in fact it could be something else. This may be ok as far as the quality of lume is concerned, but it could be misleading to consumers with regards to the origin.

Is Super-LumiNova radioactive?

Original watch lume was made from radium and was highly radioactive, especially for the workers hired to apply it to watches and gauges. Some watches even had “No Radiation” signs painted on the dials to indicate the lack of the dangerous substance. Nemoto invented LumiNova as a replacement for this worrisome material after Japan was faced with an aftermath of radiation after the war. This modern lume product is based on a non-radioactive and non-toxic formula consisting of strontium aluminate.

How It Works:

Super-LumiNova is charged by light. Sunlight or artificial light will do the trick, but many watch enthusiasts say natural sunlight garners the best results. When light energy hits the material, the electrons get excited and begin to energize rapidly, creating a phosphorescent glow. As the energy level of the electrons slows down, the brightness of the glow decreases.

No batteries necessary! Nemoto also licensed a form of their product to Seiko for their LumiBrite watch lume, which was released around the same time that Timex launched their IndiGlo line of watches. The backlight in IndiGlo watches was powered by battery, making the Seiko product worth looking at, especially in automatic/mechanical timepieces. You can read more about that in this article: All About Seiko LumiBrite

What is it exactly?

Super-LumiNova is produced and sold as a powder. You can find it in kits which include the luminous powder (pigment), varnish (glue), thinner (dilutor).

Lume Application:

You will want to read the application instructions and watch a few videos on YouTube, but the basic idea is to mix the powder with the varnish in a mixing cup until you get the thickness you want. If it gets too thick, add some thinner to thin it down. Then apply the lume as desired. Some methods of applying watch lume include:

  • Hand painting
  • Silkscreening
  • Pad printing

Doing it by hand may not yield the best results, especially if it is your first time reluming hands or a dial, so be prepared for some rough edges. If you’re looking for consistency in batches of dials, you will want to explore watch dial pad printing machines like these.

Color coded coolness:

Superluminova Colors Bgw9 C3 C1

There are a variety of lume pigments available. As you can see in the lumeshot comparison above, microbrand Marc & Sons went with a bluish lume for their pilot watch and a green lume for their diver. Most watches with Super-LumiNova will use one or more of the following color codes:

  • C1 – White with about 31% brightness of C3
  • C3 – Yellow with the brightest glow
  • C5 – Greenish-yellow with 89% brightness
  • C7 – Green with 84% brightness
  • C9 – Bluish-green with about 83% brightness
  • BGW9 – Light bluish-white with about 95% glow of C3
  • Old Radium – Appears to be aged/vintage tritium lume in the daytime, but glows a bright yellowish-green at night
  • Old White – Off-white color in the day, glows yellowish-green at night

Super Luminova Lume Color Chart

Currently, there are 8 different afterglow colors in the Super-LumiNova lineup:

  • BL – Blue Line – blue emission
  • GL – Green Line – green emission
  • VL – Violet Line – violet emission
  • WL – White Line – complete white emission
  • YL – Yellow Line – yellow emission
  • OL – Orange Line – orange emission
  • PL – Pink Line – pink emission
  • UL – Ultramarine Line – ultramarine blue emission

Although a wide array of color is cool, there is a science to it. Green and blue are the most common colors for most watches because of the way your eyes interpret the brightness of the colors. Rolex claims to have nailed this with their bluish/green Chromalight lume. You can read more in the article: All About Rolex Chromalight

In recent watch lume news, RC Tritec posted this about new colors becoming available:

“For quite a long time only green and blue Emission colours were available for the application on time pieces. We are pleased to present you the latest developments of Swiss Super-LumiNova pigments. For the first time it is possible to use White and violet emitting pigments on watch components which offers a wide range of new possibilities for the design of watch pieces all over the world.”

Aside from the stock Super-LumiNova colors above, RC Tritec is also able to match almost any pigment within the Pantone color system. If T-Mobile wanted to get the magenta they use for their branding on a watch dial, it’s possible. But again, color plays a role in the level of glow:

“Typically, red and black colored pigments show the lowest brightness. Not only the color itself but the intensity as well have an influence on the afterglowing performance. Low colored pigments show therefore a better performance.”

Why do some watches glow brighter?

Lumtec Lumeshot

As you learned in the section above, the brightness level has to due with the color of the lume, but that’s not all. There are different formulas, or grades, of Super-LumiNova.

Grades of Super-LumiNova:

  • Standard
  • Grade A
  • Grade X1

Grade X1 is the newest formulation of SLN. According to RC Tritec, Grade X1 lume shows improvements of up to 60% after two hours. This increase is based on a comparison between Standard Grade and X1 grade. It does not mention what the performance increase is when comparing Grade A to Grade X1.

Note: It appears that not all colors/pigments are available in all grades. For example, C3 (green) is available up to Grade X1, but the BGW9 (white) is only available in Standard Grade or Grade A.

While this newer formula of Super-LumiNova is said to provide a brighter and longer lasting glow, traditionally the more lume material you apply to the dial the brighter it will be. This is why some watch brands advertise that they apply multiple level of lume to their watches. For example, Lum-Tec is recognized in the luminescence arena for their process of applying 6-8 layers of Super-LumiNova over a pure white base to produce a long-lasting, dense glow.

Dial Designs

Superluminova Deep Blue Lumeshot

Dial design and lume layout also play an important role in scoring a watch with a good lumeshot. This is one of the reasons we started our LUME WARS! series on YouTube. Not only to compare and contrast the glow and tone of lume, but also to show the difference in the layout. For example, a dive watch next to a pilot watch, or a Seiko next to an Omega.

Full Lume Dials

Tag Heuer Lume Dial

Some watch brands reverse the traditional dial/markers lume design and offer full lume dials. Others mix it up and use two or more colors on a single watch. The Tag Heuer F1 Grande Date pictured above has both of these features.

Watch Lume Banner

Other Uses

LumiNova and Super-LumiNova is not just used on watch hands and dials. You can also find this incredible substance glowing in jewelry, signs, screen printed goods, and other instruments like scales and instrument panels. Below you can see how Elliot Brown inserts lume in the clasps of some of their bracelets.

Elliot Brown Clasp Lume

Here is an example of the brand Phoibos using lume on the crown of their Sentinel model.

Phoibos Sentinel Diver Py019c Lumed Crown

Around the same time as the above watch, another brand that lumed up the crown of their first model is Pharos Watches… it was also called the Sentinel.

Pharos Sentinel Crown Lumeshots

TL;DR / Super-LumiNova FAQS:

What is the correct spelling of Superluminova?

What is the brightest Super-LumiNova?

What is the second brightest color?

What is the brightest grade?

What makes one dial brighter than another with the same material?
The more layers of lume painted on the dial the more bright it will glow.

Is Super-LumiNova Swiss or Japanese?
“Super-LumiNova” is Swiss made, based on a product that was invented in Japan.

How do I know if what I am getting is real Swiss Super-LumiNova?
Sometimes you don’t know unless you are getting it straight from the source. Some watch factories may claim to be using the Swiss stuff but they are using something else. This is why you really have to trust your suppliers.

What is the raw material type?

Is Super-LumiNova radioactive?

What do you think about Super-LumiNova?

Add your thoughts and experience with this kind of watch 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.

Bonus: Also check out the video series: LUME WARS! by KeepTheTime

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5 years ago

I love your All About guides! Please do one one Tritium!

Gregory Hills
Gregory Hills
5 years ago

Learned a lot as usual. Thanks KTT

5 years ago

So making it brighter is only a matter of adding more? Then why is there so much subpar lume out there on watches if it’s that easy

4 years ago
Reply to  Chris

Because most of watch brands don’t know what the fuck they are doing and just want to make a buck.

Glen Danford
Glen Danford
4 years ago
Reply to  Chris

It’s not free, more layers=more cost

2 years ago
Reply to  Chris

“only a matter of adding more layers” sounds easy but it means the first layer has to dry and then another layer applied perfectly over the first layer, and so on. It’s not like adding coats of paint on a wall.

Phoibos Reef Master Microbrand Dive Watch ⌚️ – KeepTheTime Videos
4 years ago

[…] stainless steel / Case Diameter: 42mm / Case Thickness: 14mm / Dial: Black sandwich style / Lume: Super-LumiNova BWG9 / Date at 3:00 / Bezel: 120 click ceramic with lumed markers / Band: Black leather strap with […]

Max Katz
Max Katz
2 years ago

thnx for the education.

2 years ago

Thanks for the education. What is even more important to me than ultra-bright lume is a long-lasting lume. Does any of them have an advantage, or is it just a matter of stacking many layers on top of each other?

2 years ago

I just would like to know why the luminous effect has such a short period of shininess
I noticed keep my watch in the sub creates a very beautiful shine bright blueish colour BUT…
a couple of hours left it’s just not there anymore…

2 years ago

Super informative. Thanks for the lesson on SLN.

2 years ago

I *think* I read the article through – so where does Superluminova “old radium” fit on the colour chart exactly?

1 year ago

What a great guide. I have a watch with great lume and wanted to know how its lume compares in the lineup. Now I know and will look for other watches with similar grade. Thank you for clearing this up for me!

Alf aus MA
Alf aus MA
1 year ago

Good, informative article, thank you for that!
Most of all I liked the chapter “Spellcheck”; it was highest time, someone with your authority ;•) gave it a mention.

BUT: As Super-LumiNova is a registered trademark, shouldn’t it be spelled
Super-LumiNova® to be 100% right?

Just my “fünf Pfennige” from Germany


1 year ago

This “superLuminova” is just a CRAP ! Only, pathetic 10 min in the dark, after “charging” this thing with STRONG light – the glow is GONE ! – completely !!! And I’m not talking about some cheapest watches.
I, actually, bought a Tissot watch, because of this super…. And got pretty disappointed.

7 months ago

I just got a Christopher Ward Trident 300 and the lume is amazing, I will always keep this article in mind!

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