There is much light beyond certain wave-lengths which we cannot naturally see, unaided.
A portable UV torch like the one below can be bought online for a few pounds. It will reveal aspects of watch dials, especially luminous material, that you might not have imagined. It’s also rather fun to try on passports, driving licences, credit cards, bank notes etc to see what security features show up!
It strikes me that readers might enjoy some images of watches that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy under a UV light, both modern and vintage. I will continue to add more pictures when I am able.
First, the watch which inspired me to write this article – a very rare Rolex GMT-Master 6542 with original Bakelite bezel from the late 1950s :
It can be seen from the image above that two of the GMT-Master’s hands have been replaced at later service.
Next we see a modern Submariner. Rolex developed the dials of this model through the decades, with different substances such as radium, tritium and luminova. At one time the six o’clock marker was deliberately treated differently, so that it would stand out. During the 1970s era of pioneering Comex divers and the Royal Navy Cearance Divers with their military-issue Submariners, a number of dials appeared with extra large markers, now known as “maxi dials.” These were reborn circa 2003 with the anniversary Submariner 16610 LV and later adopted across the entire 11661x series of Submariners, with their fatter cases and ceramic bezels such as this :
The Explorer dial is one of many Rolex design icons, celebrated for its simplicity and legibility. It has remained essentially unchanged since the early 1950s, when Rolex were doing all they could to align the brand with explorers, the conquest of Everest in 1953 and so on. This is a model 114270 from 2002 :
Below is an Explorer II model 1655 from the early 1980s — quite collectible, but with a confusing display first described as the “disco dial” by this author some years ago. The model is more often referred to as the “Orange Hand Explorer II.” Some are dead under a UV light, but this one is electric!
This later Explorer II 16570 had a somewhat simpler display to help the speleologists (cave explorers) for which it was designed. This is a 2010 version, its “SWISS MADE” dial denoting that the indices and hands bear luminova rather than tritium. The eagle-eyed will notice the reflected coronet and letters on the engraved inner rehaut; it is indeed one of the desirable 3186 calibre models :
Now another GMT-Master, a 1675 from the late 1970s. It is wonderful that it retains its original dial, but it would appear that new hands (so much brighter than the now-expired tritium of the hour indices) have been exchanged at service :
Next, a 2018 Rolex Air-King 116900. Strangely, we note that this model shares many features with the anti-magnetic Milgauss 116400 :
A Sea-Dweller 1665 “Great White” might be worth up to five figures now….but would you spot a service replacement dial, that would reduce its attractiveness to collectors? This dial is a genuine Rolex one, but you would need to know that it was not original. Bright indices and only “SWISS” at 6 o’clock…
Now, while we have the UV torch out, let’s have a peep at a Rolex diamond bezel. The watch below is a 26mm lady’s Datejust 179136 in platinum with original diamond bezel (as the model number denotes), last RRP just under £60,000 and received back from service at Rolex UK only days before this photo :
It can be seen that some of the diamonds in both bezel and dial fluoresce, while others do not. This is a natural attribute of some stones…..but wouldn’t it be brilliant if Rolex were placing them deliberately as a security feature, specifically to identify genuine parts? I will be checking more of these with my torch in due course!
It has to be said: just because you can shine your UV torch on an old face, that does not mean you should.