Open any gun magazine, sporting catalog or watch any spy/special forces genre action movie or tv show and at some point you're gonna see the subtle product placement of a tactical watch on the heroes wrist.
Nothing new to this really. James Bond through the decades has worn Rolex's, Omega's, and Breitlings. Clive Cussler's character Dirk Pitt has worn and orange faced Doxa dive watch for years. Even Jack Bauer (or maybe more so) with his character wearing the hundred pound MTM tactical watch that has “a light on it that can be seen a mile away”.
Actually I once owned a Rolex President for 45 seconds when a Principal I was working gave it to me by mistake at a Christmas party. I realized the mistake immediately and handed it back to him and said “couldn't I have a nice Parazzi 12 gauge instead”.
The funny thing about watch companies is they have to go out and find someone to endorse it, pay them large sums of money to get the reputation built. After all everyone has to start somewhere.
But the story of Luminox (Latin for light night) Watches is a vastly different one than that of its competitors. Necessity being the mother of invention after all.
In the late 1980s business partners Barry Cohen and Richard Timbo (Richard-Barry Marketing Group) were actively looking for proprietary technology that could push them out and ahead of the competition. And like dedicated hunters they found their prize treasure on a trip to Switzerland in the form of a small Swiss watch firm. The relatively obscure Swiss company had created a then unknown and unique illumination technology for watches that relied on micro gas lighting as opposed to heat or battery power to illuminate watch hands.
Barry recognizing the immediate potential for solving one of life's simplest realities, degenerating eyesight, saw a market for older aging eyes. Without missing a beat they negotiated an exclusive deal for the use of the new micro gas technology in North America. And with that the world's most luminous watch was born.
But birth doesn't equal success. Soon enough the newly formed Luminox Watch Co realized that they were a small unknown firm in the world of reputable Swiss watch makers. A life boat bobbing in the shipping lane as it were. Then in 1993 something fortuitous happened. One of those once in a lifetime golden egg opportunities came knocking at their door. The U.S. Government.
Actually it was a little known representative of the Government, Procurement Officer (read: scrounger), Chief Nick North of SEAL Team 5. North explained that the SEALs were in need of a self-sustaining illuminating watch for night missions and having heard of their little known Luminox Watches asked if they could build the SEALs a new dive watch for.
Obviously when the best of the best knock on your door you answer. And nine months later in 1994 the first Navy SEAL dive watch was launched.
Then in 1999 a call came from Edwards Air Force base. The bombing pilots loved Luminox watches. What they didn't like was that they were wearing a “Squids” watch. The USAF asked if Luminox would make them their own model.
How do you say no to that?
Instead of making a model for the Air Force Luminox talked with Lockheed Martin to acquire licensing rights related to some of their more unique aviation properties. If you ever wondered what watch F-117 Stealth Fighter Pilots wear now you know.
So how does a Navy SEAL designed watch and a major U.S. Watch manufacturer get tied in here at SFICW?
After ten years of wearing (and abusing) my stainless Kenneth Cole Chronograph I was in dire need of a new watch. I specifically realized this on a very dark night this past July working in a mosquito and tick infested stretch of woods trying to gather intelligence for a new client. No moon made it dark enough, a heavy canopy of leaves made it a helluva lot darker and occasionally these nights out and about gathering intel can be hourly sensitive. So I had to do this hunker down -pull out SureFire-close eyes-bulb down-heat watch method to keep on my time target.
By the drive home at 5am my ten years of nostalgic feelings towards the watch were gone. The search for a new mission ready watch was on. I pulled out catalogs, looked on-line, for applicable watches. By now you're thinking buy a “Timex” dude. I hear you. Honestly. I'm not an image whore to be honest, but I am a hard-use gear whore if there is such a thing.
I looked at a couple of the new “tacti-cool” watches out there being hawked by some actors. As soon as I saw the $1000+ price tags I was looking else where. I looked at the MTM “Warrior” watches. Was the on-board light idea intriguing?
But the must charge once a month/ not leave said charger in an airport-hotel-basement was not.
I then remembered a conversation I had a little over ten years ago. I had spent the weekend with some overseas contractors running some training drills, one of them was a former Navy SEAL. One evening at dinner I noticed his watch and asked if it was a Luminox. He replied that it was. When I asked him how well he liked it his response was "Best ******* watch I have ever owned." The watch was dinged and worn but worked flawlessly. Who would want anything else.
So I called Luminox's Director of U.S. Operations, Max Robertson, and told him my beef with the competitions over priced watches, and what I needed from a watch. With out missing a beat Max recommended the the Luminox Black Ops 8401 with black face. I thanked Max for his time and placed my order.
A week later and a half hour before walking out the door to go camping for my birthday with friends, Bill from FedEx dropped off my new watch. Talk about perfect timing from a watch company.
So five months, two seasons, a couple of trips, some shooting clinics and hunting seasons later what are my thoughts?
A fantastic watch.
I like the heft and styling, it is definitely masculine, and the bright green dials and numbers are fantastic when you are laying in the tent during deer season and don't have to fumble for a head lamp to see if you have three hours or three minutes before you get up and meet the cold blackness of morning. The other brilliant idea is the orange illumination for 12 O' Clock. It may not sound like that big of a deal but if the watch is off your wrist and on the desk top in a dark hotel room it can be hard to tell exactly what time it is. The orange dot allows for immediate perspective.
How is that made possible?
Implanted tritium undergoes what is called beta decay. This is a release of electrons which causes a phosphor layer to fluoresce. When being manufactured a length of borosilicate glass tubing has its inside surface coated with a phosphor-containing compound and filled with radioactive tritium. The tube is then fused with a CO2 laser at the desired length. The borosilicate is relied on for its strength and resistance to breakage. In the tube, the tritium gives off a steady stream of electrons due to beta decay. The particles excite the phosphor, and hence you get the emitting low and constant glow to the watch hands.
Or so I've (cough) read elsewhere.
The other thing I have personally come to like (and you don't have to have a Luminox for this) is the rubber wrist band. Laugh if you want but I have worn a fixed stainless clasp band on my two previous watches for twenty years. Now having the option of being able to wear my watch on the outside of a winter jacket or wet-suit, instead of fumbling with gloves to push clothing back is a nice option to have.
If you are looking for a rugged, hard use watch that you can take anywhere and do damn near anything to Luminox is probably the way to go. Because after all you must be doing something right as a company when the Federal Government allows you to laser engrave the Special Warfare insignia on the back of your watch.