Hands-On with the Isotope Old Radium Bronze Tobacco

Isotope is a British watch brand that we’ve covered fairly extensively on Worn & Wound. They take a unique approach to watch design that incorporates a signature shape (the lacrima, resembling a teardrop) and frequently makes use of vibrant color. Their range of HydriumX divers are a lot of fun and have proven to be fan favorites, and I reviewed their GMT back in March of 2021. The brand lives and dies by their playful designs: some resonate strongly, but others simply may not strike a chord. That’s perfectly OK, though. It’s the cost of doing things your own way, and a natural side effect of operating within a design language that doesn’t rely too much on watch historical design tropes.

So I was curious to check out one of their latest releases, the Old Radium Bronze Tobacco. The Old Radium line is Isotope’s take on a pilot’s watch, a genre that is well understood in the broader consciousness of watch collectors, and notably challenging to iterate on. Many brands issue pilot’s watches that effectively look the same, and only the most hardcore connoisseurs will pick out the seemingly smallest differences in dial layout, case shape, and so forth. Isotope’s approach with the Old Radium is actually quite similar to what they’re doing with dive watches via the HydriumX line: taking the frame of something common, and filling it with something whimsical. 


Hands-On with the Isotope Old Radium Bronze Tobacco

Landeron Automatic
Brown/Olive Green
Yes, hands and hour markers
Water Resistance
100 meters
40 x 47mm
Lug Width
Screw down

Notable Specs and Features 

The key feature of the Old Radium Bronze Tobacco is right in the name of the watch. The 40mm case is constructed from CuSn8 bronze, and it has a pleasing warm tone and a brushed finish that is appropriate for a pilot’s watch, and balances out some of the luster of the brand-new bronze on my review sample. The finish will take on a natural patina over time, which should give the watch a more rustic and weathered look to match the dial, which is where much of the Old Radium’s personality is on display. 

The dial is effectively two-toned, with an olive green lacrima in the central portion, surrounded by a brown outer section. The entire dial has a rough textured finish, and time is read via the traditional pilot’s watch layout consisting of lumed Arabic numerals and complementary sword hands. There’s also an outer track for the minutes in a shade of green that matches the interior lacrima, and decorative markings at 3:00 and 9:00 which serve to accent the lacrima. These markings, incidentally, are lumed as well. 

The watch is powered by a Landeron automatic movement with 40 hours of power reserve, beating at 28,800 vph. It’s visible through a display caseback, of which the outer portion is constructed from titanium. This is a common practice with bronze watches to keep the material away from the skin, which can act as an irritant for some. Two straps are included with the Bronze Tobacco: a nice brown pebbled leather strap with a matching bronze buckle, and a custom made “Marine Nationale” style leather strap by DidymoStraps with a weathered and aged appearance. It’s also worth noting that the case is water resistance to 100 meters, which is impressive given its slim 10.1mm height. 


I’ll be honest here and say upfront that I was not the biggest fan of Isotope’s GMT that I reviewed nearly two years ago. It was a fun idea, in my opinion, but the dial execution was busy and tough to read, and the case had an unwelcome clunkiness to it. Similarly, I’ve found many of the HydriumX dive watches to have aesthetically pleasing and clever dial designs (I particularly like the “Blink” diver) but they too have a case that is just a bit unwieldy, and lets down the care and attention paid to the dials. 

The Old Radium presentation is quite a bit more successful, and it starts with wearability. The case is a pleasure to wear, nice and thin, and in the Goldilocks zone in terms of diameter for my 7.5 inch wrist. There’s nothing fancy about the construction, just a thin midsection, a bezel with a single facet that gives the watch a subtle angular look, and the caseback. The way these sections are separated makes the case look and feel even a bit thinner than it actually is. 

The dial takes elements of a traditional pilot’s watch and turns them on their ear. In fact, if Isotope didn’t tell me that this was their spin on a pilot’s watch, I might not have come to that conclusion on my own. But knowing that traditional pilot’s watches from the 1940s were the inspiration for the Old Radium allowed something to click in my mind about this design. It’s not “authentic” in the way we usually use that word in the watch industry, but feels like a stylized version of what could have been standard issue if the real standard issue never existed. Like “Red Apple” cigarettes in Quentin Tarantino movies, it’s made up, but weirdly evocative of the past in a way that’s hard to pin down. 


For the past few years, Isotope has been in the somewhat strange position of releasing some of the most interesting watches from a design perspective that I wouldn’t want to actually wear. On paper (and in photos) many of their watches have worked better for me in the abstract than on my wrist, where it actually counts. But the Old Radium format is a winning combination of case size and dial execution, and I hope that for future projects Isotope puts the same premium on wearability that they have with the pilot’s watch line. There’s a lot of potential to add color here that they have yet to tap into, and while the “Old Radium” nomenclature that evokes a sepia toned period of history might seem limiting, I think Isotope can build off this release and a prior edition in green with more experimental and even bolder ideas. 

At a retail price of about $1,111 (after currency conversion), the Old Radium Bronze Tobacco feels fairly priced for a design forward watch with a solid Swiss movement. For pilot watch fans, it offers something a little off the beaten path, and is a very different expression of a well worn genre. Think of it this way: when was the last time you saw something this creative and contemporary feeling that can be said to be rooted in the WWII era? That alone makes the Old Radium worth a second look.  

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.