Why I Love It: Lume

I don’t recall the exact day I got my first Gameboy, but I sure do remember it was on my person constantly. My game of choice: Mega Man V. I can still hear the signature ‘coin drop’ Gameboy startup chime, followed by the scratchy, upbeat electronic Mega Man V theme song in my head. I’d play that thing all day. But the problem was, in complete darkness, I might as well have been playing my Gameboy blindfolded. That was until a genius Gameboy attachment was invented called the Light Boy. Needless to say, the Light Boy overhead light and screen magnifier was a game changer for me. My 9PM bedtime went out the window. Road trips through the night infinitely got better. Nothing was going to stop me from playing my Gameboy, not even nightfall. So what does that have to do with watches, and more specifically, lume? Well, the vision of my younger self, face illuminated in the darkness by the green glow of my Gameboy screen, is strikingly similar to the glow from my watch’s lume now.

Lume Action On The New Citizen ‘Barnacle’ Challenge Diver. Image Courtesy Of @katshoulders

It wasn’t just the Gameboy where I could trace my obsession with objects that glow in the dark. As a kid, my ceiling was filled with those glow in the dark stars, and during my sneakerhead days, I remember owning a pair of the Nike Dunk High Glow In The Darks. As for watches, I distinctly remember my entry into the game through G-Shocks and being obsessed with the indigo blue backlight feature. I can’t quite pinpoint the reason why, and I guess I’ll work it out as this article writes itself, but great lume on a watch makes me happy.

The Bell & Ross Lume Dial BR 03-92 Which Could Also Be Had On A Fully Lumed Rubber Strap.

Why so? Well one reason is that lume, when executed properly, is an unexpected surprise throughout the day. When it’s dormant, lume is practically invisible. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked indoors after being out in the sun, glanced down at my wrist, and got a dopamine hit from some day-lume action. Of course that’s not necessary to tell the time, but for those that understand where I’m coming from, tell me that doesn’t put a little smile on your face!

Lume On The SPB31X. There’s Nothing Better Than Some Good Ol’ Fashioned Seiko Lume.

Its actual use-case, telling time in the dark, is as practical as it gets. And as my taste and preference in watches have evolved based on what I need them to do, bright lume (in sufficient amounts)has been a feature that’s a must-have. Sure, lume on a watch has come in handy during those times I’ve camped in the great outdoors, and even more so when I made the trek up Mount Whitney in the wee-hours of the morning. But being a father to a six month old, and having to be awake at a moment’s notice in the middle of the night, as well as being aware of the time, I’ve learned to appreciate good lume more and more. And, as a result, those watches have taken up most of the wrist time.

Lume Putting The World In View With The Christopher Ward World Glow.

Lume adds a certain dependability to the watch. In my opinion, it can also make or break a watch as well. In certain scenarios, the application or the amount of lume can make a good watch great. Think brighter lumed indices or fully lumed bezel markers. I can’t tell you how much it drives me crazy when there’s solely a lumed pip on a bezel, leaving the rest of the markers unseen in the dark.

Lumed Bezel Markers On The Synchron Military FTW

Lack of lume can also be a source of disappointment. I love my Explorer 14270, and if I had to, it’d be the last watch I’d let go of, but my one gripe with it is that the 3, 6 and 9 numerals are not lumed! Whenever I find myself in the W&W office and I see Blake Buettner wearing his Explorer 124270 across the way, I can’t help but think that watch is the perfect version of my Explorer. Not because of the better movement (more power reserve, Chronergy escapement, and a blue Parachrom hairspring), and updated case specs, but because of the lumed numerals.

The hour markers, including the 3, 6 and 9 numerals filled with Chromalight Lume on the Rolex Explorer 12470. Image by @dhareza.jpg

I don’t think I’m the only one that’s fascinated by lume. I feel like this year, more brands are hopping on the lume train, as we’ve seen more fully lumed dials than we have in previous years; the Doxa Carbon White Pearl, the Tag Heuer Night Diver and the Citizen Aqualand JP2007-17W to name a few. Lume also hasn’t been limited to markers, hands and dials. We’ve seen lume on straps from luxury brands and independent strap makers alike. Bell & Ross’ BR 03-92 comes with a fully lumed dial and rubber strap. The Zenith and SJX Poker Chip collaboration came with a Cordura strap that’s entirely lumed as well. Erika’s Originals makes their signature MN strap with a strip of lume down the middle. And if you’re the bold type, and want to add some flare to a watch that isn’t a Bell & Ross or a Zenith, CNS makes fully lumed NATO straps and Vortex does the same with their rubber straps. Although lumed dials and straps may not be for everyone, I think overall it’s refreshing to see brands let their hair down and have some fun.

A Lumed Out Dial On The Tag Heuer Night Diver Which Made Its Return Late Last Year

And when it comes down to it, that’s what lume is all about, fun! Yes, as I mentioned above, I do take lume into serious consideration as far as its practicality when I purchase a watch, but from a symbolic standpoint, lume represents the light heartedness in this hobby. I mean raise your hand (or mention in the comments) if you’ve flashed your fully lumed watch dial right in front of your significant other’s face during bedtime. I know I have. And although she didn’t get the whole appeal about watches before I made this world my career, it’s little things like that, the joy behind it all, that make people on the outside looking in say, “Okay, I get it.”

Image Of The Citizen Aqualand JP2007-17W Courtesy Of @Seiodiverr

I recently added the Citizen Aqualand JP2007-17W to my collection and I can’t tell you how entertaining and enjoyable the wearing experience has been this summer. A quick pass through a sun filled room illuminates the entire dial, and I can’t help but grin every time. My Gameboy playing days are long behind me, which is kind of a bummer (maybe I’ll pick up a Nintendo Switch?). But I think a great watch, with great lume, is a fair trade. Don’t you?

Any strong feelings on lume?!  Is it a must-have in your watch or do you not care for it all? Let us know in the comments below!

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Thomas is a budding writer and an avid photographer by way of San Diego, California. From his local surf break to mountain peaks and occasionally traveling to destinations off the beaten path, he is always searching for his next adventure, with a watch on wrist, and a camera in hand. Thomas is a watch enthusiast through and through; having a strong passion for their breadth of design, historical connection, and the stories that lie within each timepiece.