One of the newer limited-edition Luminox watches currently out is the Limited Master Carbon SEAL reference 3802.GO.SET that you see before you in this aBlogtoWatch review. The timepiece is certainly among the pricier “traditional-style” Luminox watches available, and in reviewing, it I kept asking myself how well this Limited Master Carbon SEAL 3802 watch reflects the Luminox I first got to know years ago. Luminox is a brand that was introduced to many people by the now-defunct retail chain known as Sharper Image. The Internet killed Sharper Image (Brookstone never really replaced it well enough) but it was not for lack of a good retail concept. The Sharper Image was what we might call today a “concept store,” and it was all about delivering a curated selection of cool gear for men, women, the house, and the outdoors. While the Sharper Image didn’t have a lot of watches, most locations and catalogs I saw carried Luminox. The promise was simple — don’t you want a cool tactical looking timepiece produced with US Navy SEALs in mind?
The Luminox sales proposition was simple and effective. For around $300, you, too, could be equipped with a self-illuminated dive-style watch whose appearance made you think its distant uncle was a tank. Despite my interest, I never actually got myself a Luminox watch as a kid — mainly due to the price (which, by today’s standards, feels quite affordable) and because my mindset at the time was “why pay more for an analog watch when a digital watch does so much more?” Yes, I was very practical, I know. That said, I recall thinking to myself that, if I were going to get an analog watch, it would be a Luminox. While the Limited Master Carbon SEAL 3802 is not the first Luminox I’ve reviewed since my younger days stalking the sales floors of Sharper Image mall store locations, it is the first time I’ve thought back to that time. Perhaps it is because this particular Luminox watch takes the traditional concept of the watch and does its best to make it both a bit more modern, as well as fashionably trendy.
If you aren’t an expert with the various Luminox watch models, it can be very difficult to understand the differences among some of the similar-looking models. There is the Luminox Navy SEAL original 3001, all the way up to the Master Carbon SEAL 3800 series, and a lot in between. You have models in fiberglass cases, carbon compound cases (Carbonox), steel cases, and Carbonox+ — which is what this timepiece happens to be made of. Carbonox+ is Luminox’s version of forged carbon, and it has a great feel to it. The 46mm-wide Carbonox case is well machined, smooth to the touch, and, according to Luminox, six times lighter than steel. Such a material has proven extremely durable and resilient and makes a lot of sense for a product such as this. The caseback and crown are in steel, and the driver’s-style case is water resistant to 300 meters.
How can you tell the Master Carbon SEAL from some of the other similar, albeit less expensive, Luminox watches? At a glance, it can be tough. The Master Carbon SEAL 3800 series is the largest at 46mm-wide (and about 14mm-thick with a roughly 52mm lug-to-lug distance) and also features an AR-coated sapphire versus mineral crystal. The 3800 series also has 300 versus 200 meters of water resistance (like some of the more basic Navy SEAL models). The case material isn’t just Carbonox, but Carbonox+. The difference between the two isn’t obvious at first, but after doing some digging, I was able to find more information.
Carbonox seems to be what Luminox calls its more historic carbon compound material, while Carbonox+ is also carbon, but one with a higher density and proportion of carbon fibers. Luminox says that Carbonox+ has twice as much tensile strength as Carbonox and three times less water absorption. What does that mean in real-world terms? First is the aesthetic element, since Carbonox+ offers a more interesting surface texture. More important is the higher tensile strength, which I believe not only makes the case more scratch-resistant, but also allows for the case to be more precision-machined, offering shared edges and flatter surfaces. This latter part is very important to promote the distinctive shape of the case, as well as allow for a more “high-end look” from the watch.
For this particular limited-edition Master Carbon SEAL watch, Luminox decided to go with a dial whose color matches the dark gray case material. So, what you have is a relatively uncommon situation in which the case and dial color (as well as strap if you wear it on the rubber band) are a similar, uniform color. While the textures and tones are a bit different, the watch is sort of the gray version of a phantom watch (all black). What saves legibility in all lighting scenarios is Luminox’s predictable use of tritium gas tubes for the hands and hour markers. The small, slightly (yet safely) radioactive tubes naturally glow for up to 25 years and emit a soft green light. Luminox is not the only company to use these Swiss Made gas tubes, yet for a lot of people, it was Luminox that introduced the benefit of tritium gas tubes in a sport-style watch.
Marketing images of the Luminox 3802.GO.SET watch really show off the vertical line texturing of the dial, but in person this is a bit harder to see. I think the brand was going for a texture that looks a bit like concrete, but the effect is a bit mildereal life. That said, the dial texture is actually a bit more visible than the glossy gray painted Arabic numeral hour markers — a shame because the stencil-style font is attractive. Given the “all gray” theme, it would have been nice for the date disc to also be gray in color, as opposed to white. A single point of color exists on the dial in the form of the light blue tip of the seconds hand, and it’s a nice touch when you can see it.
As I mentioned above, this particular limited-edition Master Carbon SEAL 3802 watch is a fashion versus purely functionally themed timepiece. Luminox wanted to go with a mostly gray color theme, and with that came some legibility sacrifices, even if you can easily see the hands and hour markers, thanks to the light-colored gas tubes. There are other Master Carbon SEAL models with higher-contrast dials for those who want to see the hour markers a bit more clearly. That said, the all-gray look is pretty handsome.
Around the dial is a uni-directional rotating diver’s style 60-minute timing bezel with a tritium gas tube lume pip located at the 60-minute marker. In Carbonox, the bezel still has a nice turning action to it, complete with assuring clicks for each of the 60 positions. Inside the watch is a Swiss Made quartz movement. I do prefer my watches to be mechanical most of the time, but for something like this, which is a lot more of an outdoors/sport timepiece or “beater watch,” as we sometimes call it, then a well-made and accurate quartz movement is often a better bet. I wouldn’t have spent as much time speaking about the movement, save for the more than $700 price of the Luminox 3802.GO.SET — which is in budget mechanical watch territory.
Unlike many Luminox watches, the Limited Master Carbon SEAL comes with two straps (24mm-wide), and each is of a very high quality. My preferred strap for practicality is the bespoke textured black rubber strap, but the more trendy option is the gray NATO-style strap. Each of the straps comes with a finely made Luminox signed buckle, which is further made interesting by the fact that the two straps have different styles of buckles (you just don’t see that too often). As this is a limited-edition “set,” Luminox also includes a pretty handy strap changing tool – though I am getting more and more accustoned to seeing brands include tool-less spring bars to make the strap changing process easier.
As good looking weekend warrior watch, the Luminox Limited Master Carbon SEAL 3802 is a more-than-decent wrist companion. It makes a few functionality sacrifices on the dial in the name of fashion, but, then again, arguably refunds that loss to the owner in the form of exclusivity, given that Luminox only produced 888 pieces of this limited-edition set. The 46mm-wide case size will be too large for some and just right for others. It is about as large as I could go with this shape of case but, in general, I like the large size. Luminox has done well to offer various technical and aesthetic enhancements to a product which many people originally became familiar with in the early 1990s. While actual Navy SEAL members can wear whatever timepieces they like, Luminox continues its tradition of positioning this type of product as being intended for the US Navy SEALs and further includes the group’s logo on the caseback. Nevertheless, sometimes all it takes to make an owner happy is a comfortable case and the promise that, if you find yourself in a tactically demanding situation, your timepiece might be better prepared to handle it than you are. Price for the Luminox Limited Master Carbon SEAL reference 3802.GO-SET is $725 USD. Learn more or order at the Luminox website here.
>Model: Limited Master Carbon SEAL reference 3802.GO.SET
>Price: $725 USD
>Size: 46mm-wide, 14mm-thick, and about 52mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: Though big in size and a bit pricey, the watch serves well in sports, outdoor, or swimming environments when you don’t want to worry about the health of your timepiece but still want to look cool.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Trendy fashionista who likes the idea of a military-style sport watch and wants something gray to go with almost anything in their wardrobe. Or for anyone who uses the term “tactical” in order to describe their fashion sense, lifestyle, or leisure pursuit choices.
>Best characteristic of watch: Carbonox+ material is well done and offers real weight savings over metal or other materials. Case is well designed and comfortable on the wrist. Each of the straps options is attractive and comfortable to wear.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Otherwise attractive dial has legibility issues various in lighting scenarios, although tritium tubes are always easy to spot. Despite some of the high-end materials and good build quality, the price feels expensive when compared to some of the competition. Limited product information and no storytelling on the Luminox website.