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Traser Watches - The 7 Best GTLS Tritium Models

Posted on December 08 2020


Traser Watches

 

Traser is a Swiss watch brand that was founded by Mb-microtec, the company that invented the original self-luminous technology, Trigalight. They produce a range of watches that all feature Tritium illumination. There’s an emphasis on military-style models and sports watches, although they do also have some more smart-casual collections.

I’d like to give you a little of the company’s background and the development of Tritium watch illumination. I’ll then present you with a list of what I believe to be the best seven watches that the company currently offers.

What is GTLS?


GTLS is a technology used to illuminate the hands and markers of watches. Small glass tubes are filled with a radioactive gas that can produce constant light for between 10 and 25 years. The gaseous version of tritium, used as a light source, is abbreviated to GTLS. It’s quite a modern technology that is only used by a small number of watch manufacturers.

The History of Tritium Illumination


Telling the time in the dark has long been a riddle for watch producers, particularly before the introduction of battery-powered models. The first real solution was to paint watch hands with a radioactive substance. The substance used, Radium, proved to be dangerous. Due to the health impact it had on the workers who painted the watches, Radium was replaced in the 1960s by Tritium.

Although less radioactive than Radium, Tritium was still far from an ideal replacement and was superseded by photoluminescent materials.

Again, this wasn’t an ideal solution. Lumes like Superluminova are safe and do glow in the dark, but they also have their own limitations. They need to be charged by light. Worn through the day, they absorb light and then re-emit it during the night. So they do require an initial exposure to light and the subsequent glow that they produce gradually weakens. Several hours later and it’s exhausted.

In 1969 Mb-microtec founder, Oskar Thüler, created a solution. A safe version of Tritium.

Using Tritium in its gas form, he housed it in glass tubes lined with a phosphorescent material. The tubes emit a constant glow that doesn’t need to be charged by sunlight. Crucially, the illumination can last up to 20 years and is perfectly safe.

Traser Watches


Having struggled to get watch manufacturers enthusiastic about this new technology, MB-microtec launched their own watch brand. The first release from Traser was the P6500 Type 6, a watch that was built specifically for the US military.

300,000 units were produced of this first self-illuminated watch. The design is now quite familiar. A black case - steel or polymer - with a tactical/military aesthetic. It’s a style used by other brands, including Luminox and Marathon.

Although this style is central to the Traser stable, they do now have a variety of other models.

Where are Traser Watches Made?


Traser watches are all Swiss-made, and they carry this wording at the bottom of the dial. All of their models also use Swiss quartz or automatic movements. Quartz movements are used more than mechanical ones, but they do have a selection of automatic pieces.

In terms of price, the Traser range begins at a little over £100 and reaches the high hundreds. They’re competing with the likes of Luminox, Marathon and MWC. I’d also suggest they’ll be aiming for the customers who wear the more sporty Seiko and Citizen models but may be tempted by a specialist niche Swiss brand.

The Best 7 Traser Watches


As you’ll have gathered from my posts on GTLS watches in general and Luminox watches specifically, I like this style of watch. What I don’t want to do, however, is just show you a list of very similar styled black military watches.

I’m a fan of the more unusual pieces and the watches that include the GTLS technology in colourful designs. As I did with the Luminox piece, I want to present you with the watches that I believe best showcase the brand. I’ve taken into account the design, the specs and the price.

 

Traser P66 Extreme Sport Watch

 

Stylistically this may not be the typical Traser watch, but it’s not far from it. All the design elements that I value with this brand are here. It’s rugged, practical and highly functional.

Take the case for example. It’s 44mm wide, has distinctive crown guards and cut-away sections around the sides. There is a clear functionality that has led to a particular style. With the bezel and bold numerals there are also hints of a dive watch. But there is a slight military vibe to the dial too. It mixes these design points well.

The model is called Extreme Sports and that makes sense. This is a watch that would be great for hiking and camping. With the quartz movement and 200m water resistance it would also be at home in water and taking a few knocks. There is a versatility that can be very appealing and it reminds me of the Reactor Trident I wear when I’m doing something that I think might break a more delicate watch.

Traser P66 Extreme Sport 100224

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 300M Water Resistance

 



Traser P59 Aurora Watch

 

The Aurora, from the P59 collection, takes some of the same inspiration - legibility, luminosity and ruggedness - and presents it in a more refined design. There’s also the additional GMT functionality.

Traser has marketed this watch as part of an active lifestyle range. That’s a good place to position this watch. At 45mm, it’s reasonably large, and the bracelet is 22mm wide. Like the previous watch, that means that it’s designed to be tough and substantial - the knurled crown reinforces this.

But the plain case and bezel soften the look and remind me more of a classic tool watch. The dial has a lot going on, but the clever use of colour and positioning means that it’s not overwhelming or even particularly busy. Instead, a watch that is designed for an active lifestyle, and has a second timezone and GTLS illumination, ends up looking like something that you could wear to the office.

I value that. It reminds me of a Seiko Alpinist, a watch designed specifically for office workers who venture into the countryside at weekends. This is a dual-purpose watch that is definitely among my favourite Traser models.

Traser P59 Aurora 107036

  • 45mm Diameter
  • 10.5mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Traser P49 Red Alert Watch

 

Of the watches that I’ve selected for this list, the P49 Red Alert is probably the model most typical of the brand. It’s another chunky watch, with a case diameter of 45mm. There are a quartz movement, sapphire crystal and 200M water resistance.

Combined with the GTLS illumination they create a watch that looks like a practical military piece. The red accents on the hands and markers suggest an aviation influence too, but I’m not sure if that is intentional or just my interpretation. Either way, the contrasting colour works well with the otherwise black design and draws attention to the tritium tubes.

This model, more than the previous, appears to have placed functionality as the prime goal. The design is less refined and polished, but that gives it a purity of purpose that is equally as appealing.

That is probably why I like this model so much. It’s designed to be hardwearing, and above all, legible in the dark. This hasn’t been hidden in a more elaborate design. The design is the result of the watch’s technical specifications.


Traser P49 Red Alert 106470

  • 45mm Diameter
  • 11mm Thick
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance

 



Traser P68 Pathfinder Watch

 

The Pathfinder series places less emphasis on the robustness of the watch and more on the aesthetics and complications. There’s a standard model, powered by a Swiss automatic movement, and this quartz GMT variant.

Normally I’d always pick the automatic movement, but with this watch, I really like the addition of the GMT functionality. Stylistically, the fourth hand, with its red tip, works well. It complements the internal compass bezel and really underlines the job that the watch was created to perform.

46mm is larger than I would have liked, but not to the point of being a dealbreaker. With the 24mm bracelet, this isn’t a dainty piece - but bear in mind it’s a watch designed to be worn outdoors and used for real navigation. So although the case and bracelet are black PVD, the face is clear and benefits from the GTLS that the brand is famed for.
The colour palette of black and green gives the watch an understated, outdoors feel that suggests it’s a tool rather than a fashion piece.

Traser P68 Pathfinder 109525

  • 46mm Diameter
  • 14mm Thick
  • 24mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Traser P67 Supersub Watch

 

The 46mm diameter case is less attractive on the Supersub, but still not a dealbreaker. I’d certainly see a 42mm version of this watch as an improvement on what is essentially a basic Submariner design.

There are some features, of course, that differentiate this from the multitude of Submariner watches on the market. Not least, the tritium illumination. Aside from that, there are the 500M water resistance and its accompanying helium release valve.

The valve, placed at 10 o’clock, hints that this is more than just a desk diver. Coupled with the GTLS on the hands and markers, we’re presented with a versatile and practical watch. However, I’d be tempted to buy a smaller model if it was just going to be used for trips to the office.

If it is a practical diver that you are looking for, then the Supersub meets the criteria. The water resistance is more than you’ll need, the dial is protected by a sapphire crystal, the movement is a reliable Swiss quartz, and the lume will glow in the dark for a quarter of a century.

Traser P67 Supersub 109377

  • 46mm Diameter
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • Swiss Quartz Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 500M Water Resistance

 



Traser P67 Officer Pro Watch

 

Like the Aurora model, this watch takes the essential Traser DNA and repackages it in a simplified form. I might go as far as to say that this model is closer to what I’d expect when shopping for a Swiss-made automatic watch.

The case is still a reasonably large 45mm, but it is vintage bronze and has an exhibition case back through which the movement is visible. That could be seen as a slight concession to aesthetics over function, but it’s fine by me. If I’m paying for a Swiss mechanical movement I tend to prefer the glass back.

The colours are also quite bold, with the bronze case and hands coupled with a blue dial and strap. This feels like a very different watch to the Red Alert, but when assessed by the specs, there’s a lot of commonalities.

They’re both tough - with water resistance and sapphire crystals. And of course, they both have great lume. Of the two, the Officer Pro would suit me better as an everyday watch, but like the Aurora, it wouldn’t be my first choice for sports.

This is an ideal watch if you’re after a mechanical piece that is both eye-catching and durable.

Traser P67 Officer Pro 108074

  • 45mm Diameter
  • Bronze
  • Swiss Automatic Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 100M Water Resistance

 



Traser P96 Outdoor Pioneer Watch

 

The final watch from the current Traser range that I want to highlight, is a watch that combines a few of the previous characteristics to produce an all-round outdoors watch. It’s not a diver, a military watch or tactical piece. Rather, it’s a general watch for an owner with an active lifestyle.

By general, I don’t mean run of the mill. This watch has a 44mm case, constructed from a glass fibre reinforced polymer that resembles aged metal. The polymer case is similar to that favoured by their rivals Luminox. That in itself makes this watch standout.

This case is matched with a distressed leather one-piece Nato strap, giving the watch a vintage feel. This appeals to me - a watch with the best illumination and good specs, but with a degree of subtly, that means they’re not obvious.

The aged-looking case, strap and grey dial give the watch an unpretentious style that works well with workwear or outdoor clothing. This isn’t a watch that is working hard to be fashionable and I like that.

It sums up the best of Traser’s designs. They are cool because they are functional, not because they were created primarily for their visual appeal.

Traser P96 Outdoor Pioneer 109036

  • 44mm Diameter
  • 13.8mm Thick
  • 22mm Lug Width
  • Reinforced Polymer
  • Swiss Quartz Movement
  • Sapphire Crystal
  • 200M Water Resistance

 


Conclusion


Swiss manufacturer Traser makes rugged watches designed for outdoor sports and buyers with an active lifestyle. The company sprung from the imagination of the original pioneers of GTLS technology. Having struggled to get the watch industry to use this new, safe version of Tritium, they began to produce the watches themselves.

Their first watch was a tactical piece for the US military which immediately proved the usability of tritium tubes, and also launched the brand with a high profile client. From there Traser expanded its range to include field, dive and dress watches.

The two main selling point of this brand, and what I hoped I made clear in this post, is the illumination element and the Swiss-made label. Although a young company, they have achieved what Swiss companies were renowned for. They’ve innovated, creating a new light source, and included this in well-made watches.

Let me know what you think below.

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