Let There Be Light: IWC Unveils First Fully Luminous Watch

There are two main areas in which brands showcase their latest breakthroughs: the movement, of course, and the introduction of new and innovative materials and technologies for a watch’s case. IWC Schaffhausen is a pioneer in both. The latest contribution to demonstrate the Swiss manufacturer’s technical prowess is a fully luminous watch case that emits a bluish glow for up to 24 hours. The same rings true for the dial and strap. The concept watch in form of a Pilot’s Watch Chronograph 41 was first spotted on Lewis Hamilton’s wrist during the 2024 Monaco GP which took place this past weekend. According to IWC, the Ceralume technology, which is patent pending, will form the basis for future developments and releases.

Ceramic is light, extremely hard and highly resistant to scratches. Over almost four decades, IWC has acquired extensive expertise in the development of ceramic watches. In 1986, the Swiss luxury watchmaker launched the world’s first wristwatch with a black zirconium oxide ceramic case. Since then, IWC’s major ceramic innovations have included watchcases made of brown silicon nitride ceramic and black boron carbide ceramic, one of the hardest materials known. After introducing a series of TOP GUN models in strikingly colored ceramics, IWC is now pushing the boundaries with Ceralume. This luminescent ceramic is produced using a highly sophisticated and patent-pending manufacturing process developed by IWC’s engineering division XPL.

“With the first fully luminous ceramic case rings, we underscore our role as a pioneer and innovator in ceramic watches. The development of Ceralume took several years. The main challenges we faced were producing watch cases with maximum homogeneity and meeting our exacting quality standards. To achieve these goals, we engineered a ground-breaking new manufacturing process – tailored to the unique combination of ceramic powders and Super-LumiNova pigments.”

Dr. Lorenz Brunner, Department Manager Research & Innovation at IWC

The fascinating glowing effect is achieved by adding high-quality Super-LumiNova pigments to the ceramic raw materials. Developed by the Swiss technology company RC Tritec, Super-LumiNova is a high-tech ceramic compound that acts like a light storage battery. The material absorbs light energy from sunlight or artificial light, stores it temporarily, and then emits the absorbed energy as visible light. This cycle can be repeated an infinite number of times without the material ever aging or losing its light storage capacity. In dark chamber tests, Ceralume watch cases have emitted bright blue light for more than 24 hours.

Conventional white ceramic is made by mixing zirconia with other metal oxides. These powders are formed into a so-called green body, machined to the case shape, and then sintered at high temperatures in a kiln. Super-LumiNova pigments are added to the raw material mix to make the white ceramic glow in the dark. One of the main challenges is to achieve a perfectly homogeneous mixture of raw materials despite their different particle sizes and to avoid particle agglomeration, so IWC engineers used a special ball milling process that had to be customized to the raw materials used. In addition, the parameters of the sintering process and the grinding of the sintered ceramic body had to be specifically adapted to the luminous ceramic.

The brass base of the dial is sprayed with a Super-LumiNova solution before the luminous layer is printed. The injection-molded white rubber strap is also enriched with Super-LumiNova pigments.

To learn more, visit IWC Schaffhausen, here.

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