The Birth of the LED Watch

The Birth of the LED Watch: Revolutionary Timepieces Led by Electronics

On May 6, 1970, the curtain opened on a new era of wristwatches. The famous American watchmaker Hamilton announced a new type of watch that could display the time with only digits and without hands. Given the name Pulsar, this watch would create a global sensation. At the press conference announcing the watch, Hamilton’s president proudly declared, “This watch computes and displays the time electronically.”
At that time, Hamilton was one of the companies leading the development of technology. It introduced the world’s first battery-powered electric wristwatch in 1957, liberating people from the need to wind their watches.
The 1969 film 2001: A Space Odyssey is a timeless masterpiece about the mysteries of outer space. Hamilton was involved in making promotional watches for the film as well as prop watches used in the film itself. Director Stanley Kubrick personally chose Hamilton for these tasks, which serves as further proof of Hamilton's image as a company with its eyes on the future.
In the 1960s, Bulova, another American watchmaker, developed a tuning fork wristwatch, at which point Hamilton's electric watches began to lose their edge. Watchmakers around the world were studying quartz, which they considered the promising next generation of timepieces, and this was also true of Hamilton. However, Hamilton was also exploring entirely new ways to display the time. Shortly after the invention of the LED (Light Emitting Diode), Hamilton affiliated with leading electronics manufacturers that had no previous involvement in making watches. The electronic modules were manufactured by Electrodata and RCA, the LED displays by Litronix, the red ruby crystals by Corning Glass. Sculptor Ernest Trove designed the prototype cases, and Hamilton manufactured the cases as well as the reed relays. These cutting-edge technologies came together to create the Pulsar.
Analog clocks essentially display the time with turning hands. For this to happen, gears and other moving parts have to be installed inside. However, the Pulsar watch contained absolutely no moving parts. It measured time with electric current and displayed it using LEDs. The first clock with no moving parts could be called the most innovative timepiece made since the invention of the first mechanical clock, believed to have happened in the 14th century.
As the curtain opened on the 1970s, a decade in which terms such as “cyber world” and “space-age” would become part of the lexicon, the digital watch, a favorite child of the era, made its spectacular debut.