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Reactor Watches: What Not to Buy

Reactor "Trident" with NEVER DARK luminova/tritium luminous system.  Photo: Princeton Watches

Reactor “Trident” with NEVER DARK luminova/tritium luminous system. Photo: Princeton Watches

Reactor Tritium & SuperLuminova Watches Miss the Mark by Miles

I recently came across these watches from Reactor.  They include the semi-significant innovation of utilizing supplementing SuperLuminova and tritium luminous systems simultaneously, a combination Reactor aptly terms its “NEVER DARK” system.

Most mainstream modern  brands brands seem to have considered the technique redundant, but from a practical and reliability standpoint there’s something about the reassurance afforded by redundancy that appeals to me and I thought the tactic to be notable.  It is potentially useful, as it perhaps includes the best of both worlds: the short-term brightness of Luminova and the long-duration, “self-charging” properties of a tritium radioisotope capsule system.  The system has the potential to produce an especially luminous, legible watch under most any conditions.

And it is perhaps also encouraging as well that the innovation comes from an otherwise all-but-unheard-of brand.  I can’t think of any other brand that has tried this, even though Luminova has been on the market since about 1993 or so and tritium since about 1960.

However, this is perhaps one of those all too frequent occasions in the watch world when an otherwise notable innovation seems to fail rather gloriously and mightily right out of the gate, overwhelmed by other shortcomings on the way to becoming a finished product.  The execution of the concept in the finished model seems profoundly ill-conceived, so badly so that the innovative tritium/luminova combination is entirely eclipsed by gross stupidity.

So Close and Yet so Very, Very Far Away

Despite the innovative luminous system, this Reactor watch has several endemic problems, so many that I feel somewhat challenged in even trying to list them all and in having to decide on a coherent order in which to present them.  So here are some of the problems I think most significant, in no particular order:

  1. The tachymeter scale on a “three-hand,” non-chronograph watch is all but pointless unless phenomena to be observed happen to occur precisely at :00 every time.  Why bother to include it unless you’re just trying to look cool without bothering to provide any actual utility?
  2. The tachymeter scale is even more pointless on a quartz-controlled watch, in which the second hand steps in discrete 1-second intervals that don’t often coincide with the marks on the tachy scale.
  3. The second hand doesn’t even reach the already pointless and irrelevant tachy scale, making the ostensible use of it an exercise in visual extrapolation.
  4. The gap in the outer edge of the case at 9:00 seems to have no visible purpose beyond an ill-conceived attempt to maintain a sense of symmetry with the crown guards.  Instead it sticks out like a sore thumb.
  5. At 13.2mm (0.52″) thickness the watch is especially and impractically thick.  This might be forgiven if the water resistance were something more than a rather anemic 200m, but it isn’t.  For the sake of comparison, the 42mm Omega Planet Ocean is about 14.5mm thick, but with three times the water resistance (600m) for that paltry extra 1.2mm.
  6. At 192g, this is a really, really heavy watch.  That works out to 6.7 ounces, or about 0.42 pounds — nearly half a pound!.  Again, the weight could be forgiven if the WR were something greater than 200m, but it isn’t.  Especially irksome is that with a small, lightweight quartz movement much of that weight likely owes to deadweight, nonfunctional case and spacer.
  7. The goofy lugs mean that you’re stuck with that goofy polymer strap and won’t be able to swap with standard straps or bracelets.
  8. The “ND” logo on the dial is superfluous and is a distraction in daily use.  Its stylization also makes it difficult to discern, so much so that for several minutes I was left thinking, “Why on Earth did they print ‘NO’ on the dial so prominently?”  As a rule of design dial text should be kept to an absolute minimum in my opinion; the luminescence should be self-evident.
  9. Black number markers on a black bezel?  Why bother?  They’re all but illegible.  This might almost be stupider than the pointless tachymeter scale, and that’s saying a lot.
  10. The $350 pricetag is overreaching for a quartz watch with so many inherent design problems.  Comparable tritium-illuminated quartz designs (to which adding luminova would presumably be inexpensive) from established brands like Traser, Luminox etc. start at around $110 or so.

Sometimes you get what you pay for, sometimes you get fooled and get way less than what you pay for.  I think I know which side this one comes up on.  So… back to the drawing board for you, Reactor. I would  be curious to see another attempt (perhaps even by a more experienced brand) as the luminova/tritium idea as it does seem to have more than a little merit on its own if it were executed in  more well-thought-out design.

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24 Responses

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  1. Cory says

    Rrryan i think you totally missed the boat on your comments here. I am former special forces and my company used to have Luminox as standard issue. Those things fell apart and I went thru 4 of them in just 8 months. One of oour guys was given a Reactor Trident by his wife and we were all so impressed after watching him shoot some extremely high powered weapons with serious recoil (All Luminox snapped at pin attachment) Reactor came thru some other serious stuff I would not like to share. This watch has a 10 year battery, the strap you make sound like plastic but this thing is soft and the lugs actually make the face feel better fitting on my wrist. Furthermore the lugs are the main reason that our company changed from the weak luminox pin interface. Your review of this watch is not very accurate in my opinion. I am guessing you have not actually worn one for a day or even more importantly for a guy like me in the field of battle. Respectfully submitted and a fan of your blog.
    Cory .S Winston-Salem NC

    • Rrryan says

      Hi Cory,

      Not sure what you’re trying to imply but I’ve worn some watches in dusty places around things that go boom myself. Mostly agree re: Luminox. At least they finally quit writing “NAVY SEALS” over everything though.

      I appreciate the comment but I stand by my earlier words. The Reactor Trident shown here is still replete with obvious design errors like the silly black-on-black bezel, pointless gingerbread tachy scale etc. 10-year batteries are also not so unusual as Reactor might have you believe; Timex and Casio achieve the same thing in some of their $30 models. The dual-lume approach is indeed quite clever but the end product has so many goofy errors and a price point that is oversteps the product provided.

      Regardless, I’m glad the watches performed well for you and I hope you continue to wear it in good health.

      Ryan

  2. Christopher says

    I don’t get your complaints here. Who cares if there are black numbers on a black bezel? They are second markers and don’t need to be legible. Why are they there? For looks. The “ill-conceived” gap on the case is the same thing. It doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb; I’ve seen this watch before and didn’t notice until you pointed it out. Every watch design takes aesthetics into consideration. You don’t have to agree with the choices, but it’s a little strange to dramatize them as if the Reactor watch company has wronged you. Your apparent outrage over these subtle and unimportant details is comical.
    Your complaints about the tachymeter are almost as funny. The tachymeter on the watch is functional if you can make a straight line and do simple subtraction. Lots of tachymeters are on a watch’s bezel, and I’ve never seen a watch hand that extends all the way to the bezel. Discrete 1 second hand movement makes the tachymeter a little harder to use and decreases accuracy slightly, but it’s not as if tachymeters are incredibly accurate to begin with.
    Mentioning every little detail that you find fault with and dissecting it the way you do makes you sound awfully bitter towards a watch. A watch.

    • Rrryan says

      What does mentioning every detail of someone’s opinion you find fault with and dissecting it the way you do make one sound like then? It’s an opinion. An opinion. If you don’t like what I’ve written, don’t read it.

      • Black on black numbers = unnecessarily hard to see and read.
      • Lots of watches do indeed have tachy scales, but they typically have a chronograph sweep seconds hand that can be stopped and started to make it actually functional. Without one it’s just silly.

      I don’t have any particular axe to grind with Reactor, but I object to the way in which most modern makers think they can just slap a buncha goofy crap together without thinking about function or purpose and stick a $400 pricetag on it, and then masses of ignorant fanboys line up to buy them. It’s a lament about the general industry and market today. The major reason for my objection is perhaps that it wouldn’t cost any more to pick features that actually made some sense with a minimum of thought. If anything, I’m mostly just disappointed that the thought, innovation and intelligence that Reactor put into the Neverdark tritium/luminova system wasn’t displayed elsewhere in the watch’s design, as the end result is just an overpriced goofy trinket.

  3. Adam K says

    Rrryan,

    I must respectfully disagree with your comments. I just bought one of these watches and am very impressed with the feel, the fit and the amount of light it puts out when I go to bed.

    I hope you will review another time or at least take a look at this watch again as it is tough, I get a ton of compliments and my boss showed me how to use the tachymeter and it seems to work just fine.

    This watch also has a 10 year battery which none of my Citizens or Lum Tec’s have and a way better warranty if you do the homework.

    I enjoy your blog but really do think you ought to give this brand another review. I also own the Gamma model which really is a great watch.

    Thanks for letting me post.

    Best of luck.

    Adam K

  4. JOS says

    Yeah, I’ve gotta throw my hat wiih the pro Reactor guys on this one. I’ve got no experience with their higher end models, but my $200 Meltdown looks amazing and is built like a tank. Simple (no frills or extra dials/gauges), a little bulky, but it’s had no problems so far.

  5. Tyler T says

    I couldn’t agree more with Rrryan, but forget about design, I just want my $500 Neutron to work. Purchased the piece in May of 2010 based on what I had read in military/sporting magazines and for its reputed toughness. 2 months later, the features on the watche’s face (rings, numbers) literally came loose and the watch stopped running altogether. Was I in a war zone? Maybe a rock climbing accident caused this malfunction? No, the watch broke while I was sleeping. I sent it back to reactor over Christmas for repairs and got it back a few weeks ago (not their fault, I live in the Caribbean and it takes a while to get mail). After wearing it for two weeks, it broke again today. This “bullet-proof” watch met its match and is dead once again, probably because I played volleyball with it on yesterday. If anyone is still reading this thread, stay away from this brand – all hype and marketing, no substance!

    • Ray R. says

      I own 2 Reactor Watches, Mine are very Nice Looking, I don’t go for the Tachs and Gauges on my Watches, I just really like a “Great Night Vision”! When I look at my watch at night time, or driving in dark, and also a Rugged and Strong, Accurate and Dependable Watch. I own Several Top of the Line “Swiss Army Watches” and also a couple of the Luminox Watches, Top End Models also, Lockeed Martin, Navy Seal Stealth….and this my Reactor is as, or possibly more comfortable as all of them, just as accurate, “On The Money” Precise!! And Never a Problem. When I had gotten mine, being the perfectionist that I am, a piece of dust, or something, very tiny but on underside of the crystal, bothered me, no one else even noticed it when I’d show them, and Reactor sent me a Brand New Watch, and a Box to send mine back in, but after I received the New Model, Customer Service was Excellent, and the Movement is a Very Good One also!! Mine hasn’t lost a minute in all these years. Mine is all Silver with a Black Face, and Heavy Metal Bracelette, which I love, and prefer to the rubber ones. I also own Bulova Computron, and Pulsar 1976 Digital LED Watches which are spot on the money accurate also. i CAN’T REMEMBER WHAT MY MODEL OF REACTOR WATCH IS, BUT THE “NIGHT DISPLAY” IS EXCELLENT!! Sorry for the caps there….Reactor Gets an “A+” In All Areas with me!! And mine goes through Rugged Everyday Use, in Construction, and Marathon Training.

  6. John G says

    I am shocked by Tyler’s remarks here. I own over 20 Reactor watches. I have had nothing but exemplary consideration in terms of customer service and support for my watches. I am very hard on my watches and wear them in the toughest environments. Other watches I have owned would never measure up and my dresser drawer is filled with these “wanna be” watches to prove it.
    I had a small set screw fall out of my watch band a few months back. I sent in the watch and they promptly fixed the problem and sent it back looking brand new! There was a note enclosed in the watch stating that they corrected the watch band issue and expressed their gratitude for buying their product. Where can you get that kind of service from any other watch company?
    The colors, style are not only cutting edge; Reactor makes a damn good watch that gets a lot of attention. I’m a fan!

  7. john says

    I tell you what this brand reminds me of,Chase durer and Sector,both crap companies that say hey,were in the special forces,try G-Shock and Seiko auto divers,the real deal.

    CHEERS
    john

  8. joeri says

    Well well….i owne a reactor trident black watch and tried others before (casio g-schock) i’m telling you this thing…whow it’s great and robust. I do serius off-roading and stick my hand in the mud more than once if to use the winch? i clean it by hanging it at my outher mirror and then spray it off with a steam cleaner witch i clean the whole truck with,just put it on my wrist after and no problems it still looks and works great.The nd system is great and it dousnt need power from the battery to do so,others do and brain the batterys quikly. for my opinion its worth the monny and i like it .REACTOR IS GREAT,

  9. Mark West says

    I purchased the Reactor Gamma Red Titanium. Which is nice however keeping time IS NOT. Watch is still under warranty and the call to Reactor was:

    Reactor service tells me that this is normal. IF some do then why does my Timex, Seiko, Wittnauer all keep accurate time within a minute. I also have a TAG and I do not have to say no more for the TAG

    For the money, very disappointed this watch looses 6 ~7 minutes per month.

    This watch owner would not recommenced Reactor if you wanted accurate time from month to month.. looks yes… but it the end, time is the value?

    MWesty

  10. Stan says

    I bought the Trident Reactor for $350 a year ago and never went more than a few feet under water and already there is condensation on the inside of the Chrystal. The criticism of this watch in this article is dead on – and I kick myself for buying it.

  11. FireStation 46 says

    I am convinced by the replays to the article that I will now buy a Reactor watch. The author of the article should stay on fashion avenue in Manhattan and leave reviews of watches like theses to folks do the heavy lifting to protect our freedoms

  12. Luigi says

    You compare the Omega Planet Ocean to this? The Omega is a $5000 watch. Not a credible review if you are using this type of comparison.

  13. Dave says

    I own a reactor watch and was shopping for another, when I came across your comments. The comparisons you made did not add up considering Reactors stainless steel construction, ceramic crystal, day/date, 200 M or 660 ft. depth ability, (hope I never go that deep anyway), great service and warranty. Try getting that from Luminox for less than $600.00. In fact Luminox does not even offer many of those features. While style is a personal choice, I think Reactor has done a decent job on most of their line. I guess if you want purely functional for cheap money go for a Timex with big numbers. I’m convinced I should buy another Reactor. Thanks for your input. Dave

  14. Expendable78 says

    I know this is a old thread review, but go ahead and tell me off all you want. My man, are you serious with your b.s review. Here let me break it down in much easier terms for you. So other people do not get the wrong impression about Reactor Watches, when in fact they are a great company and make excellent watches. So to the point: First off if you bought this watch and didn’t expect it proper upon purchasing, then why in the F**K did you purchase this particular one in the first place? Hmmmm…. DUMBA**.

    Next, as for your B.S about the black numbers,,,,, instead of boo-hoo’ing about the black numbers that you as yourself do not like. You do know Reactor makes models with the bezel numbers in other colors, to help your weak eyes. So again, shut your face… DumbA**

    Next, you don’t like the size this, and thickness that, the weight this and that…blah blah…again thats your call and again you should’ve inspected in the first place. There are other models Reactor makes, that are smaller and are even a little thinner with only a 35mm face diameter. Oh, and then there’s titanium watch series, which is much much lighter!!!! So again…. DumbA**

    Next, You don’t like the lugs…. LOL… your joking right. You do know the purpose of why they designed the watches like that in the first place right? Almost all my watches in the past, at some time in the watches life, literally have come apart at the wrist and needed the pin(s) replaced. And I only own the best, from Tissot, Hanowa, Seiko, Wenger, Victorinox etc.. But never, never had a damage with my Reactor! Know why… think hard now about those , lugs…. Again…. DUMBA**

    I can keep going on and on, about how much of a DUMBA** you are and your review is waaayyyy off. But that’s your personal opinion. And again, why purchase or look at something you only *ahem* think you like, but never fully inspected it in the first place. Then critique like your some kind of pro, basically telling the company off and acting like it’s some kind of made in China throw away trash product???? You sir again are a dumba**.

    Reactor is far beyond durable, keeps full accurate time, the promises they make, they do keep, their customer service is excellent. Their prices are affordable. They never lied about how great their luminous lasts and is brightest by far, especially the ND series. Oh again, you hate that a watch says ND on the dial and claim its a distraction? LOLOL… Idiot. Your the distraction… You do know, if you had the common sense to call Reactor, they will work with you, you could tell them the model of watch you like and ask them if they could replace/customize that model, to where you do not want your watch to have the ND logo on the front of the dial. Or you can give them your honest opinion/suggestion and they will probably even come up with a new model to suit your needs…. DumbA**

    Just so you folks know, I own several watches, I have served and till this present day, still work in the field, range, suba dive, work out, play sports and so forth. As a highly crazy tough, durable, great looking, accurate, super bright at night time piece. I highly recommend A Reactor. If you want to spend another 300 to even thousands of dollars on a time piece. Then by all means you can do that as well. But trust me, you will not be disappointed with a Rector for what they are designed to do! So again, haters, shut your hole, you have no clue what your going on about!!!!

    Ps: If you actually received a dud Reactor, then personally, I think you either purchased a pre-owned one, or possibly ordered one online, like from Ebay, Amazon. My watches are alllllll purchased from a reputable store, watch smith outlet, etc. So you can *INSPECT* it in the first place and get the proper paper work, warranty, etc. etc. etc. So again… Hater’s shut your face… DUMBA**

    • Rick. Kemp says

      ..it’s all a matter of preference but I own 6 Reactor Models, and I beat the crap out of them and they hold up to a week diving in the Keys to waterfowl hunting in the winter getting covered in tidal marsh mud….if you have a problem with these watches they will fix it…..fortunately I haven’t had a single issue and my oldest Reactor is 7 years old. Sorry about this negative review, but I couldn’t be happier with the performance and functionality of this brand.

  15. John McCullough says

    I see that Orvis are selling the Reactor Toughcase Field Watch for £299 in the UK. I like the look of this watch and may buy one. Any of you watch lovers out ther have any experience of this watch? Any feedback would be appreciated.

  16. Stephanie says

    I have a reactor and it is, HANDS DOWN, my favorite watch. I have about 8 watches, (3 nice ones) and I always wear my Reactor. I love the styling, the weight and scale of it. I found this blog because we have this model and I’m looking to replace the metal band with a rubber dive band. Interesting opinions and comments, to say the least! You boys love your watches! :-)

  17. Jeric says

    Thanks for the review , it’ helped me decide to get one a few days ago . The model I got is a Reactor Trident and I think they heard your review as they have made several alteration to the model you’ve described. One there is no tachymeter , in it’s place there is now 24-hour markings , two the strap is made of silicon rubber and is very comfortable . The rest of the features still hold true though for the design astatic but I think you over exaggerated your points a bit . Only time will tell if it lives up to its supposedly amazing durability but I’ve not had that time to test it out yet.

  18. Jon says

    Thanks for the review… It actually CONVINCED me to BUY a Reactor watch, (but NOT the “Trident”…I bought an “Atom”).
    First, your comments about the tachymeter…. who ever uses one anyway? Anybody serious about timing would be using a stopwatch, or their cellphone’s stopwatch function. I’m guessing it’s just a (mostly) worthless style thing… so who cares if the black on black numbers are there? And complaining about the 1 second step on the quartz movement??? Looking at a sweep second hand. can YOU get closer than 1 second, anyway?
    Second, regarding water resistance… how deep are you intending to go? 200 meters is 660 feet!
    Third, regarding size: yes, the “Atom” I purchased is relatively thick and heavy, but it’s unnoticeable when I wear it, and very comfortable.
    Of course, the “Atom” has no tachy, and is a gazillion times better than my Seiko (never kept good time, and leaked despite it’s advertised water resistance), my Omega (constant issues), my Casio, etc. etc…. :
    So thanks, because of one of the lamest reviews I’ve ever seen, for convincing me to buy a Reactor…

    • Rrryan says

      Good luck with your overpriced crap I guess. Hope it’s working out for you so far and you’re not having problems like others have described here.

      Best wishes.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. When Luxury Brands “Attack”: What Chopard Would Have Us Think We’re Supposed to Covet – Rrryan's Watch Blog linked to this post on 22 October 2009

    […] fluidly.  What’s perhaps more upsetting is that listing them evokes flashbacks of the laughably badly designed Reactor watch I critiqued earlier.  Especially when the Reactor retails at a fraction of the likely price (so […]



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