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A Brief Luminox Watch History

Luminox is a profoundly recognizable name in modern watchmaking. Having a solid bearing on the affordable military dive-watch market, many swear by this brand—and nothing else. Meaning “Lumi-” (light) and “-nox” (night), each of their watches is pretty far from being just a night light. With tritium-filled tubes on the dial and hands these watches are quite literally radioactive. Hydrogen derived, tritium is a radioactive isotope that keeps these watches luminescent both day and night. This isotope is paired with a phosphorescent paint job, which causes the reactionary glow these watches were named for (don’t fret, though, it’s not dangerous). Originally meant to be a low-light luminescent sports watch, the brand’s name has become synonymous with elite military operations globally—including the famed U.S. Navy SEALs. Speaking on naming, the company itself was named and begun not so long ago. Luminox was started in 1989 by industry professional Barry Cohen. He took on a colleague named Richard Timbo to tackle the brand, and it was the Navy SEALs who would first boost the reputation of these now ubiquitous watches.

The 90s Boon for Luminox

1992 is arguably the most important date in Luminox history. Cohen and Timbo’s brand was on full display at an industry expo when (now retired) Nick North—the officer in charge of procurement for the SEALs—came across Luminox. Their watches were put to the test with the SEALs R&D department (alongside other wristwatches) to determine their ability to perform in the field. When the dust settled on these tests, Luminox stood out against every other competitor. By 1994 Luminox released its famed “3001” watch. From ‘94-’00 the brand would come to take on contracts from the Singapore Air Force, US Coast Guard, NYC Police Department, and gain a licensing deal to make Lockheed Martin wristwatches. Needless to say, by the early 2000s Luminox wasbecoming the name in military performance timekeeping.

2000-Today

By the early 2000s Luminox was appearing in feature films and on 2002 U.S. Olympians alike. They also opened brand-exclusive stores in Japan, further building their reputation as a globally appealing tough-built watch. However, it was in 2006 that brothers Ronne and Andre Bernheim—owners of watch manufacturer Mondaine Watch Co.—took 50% of Luminox under their wing. Their expertise in global marketing strategies further solidified Luminox’s appeal on the world stage. With the Bernheim’s guidance, Luminox released multiple limited edition watches based on the brand’s history with various military/police organizations around the world. One year later, in 2007, a notable release created waves within the brand. Their use of an extra-hardened mineral crystal (registering at 550-650 Vickers) and a Carbon Compound case on their “Colormark” series set a new bar for their watches. Not long after the Colormark series dropped, it quickly became their best selling wristwatch. This is not a surprising fact, considering how much the Colormark watches pay homage to their original SEALs predecessors (the 3001).

As Luminox moved into the 2010s they began marketing to a wider and wider audience. With endorsements from counter-terrorist officials and private adventurers, the company—with their Colormarks out in full force—continued to build mass appeal. With the Bernheim brothers effectively helping with global distribution and diversification Luminox continued to build watches for land, air, and even space. That’s right, in 2014—to celebrate their 25th anniversary—Luminox released a special edition GMT Space Series. Boasting the rugged Carbon Compound of the original Colormark, these watches were a great addition to the brand.

In 2016 Andre and Ronnie Bernheim bought Luminox outright from founder Barry Cohen. The watches have been (for some time) produced in Switzerland, though the brand’s headquarters are located in San Rafael, California. 2017 saw the introduction of a “Swiss-Made” law in Switzerland—which Luminox still upholds in its movement constructions. Moving into the 2020s, the Bernheim brothers will likely have more in store for this juggernaut brand. Last year has marked 30+ years under Luminox’s belt. No matter who ends up owning it down the road, one thing is clear—they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. Whether one has a Bear Grylls special edition, a space watch, or even a classic SEALs watch, they’re equipped for rugged exploits. And if things get too rugged, all history considered, it’s still worth consulting a watchmaker for upkeep.

Times Ticking has been in operation for more than 30 years, since 1982. We have performed watch repair for customers both locally and internationally. If it Ticks! We KNOW it! Our team of watch repair technicians have a combined experience in watchmaking of over 120 years.

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