Luminox vs Marathon Watches (The Complete 2023 Comparison)

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Written By Alan

Would you believe a G-Shock I was gifted in 2014 by my grandpa started my lifelong journey of a watch geek?

🕑  Last Updated: March 28, 2023

Nowadays, there are so many different types of watches that some find it hard to decide which one to opt for. We’re really spoiled for choices.

With that said, if you’re looking for a timepiece that will first and foremost stand the test of time and be a great companion in any adventure, then probably a tool watch is the way to go. Tool watches are designed to be highly durable and useful in various activities, whether you’re a tactical operative, law enforcement officer, or hunting enthusiast.

In this article, we’ll be comparing two brands specializing in such watches – Luminox and Marathon. Both are highly-rated watch manufacturers that create timepieces that are extremely durable, so if you’re looking for a battle-proven and field-tested watch, then either of these brands would be a great choice.

In today’s Luminox vs Marathon comparison, we will be taking a detailed look at things such as the brands’ background, history, quality of materials and movements, in order to decide which offers better value.

So, what are the differences between these two brands? And more importantly, which one is a safer investment?

Let’s take a closer look…

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Luminox vs Marathon: History & Background

Let’s start with a short yet insightful look into both brands’ roots.

  • Luminox

Luminox was founded in 1989 by Swiss national Barry Cohen. The company started off by selling Swiss-made watches to the US Navy Seals, and it wasn’t long before Luminox carved out a niche for itself in the military and law enforcement market.

The brand is best known for its use of self-powered illumination technology, which allows the watches to be visible even in complete darkness. This is achieved through the use of tiny tritium gas tubes that are inserted into the watch hands and hour markers.

Luminox is also the official watch supplier of various elite military units around the world, such as the US Navy Seals, US Air Force Pilots, and Israeli Special Forces.

The brand initially made its name by producing professional dive watches for the US Navy Seals – a testament to their durability and build quality. Luminox has since gone on to produce a wide range of different watches for both men and women, with a particular focus on sports and outdoor activities.

  • Marathon

Marathon, on the other hand, is a brand with a much longer-standing tradition as its roots date back to 1904. The brand is Canadian.

It was first set up as Weinstrum Watch but later renamed Wein Brothers. In 1939, Morris Wein founded Marathon Watch, supplying fine precision timepieces throughout North America. The company has been owned by the same family for four generations now.

In 1942, Marathon was contracted by the Canadian government to produce watches for the Royal Canadian Navy. The company supplied over 150,000 timepieces during World War 2, earning a reputation for their toughness and accuracy. In 1968, Marathon was again contracted – this time by the US Government – to produce watches for the US Army, Navy and Marines.

In 1986, Marathon introduced the GSAR (General Service Administration Regulation) model – a watch that is still in production today and is used by various military and law enforcement units around the world.

In terms of brand history, then, it’s clear that both Luminox and Marathon have a lot to offer but the latter is a much longer-standing company.

Marathon vs Luminox: Style

Safe to say, both brands opt for a rather masculine, tough-to-beat style.

  • Luminox

The brand’s military roots are evident in the design of its timepieces, which tend to be large and chunky.

That said, Luminox does produce some dressier models that are more suitable for formal occasions. For example, the Pacific Diver collection, although created primarily with diving enthusiasts in mind, offers a wide range of all-stainless steel models with elegant bezels – some in the mold of the iconic Rolex Submariner.

The majority of Luminox watches have a blacked-out look, with bold markings and large dials. This gives the watches a very aggressive and purposeful appearance.

One of Luminox's Pacific Diver watches
Example of Luminox’s Pacific Diver. Found on: Amazon

It’s important to note that Luminox manufactures solely analog timepieces. As far as we know, the brand doesn’t plan on entering the digital watch market anytime soon.

  • Marathon

The vast majority of Marathon’s watch collection has a clean and utilitarian look. The designs are uncluttered and functional, with a stronger emphasis on legibility than in the case of Luminox. There are some dressier options available in the offer, but they are still relatively restrained.

While Luminox’s offer is more focused on rugged watches suitable for the marine activity, with Marathon you will find a bigger number of field and pilot watches which often include NATO straps. The designs are inspired by military watches from the mid-20th century, but with some modern elements as well.

Marathon's Pilot watch
Example of Marathon’s pilot watch. Found on: Amazon

One of the most interesting Marathon watch collections is the GSAR (Government Search and Rescue) series. These watches are based on a design created for the US Government, and they are made to withstand pretty much anything.

One of the few contrasts between the two fairly similar brands is that Marathon has a small collection of digital watches while Luminox has none.

While discussing the style of Marathon watches, it’s impossible not to mention that the brand also offers alarm and wall clocks. Lately, the Canadian watchmaker has also added pocket stopwatches to their offer.

Verdict: Marathon

Quite frankly, it’s hard to argue about taste. Both brands offer masculine, tough designs targeting the outdoorsy and sporty types. With that said, Marathon has a slightly more diversified portfolio of styles. Hence, in our opinion, it just edges Luminox in this field.

Luminox vs Marathon: Materials & Durability

As you’d expect from brands that pride themselves on manufacturing timepieces to military standards, both Luminox and Marathon make extremely tough and durable watches.

All their timepieces are built to last and can withstand a lot of wear and tear. In terms of construction, both brands use high-quality materials and each watch is put together with great attention to detail.

  • Glass 

Starting with the most damage-prone part of any watch, the glass, the brands use either mineral or sapphire crystals. In both brands’ cases, the mineral type is used in lower-end collections while the more durable sapphire is reserved for the mid-to-high-end models.

If you’re willing to spend a bit more, definitely target sapphire crystal watches. Not only are these less likely to crack but also include anti-reflective coating. This vastly improves readability, at times making you forget the crystal is even there!

What’s important to note, Marathon watches equipped with sapphire glass tend to start at lower price points than Luminox’s. As things stand, you can get such a watch for around $250 which is really a bang for your buck.

Luminox's stainless steel model
A more elegant Luminox model. Found on Amazon
  • Straps

A lion’s share of watch models from both brands opts for rugged, easy-to-clean bracelets.

In the case of Luminox, the dominating type are Carbonox straps. Carbonox is Luminox-patented material consisting of carbon powder which is around 6 times lighter than steel. If you’re after a tough but featherweight watch, Luminox is definitely the way to go.

Another material used in Luminox watches, although in minority, is stainless steel.

Marathon offers a bit wider selection of straps that include rubber, leather, stainless steel, and nylon.

  • Casing

When it comes to the casing, the dominating materials are:

  • stainless steel for Marathon watches
  • Carbonox for Luminox watches

That doesn’t mean that the two materials are the only ones used with the brands. Some Marathon models include Fibershell cases while Luminox sometimes opts for a titanium or stainless steel.

What’s also noteworthy, both brands use PVD coating on some of their watches which makes them even more resistant to scratches and wear.

Lastly, all models come with screw-down casebacks and crowns which greatly aid in protection against potentially fatal water-related damage.

Marathon dive watch
Marathon’s dive watch. Found on Amazon
  • Water Resistance

Since we’ve touched on the subject of water-related damage, it’s the perfect time to mention that all Luminox and Marathon watches carry some level of water resistance.

The water resistance rating (WR) varies between collections.

For example, some basic Marathon field watches are merely splashproof (water-resistant up to 30m) while professional diving models from the same brand can sustain a pressure of up to 300m.

Luminox seems to hold the cards in this field. The lowest WR offered by Luminox is 100m while the more advanced dive watches (eg. Luminox Sea Turtle) are water-resistant up to a whopping 500m.

Luminox vs Marathon: Movements

Although both brands are headquartered in North America, all their watches, without exception, use Swiss movements and are Swiss-made in general, meaning they’re put through rigorous quality tests before going on sale. Which is something we should definitely embrace!

I mean, what’s possibly better than combining unbreakable construction with accurate and lasting Swiss-made calibers?

All of the above means the brands are pretty much even on the movement front.

Considering the sporty/outdoor nature of both watchmakers, it’s not a surprise that the bigger portion of models utilizes Swiss quartz movements which are pretty much unbeatable in terms of accuracy. Complications with chronograph timers are quite common.

However, there’s also something for those who value the more complex mechanical mechanisms. The automatic collections of both Luminox and Marathon are constantly expanding.

Verdict: Draw

Both brands offer reliable Swiss movements either of the battery-powered (quartz) or automatic type. Little to choose between the pair here.

Luminox vs Marathon: Illumination

Both brands take great pride in how easy their watches are to read in darker conditions.

In fact, this is one of Luminox‘s biggest selling points. All brand’s watches utilize Luminox-patented illumination called Luminox Light Technology (LLT), which is “a self-powered illumination system that utilizes tiny micro gas light tubes to create ultimate visibility in complete darkness, under any conditions”.

These watches guarantee excellent glow for up to 25 years.

Marathon‘s timepieces use either the standard tritium illumination or its proprietary Maraglow which is thought to be a bit better for underwater use. While both options ensure great legibility, their lifespan doesn’t come close to Luminox’s.

Verdict: Luminox

The Luminox Light Technology is just on a completely different level to anything else in the market.

Luminox vs Marathon: Affordability

In general, both brands can be considered fairly affordable and excellent representatives of the mid-priced tool watch sector.

If we look at the cheapest models available on the offer, Luminox is probably the more expensive out of the two, with their watches typically starting at the $300 mark. They can go as high as $1,500 which probably scratches the surface of an Entry-Level luxury price tag.

Marathon, on the other hand, offers a much wider range of prices, with some of their low-budget digital watches coming in at under $100. However, their most refined releases can carry price tags of luxury timepieces, such as the Jumbo Diver CSAR which will set you back more than $5,000. Models like this, however, are an exception and not a rule.

Verdict: Marathon

Looking at the lower-end models, Marathon watches are slightly more affordable than Luminox. Prices start at below the $100 mark.

Marathon vs Luminox: Warranty

When it comes to watches, one of the most important factors to consider is the warranty. After all, you want a watch that is going to last for many years to come.

The truth is that both brands offer good but not jaw-dropping warranty terms. The length of the warranty is 2 years from the date of purchase which isn’t less than other watchmakers in the same price sector but also doesn’t stand out in any way.

Naturally, the warranty period covers only defects in material and workmanship under normal use. Any damage caused by your own negligence isn’t going to be considered for a free repair/replacement.

Verdict: Draw

Both brands score equally in this field as well, offering a 2-year warranty against manufacturing defects.

Which Is Better: Luminox or Marathon? Summary

Luminox vs Marathon: comparison summary

If you’ve been struggling to decide between these two excellent watchmakers, we hope that today’s Luminox vs Marathon comparison has made that task a bit easier.

Summing up, it’s fair to say that both brands offer great watches at a range of price points, so it really comes down to personal preference in terms of which one you choose.

There are few watchmakers in the tool watch sector that can compete with either Marathon or Luminova when it comes to ruggedness and excellent value.

If you’re shopping on a tighter budget, Marathon watches would probably be a better option since, unlike Luminox, some are available south of the $100 mark. The Canadian brand has also more to show when it comes to the number of field or pilot models.

Luminox, on the other hand, offers a wider choice of capable dive watches, some resembling the iconic design of Rolex’s Submariner. The more advanced Luminox divers are water-resistant even up to 500m!

Last but not least, Luminox deserves a lot of credit for its excellent illumination technology – a major selling point for many fans.

While we could continue with the debate for a bit longer, whatever brand you decide to go for, you’re unlikely to be disappointed with the purchase.

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