$ European Watch - Radiation concern

Discussion in 'European & Other Pocket Watches' started by gemad, Jul 21, 2020.

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  1. gemad

    gemad New Member

    Jul 21, 2020
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    Duke railroad time keeper, Made in Austria.

    It has a Luminus dial and hands.
    That concerns me as a new comer to the problem.

    I recall as a youth back in the fifties,
    it was all the rage to have something that you could read in the dark.
    Watches had a premium attached if it had radiation. Ahah ha.

    As this Duke is from the forties or fifties,
    my concern is,

    should I check it over for radiation leaking, with a Geiger counter,
    before allowing it in my house.

    I suppose most railroader watches,
    were used outdoors and so radiation was not a major factor.

    Seems over the years a number of dealers have handled and owned the watch before me.
    No complaints...but then maybe they all died of cancer. Ahah ha.

    Bottom line.
    I have two of the Dukes,
    and want to someone's opinion ,
    whether the luminous hands and face are dangerous to the user....
    secondly, to anyone attempting to open and do repairs.

    I`m sure most clock workers do not keep a Geiger counter handy.
     
  2. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    if you have a GM tube and counter then yes check it by all means. If not, from the fifties it probably has enough zinc sulphide left to work so see if it does glow in the dark. Then shut it away in a box for 24 hours, open in the dark and see if it still glows.

    If you have a detector you are not detecting a leak but gamma radiation that will go through the case/movement/crystal.
     
  3. Rob Martinez

    Rob Martinez Registered User
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    #3 Rob Martinez, Jul 21, 2020
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2020
    If you plan to collect these types of timepieces then getting a Geiger counter (Amazon has them) might be a good idea. You will want one that detects and measures gamma radiation (versus Alpha). Many will also detect Beta which is a good thing. Make sure you are looking at low levels, not a survey meter that checks for high levels. Short of buying a Geiger counter I'd look at the back of the watch for a radiation symbol which would be a selling point for a watch with luminous hands, numerals, etc. You should also go into a dark room and see if you can see the hands, etc. A black light would also show then. Flaking off and contaminating the surface where the luminous paint chips land is possible but one would assume this happened a while ago, if at all. Some old compasses had Radon gas but I don't think watches had that particular type of radiological source. If you do decide to collect these I would check with your state about how much of a combined source you can keep, specifics about mailing, etc. Good Luck!
     
  4. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User
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    If you dont plan to open the watch you are fine. It wont harm you by wearing it. If it really bothers i will take it off your hands.;)
     
  5. gemad

    gemad New Member

    Jul 21, 2020
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    I`m afraid, I did stumble into getting these watches with the luminus features.
    I didn't appreciate the risk involved.
    I sense the bottom line, is to,
    keep them out of the house till,
    I check them with a Geiger Counter.
    Very nice old watches...I do hope they prove to be safe.

    For sure, I won't be opening them.
    At present, they are running.

    I needed some reassurance about this problem,
    but to have such great answers
    within a couple of hours, is truly amazing.
    Thank you all . Glad there is such a place. Stay safe.
     
  6. novicetimekeeper

    novicetimekeeper Registered User
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    The hands don't have to be radioactive to glow or illuminate more with a UV light. Modern luminous paint does that.

    Radon is a decay product of the Radium used to paint the dials, it is not a type of luminous coating.
     
  7. gmorse

    gmorse Registered User
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    Hi gemad,

    If you search on this board for the word 'radium', you'll get around 70 hits, but to save you the trouble, this is one of the best-informed and pragmatic, with several posts by a nuclear physicist.

    Regards,

    Graham
     
  8. Dr. Jon

    Dr. Jon Moderator
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    The watches are not a significant hazard if you keep the crystals in place and do not open them. The women who got horribly poisoned ingested radium for many years.

    The major problem with these watches, if they have radioactive material in them, is that small particles of radium from an opened watch can get into your home. The radiation is not as serious a health hazard as it an economic one. Those particles can be detected at much lower levels than can every harm your heath but then can make you home require remediation if you sell it. This is low probability but there is no up side to opening the watches inside your home.

    If they have radium, a detector can measure it.

    FWIW I used to own a compass Waltham made in the 1960's for night fighting. It had a lot of radium and it had a radiation hazard symbol on it.
     
  9. gemad

    gemad New Member

    Jul 21, 2020
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    Thanks, all good information.
    I started out knowing that in "the old days" they used materials, found , not to be safe,
    and things are done better and safer now.

    There is very little information about the Duke railroad time keeper watch, made in Austria.
    Seems there is more known about the Swiss made ones....and that ain't good,
    as they say many places in Switzerland are contaminated.

    No question, my watches will never be opened in my home...probably in no ones home at that.
     
  10. gemad

    gemad New Member

    Jul 21, 2020
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    I thank all who offered advise.
    I certainly needed it.

    I did happen upon this well written article,
    that even made reference to this site.

    Talk about going around in circles...
    sort of like,,,,,, "radiation...time to circle the wagons". Ahah ha.

    I now have ways to test, before using a Geiger Counter on it.
    It's as shame, that it seems to be lost information,
    about the Specific "Duke time keeper" but life goes on.

    That link :


    Radioactive luminous radium paint
     
  11. eri231

    eri231 Registered User

    Jan 13, 2012
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    ""
    Plangg and Pfluger watch factory
    The watch factory in Bludenzer Klarenbrunnstrasse, founded in 1906, is a so-called customs establishment. Since the end of the 19th century, high tariffs have been imposed on imports of finished watches from Switzerland in the monarchy. Therefore, a branch of the watch manufacturer Adolf Obrecht in Solothurn was established in Bludenz. The building was built in the home style by the Swiss architect Otto Rudolf Stalder. It offered space for up to 130 workers. The production of watches in Bludenz took place from 1924 by the company Plangg & Pfluger. Her internationally known pocket watches were sold under the "Montfort" brand. During the Second World War the factory worked for the armaments industry. From 1945 the watch production followed again, until 1967 this was up to 20,000 pocket watches and 10,000 wristwatches annually ""
    regards enrico
     
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  12. Kevin W.

    Kevin W. Registered User
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    The key words from the link posted, The risk from these hazards is relatively small, but you should be aware of them.
     
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