Hey folks, this is my first review on a watch. I'm not what you'd consider a watch-nut so it's not a high-end, high-priced, razzle-dazzle, state of the art piece of steel. It's a rather plain simple field watch with a unique feaure that will be discussed below.
First a little background info. Back in the mid 90's I bought a general purpose military field watch while at Fort Benning. It was a Stocker and Yale (otherwise knows as a SandY) model 590 MIL-W-46374F TYPE 3 watch. The SandY was a Swiss Made quartz watch with a plastic case, nylon strap and had a sterile face (no markings) other than the required H3 and trefoil radioactive symbol to denote that it contained Tritium. Despite it's simplicity, I loved that watch. It was simple, kept accurate time, was lightweight and was rugged. Sadly, I lost the watch a couple of years later and soon replaced it with another brand of watch. Since then, I've owned a few dress, casual and sports watches which have all served me well, but I always had a soft spot for that old SandY.
Jump now to the year 2006. Last week I happened to visit a military outfitter and glanced over at their selection of watches. Lo and behold, I saw a watch that looked exactly like my old SandY. I asked the clerk to take it out and compare it to a few others they had on display and decided to purchase it. The watch I took home is a Traser H3 model P5900 Type 3 field watch.
Just like the old SandY 590, the Swiss Made Traser P5900 is made in accordance to military specification MIL-W-46374F designated a type 3 (quartz) field watch. It features a Ronda 505 quartz movement, polyester case, steel bezel, mineral crystal and a nylon/leather strap. It's water resistance is rated to 30 metres. What makes these watches unique is that they are equipped with GTLS (Gaseous Tritium Light Source) as a form of illumination developed by a Swiss firm called mb-microtec. Tritium is used to illuminate the hands and markers of the watch. Now the question. What is Tritium?
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. It is radioactive with a half-life of 12.32 years and decays into helium-3 by reaction. This means that after this time half of any amount of tritium will have become helium. In this process no gamma radiation occurs and only a low energy electron is emitted producing a glow. The emitted electrons from the small amounts of Tritium in the watches are harmless and have a useful life of more than 20 years. That means no outside source of light is needed to "charge" the hands and markers.
Here's is a sample of the Tritium at work:
Pic from traserh3watches.com
mb-microtec of Switzerland is the only manufacturer of these tiny Tritium light elements and produce these watches in Switzerland under the brand name: Traser. In the past they also supplied the Tritium light elements to Stocker & Yale for their military watches, but Stocker & Yale no longer supply the military with watches. That distinction is reserved for the Marathon Watch Company of Richmond Hill, Ontario Canada. Marathon is the current supplier of military watches to both Canadian and American armed forces and in turn, mb-microtec supplies the tritium light elements to Marathon.
These are the current Marathon watches supplied to the US Armed Forces (available in branded and "sterile" versions):
Now, onto the Traser watch itself. Military and military-styled watches in general are notoriously plain. Of course, they need to meet certain specifications to conform to military standards, but there's nothing to write home about as far as looks are concerned. In true military fashion, the Traser P5900 is sterile, simple, lightweight, comfortable to wear and accurate. I have an Atomic Casio watch and syncronized the Traser watch to it and so far it's kept the exact accurate time.
Many of you may have seen other Tritium watches under the brand name Luminox. Luminox is simply a re-badged Traser watch by mb-microtec. Luminox being the brand marketed in the United States and Traser being the brand first marketed in the United Kingdom. The most popular of the Luminox watches is their Navy Seal watch:
Pic from Luminox.com
These types of Traser/Luminox watches are made for the civilian market which is why they're splashed with logos and are available in various styles and colours. Still, I have seen service men wearing these watches as well. In fact, service men and women wear all sorts of watches as long as they conform to military standards. Individual units can buy watches for their troops or can set standards for private purchase. The military does not issue watches unless the unit commander has the budget for it and orders it. That explains why so many private purchase watches of various types are found on the wrists of service men and women.
I was able to compare a couple of other Tritium watches before I made my purchase. I looked at the Traser H3 model 6900 type 6 Navigator model, as well as an inexpensive Uzi brand Tritium watch.
The Traser 6900 Navigator's model (on the left) was slightly larger, more expensive than the P5900 and had a NATO type wrist strap and a rotating bezel. Like the P5900, it's rated at 30 metres water resistant. The Uzi brand watch (on the right) also had a rotating bezel and was rated 200 metres water resistant, but the Tritium was only on the watch hands and the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock markers. It was made in Thailand of Swiss parts which explained it's low affordable price. Along with the lower price, the Uzi also had a lower quality feel to it compared to the Trasers. Frankly, I don't need a rotating bezel and I don't plan on diving to 200 metres anytime soon, so while these are great features, they were just not for me. Of course, there are bigger and more fancier Tritium watch models available, but the minimalist in me decided on the simple, straight forward look and function of the Traser P5900.