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Do you Clean Cases with Luminous Dials?

Hi Gents,

I am pretty new to collecting vintage Bulova watches.  I just read that radium is radioactive and this has given me pause.  I have already cleaned one case on the Military Miss I have.  I have two more watches coming with the same lumed dials and I am wondering if you think it is safe to clean the cases.  Not the dials or hands but is taking the movement out to clean the case dangerous as well?  I did a search but didn't find a clear answer.  Thanks in advance.  

Kathy

Watch-N-Learn's picture
Watch-N-Learn
Posted April 18, 2018 - 7:24pm

I just attempted this with what I believe to be a 1950 watertight.  After I got it apart and started looking into it and after much discussion with other members here and a nuke I work with I just secured it away for later because I didn’t want to contaminate my works space as I have other watches that need work. So I’ll get back to it later once I devise an appropriate mitigation plan.  In my case the dial when put under ultraviolet light looks like gold flake paint on the numbers. The paint has been eaten away and what is left is the radium.  So the the flakes and any debris which may be in the case, movement and dial/hands can become airborne and that is the danger.  I’m by no means an expert but for me I didn’t want to risk it this time. The half life on that stuff is 1600 years.  There are also probably three takes on this subject. 1 camp will say just wear a mask and take precautions and you will be fine the risk is minimal.  The others will say throw it away call homeland security and your house is now chenoble.. lol. Lastly there are those that will say that there is no risk at all you get more radiation from a day on the beach etc as long as you don’t lick the dial you will be fine.  Maybe the truth is somewhere in between but as for me I would be very cautious. You can’t see radiation so that kinda makes it dangerous enough for me to exercise caution. 

I’m  new here too so welcome!

Cheers,

Rick

Kathy L.'s picture
Kathy L.
Panel Member
Posted April 18, 2018 - 7:40pm

Hi Rick,  Thanks for the reply.  I have been reading what I can find today and it is pretty interesting.  I had no idea of the radioacivity.  Yes I am with you for now.  I will leave them in their cases until I have more knowledge on safely handling them.  I do not want to clean the dials just the cases.  

Welcome to you as well!

Thanks,

Kathy

Watch-N-Learn's picture
Watch-N-Learn
Posted April 18, 2018 - 8:00pm

Hi Kathy

If you do a search on radium here you will find a few threads.  Rev Rob and others have some very useful recommendations and thoughts on this subject.. good stuff

Kathy L.'s picture
Kathy L.
Panel Member
Posted April 19, 2018 - 12:44am

Thanks :)

Reverend Rob's picture
Reverend Rob
Panel Member
Posted April 18, 2018 - 9:37pm

As long as you don't disturb the Radium on the dial, you should be ok. You can wash and rinse the cases out under running water and then rinse with 99% Isopropyl alcohol and dry with a hair dryer.

The danger from Radium is by ingestion, so if you see flaking going on from the hands or dial, make sure you wash your hands or better still, wear disposable rubber gloves or finger cots. 

Kathy L.'s picture
Kathy L.
Panel Member
Posted April 19, 2018 - 12:46am

Perfect, thank you for replying.  That sounds like a good way to do it.