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My enthusiasm for electronic digital wristwatches has its origins in 1979, when I saw the first mass-sold LCD watch in the GDR, a RUHLA caliber 22-01. That was something fantastic for me and I looked at this watch with longing. But it was out of reach for me as a student at the time, because it cost the entire monthly salary of a worker.

My enthusiasm awoke and was intensified when I became aware of the predecessors, the watches with LED display, a few years ago. The LED displays with their intense red, high-contrast ultra-thin lines are simply beautiful!
 

On the history of LED watches: In 1970, the American company HAMILTON WATCH CO. / PULSAR introduced the world's first all-electronic wristwatch, a watch completely without mechanical components, called as "solid state". This watch displayed the time digitally, in digits with red active optoelectronic components, the light-emitting diodes (LED). The way this time was displayed was also the first real innovation in 500 years of watch development. The bright and high-contrast LED digit indicators, which are also visible in the dark, enabled completely new watch design concepts, which founded the so-called "space-age" The LED watch also falls into the age of the first electronic calculators and was consequently referred to as the "time computer".The world's first computer wristwatch, solar wristwatch and alphanumeric wristwatch used an LED display. Unfortunately, the era of these beautiful watches lasted only about 5 years. Due to the high power consumption, LED watches were not suitable for everyday use and were replaced by the LCD watches after a short time. Nevertheless, to my knowledge, there are more than 1,000 different models of these watches worldwide..

TIME COMPUTER "PULSAR II"

TIME COMPUTER "Pulsar II" Mod. 2970 (year of publication: 1972)

The Pulsar II is the successor to the world's first all-electronic wristwatch, the PULSAR LIMITED EDITION (P1). It was produced in large quantities, was the first LED watch to be sold in shops and was also very successful. It contains 25 integrated circuits (IC) and is completely transistor-based, i.e. without mechanical parts. It only has the technical capacity to display the time (hour, minute, second). To make the watch waterproof, the Pulsar uses a sophisticated concept: a magnet is used to display and set the time, which is located in the folding clasp of the bracelet. This allows reed contacts (small glass tubes with 2 wires) to be switched through the housing at specially marked places, no conventional buttons are necessary. Also special is the brightness control of the LED point display with a light sensor.

Prominent owners included Richards, Jack Nicholson, Joe Frazier, Elton John, Giovanni Agnelli and Us President Gerald Ford. Actor Roger Moore wore this watch in the James Bond film "Live and Let Die" (1973). The traditional house Tiffany & Co. had a special edition with its name made by this watch.

The watch shown here contains one of the first P2 modules, which can be seen from the fact that the light sensor on the module is horizontally under the display and on the fan-shaped battery terminals. In addition to this 14kt gold-plated model, there is also a stainless steel version (aka “Astronaut”), a model solid gold 14kt with stainless steel base and a model solid gold 14k (aka “V.I.P”). All models were available with a link or leather strap..

TIME COMPUTER "PULSAR DATE/COMMAND"

TIME COMPUTER "Pulsar DATE/COMMAND" Mod. 3120 (year of publication: 1973)

In addition to the "DATE II", the "DATE/COMMAND" is a watch of the 3rd generation, also known as "P3" and the first model, which can also display the date. The watch is equipped with a "smart calendar" that can distinguish between months of 30 and 31 days.

In addition to the 14kt gold-plated model shown here, there is also a version made of stainless steel, a model solid gold 14kt with stainless steel base as well as models solid gold 14k and 18kt. All models were available with a link or leather strap. The single-linked integrated metal bracelet of the DATE/COMMAND with its large links still looks very modern and contemporary today.

TIME COMPUTER PULSAR AUTO/COMMAND "EXECUTIVE"
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TIME COMPUTER “Pulsar AUTO/COMMAND EXECUTIVE" Mod 5201-1 (year of publication: 1975)

In addition to the "CLASSIC" and "BIG-TIME", the "EXECUTIVE" is a 4th generation watch, also known as "P4", which has an auto-command function, i.e. the time is displayed by turning the wrist (flick-wrist). For this purpose, a mercury inclination switch is installed. Furthermore, this generation changed from the previous LED dot display to led bar display. The "Executive" is the first Pulsar to introduce the 406 (24h display) module and is also the only auto-command model for which there is a 24-h display.

The watch shown here is an early model from 1975, which is still equipped with the module 401 (magnetic set). Later models included the module 402 or 406 with Auto/Set (by pressing the function keys three times the setting mode is activated). In addition to this 14kt gold-plated model, there is also a version made of stainless steel, as well as models solid gold 14kt and 18kt. All models were available with 12h or 24h module as well as with link or leather strap (brown or black). The curvy design gives the EXECUTIVE its typical space-age look and made this model the most popular in the Pulsar range.

TIME COMPUTER PULSAR AUTO/COMMAND "CLASSIC"

TIME COMPUTER “Pulsar AUTO/COMMAND CLASSIC" Modell 5310-2 (year of publication: 1975)

The "CLASSIC" is also a watch of the 4th generation and visually based on the P2. Along with the BIG TIME, it is one of the P4 watches that were available with the module 403, which also has a weekday display (DOW) in addition to the date. The display of the day of the week is solved very originally, in that the 2 letters for the weekday abbreviations are arranged one above the other.

In addition to the 14kt gold-plated model shown here, there is also a version in stainless steel, solid gold 14kt and solid gold 18kt. All models have a link bracelet.

JAEGER-LE COULTRE "MASTER QUARTZ DIGITAL LED"

JAEGER-LE COULTRE "Master Quartz Digital LED" (year of publication: 1975)

The renowned Swiss watch manufacturer Jaeger-Le Coultre, who is well known for its mechanical watches, also had this LED watch in its range. A festive elegant watch with an extraordinary design: The large oval "goldfilled" case with the seamlessly integrated Milanese bracelet is particularly striking. The mineral glass of the LED display stands out due to its trapezoidal shape. The screwed stainless steel bottom is equipped with 2 separate battery compartments for easy battery replacement. The movement is an early model of Huges Aircraft with a LED dot display. We see here the particularly beautiful watch of a Swiss Nobel company, whose selling price was correspondingly high at about 1,200 DM at that time.

HEUER CHRONOSPLIT LED/LCD  Model 100.703

HEUER “Chronosplit II LCD/LED” Mod. 100.703 (year of publication: 1975)

The HEUER Chronosplit LCD/LED is the world's first digital electronic wristwatch with a chronograph (stopwatch). The Chronosplit was therefore particularly popular in the Formula-1 scene. Enzo Ferrari had a special model limited to 15 pieces with its company logo made as a gift for friends and business partners. The Chronosplit was worn by famous Formula-1 drivers such as Niki Lauda and Gilles Villeneuve, as well as by actor and amateur racer Paul Newman.

In the American television series "The Gemini Man", the HEUER Chronosplit was the technical highlight with which the Gemini Man made himself visible or invisible. In the film, the watch was nuclear-powered. Name “Chronosplit” and HEUER logo had been removed from the watch, so viewers didn't know that this watch really does exist. The traditional house Tiffany & Co. also had a custom-made version (200 pcs) of this watch with its name made.

The Chronosplit LCD/LED was sold in 4 versions:
- Model 100.723 (Chronosplit  I ): stainless steel case with leather strap
- Model 100.703 (Chronosplit  II): stainless steel case with integrated stainless steel bracelet
- Model 100.725 (Chronosplit III): Golddoublé case with leather strap
- Model 100.705 (Chronosplit IV): Golddoublé case with integrated Doublé bracelet

LONGINES "ASYMMETRIC" Kaliber L 782.1

LONGINES “ASYMMETRIC” Cal. L 782.1 (year of publication: 1976)

Designer watch of the Swiss company Companie des Montres Francillon S.A./Saint-Imier. This model is unique for its tapered asymmetrical stainless steel case. Typical for Longines also the large rectangular buttons. Display of hour, minute, second, date and AM/PM indication. The base calibre of this watch comes from Sanyo.

LONGINES "GEMINI" Kaliber L 785.1

LONGINES “GEMINI” Cal. L 785.1 (year of publication: 1976)

The LONGINES GEMINI is a “Day & Night”-watch that has an LCD and LED display. The watch shown here is the very rare stainless steel version produced in Switzerland by the Companie des Montres Francillon S.A./Saint-Imier. The golden version, the "Gemini II", was developed and manufactured in the USA. The base calibre comes from the American company Hughes Aircraft.

WITTNAUER “POLARA” G650

WITTNAUER “POLARA” G650 (year of publication: 1976)

LONGINES has also offered its "Day & Night" watch under its WITTNAUER brand in the USA.

LONGINES “POLARA IV SILVER AND GOLD"

LONGINES-WITTNAUER "POLARA IV” SILVER AND GOLD (year of publication: 1976)

A case and bracelet made of solid sterling silver, gold-plated bracelet links and the bezel set with 36 diamonds make this LONGINES POLARA a real jewel among LED watches. This model was also available in the same or similar design from JAEGER LE-COULTRE. This watch is an impressive example of the fact that digital watches have also occupied the luxury class in the watch world and was correspondingly expensive at the time with a sales price of over 1000 dollars. Other very noble watches I know are the "Goldnugget watch" by Wittnauer and the LED watches by the British designer Andrew Grima.

WITTNAUER “POLARA III SILVER AND GOLD"

LONGINES-WITTNAUER "POLARA III” SILVER AND GOLD (year of publication: 1976)

The Polara III is another "jewery" watch from LONGINES-WITTNAUER. The case is made of solid sterling silver is decorated with elements made of solid 14k gold. The surface is nicely roughened, but so strong that it does not disappear by using the watch, as with satin-finished surfaces. The watch is equipped with the last caliber manufactured by Hughes Aircraft, which enables automatic leap year correction. The selling price of the watch at that time was 395 dollars.
 

GIRARD PERREGAUX "CASQUETTE"

GIRARD PERREGAUX "Casquette Macrolon" Mod. 9939 (year of publication: 1976)

The "Casquette" is a very stylish and elegant watch from the Swiss manufacturer Girard-Perregaux S.A. La Chaux de Fonds. A special feature of this watch is the LED display, which is arranged on the side for better readability in bright sunlight in a shaft. It is also special that GP developed the electronics completely by itself and did not buy it like most other watch manufacturers from companies such as Sanyo, Hughes Aircraft, National Semiconductor or Esa. GP developed 3 different modules with the calibre designations 395, 396 and 397:
- Caliber 395 has the date and a 12-hour display. This calibre is rare and watches with this calibre have only
  a normal button on the left side without an impressive inner part.
- Caliber 396 has a weekday display (text) in addition to the date and the 12-hour display.
- Caliber 397 has a 24-hour display, but no weekday display.

The "Casquette" was sold in three versions:
- Model 9939 Makrolon (edition 2,000 pieces, price 750 DM).
- Model 9934 18k gold-plated (edition 2,200 pieces, price 995 DM)
- Model 9931 Stainless steel (edition 4,000 pieces, price 895 DM)

All versions of the "Casquette" were available with leather strap or metal bracelet.

The watch shown here is the "Makrolon" version. For housing and bracelet, a special glass fever-reinforced plastic with the polymer Makrolon was used. This state-of-the-art material was also used for millitarian technology. Furthermore, the watch is equipped with the rare calibre 395.

GIRARD PERREGAUX "CASQUETTE"

GIRARD PERREGAUX "Casquette 18k Rolled Gold" Mod. 9934 (year of publication: 1976)

The watch shown here is the gold-plated version with an alligator leather strap. It is equipped with the calibre 396, which has a weekday display (text).

GIRARD PERREGAUX "CASQUETTE"

GIRARD PERREGAUX "Casquette Stainless Steel" Mod. 9931 (year of publication: 1976)

The watch shown here is the Stainless steel version, equipped with the calibre 396, which has a weekday display (text).

NIVADA "QUARTZONIC"

NIVADA "Quartzonic" Model 88007 (year of publication: approx 1976)

Designer watch of the Swiss company Nivada, Grenchen. Unique to this watch is the very elegantly curved and tapered asymmetrical case. The base calibre of the watch comes from Hughes Aircraft.

RIEHL TIME SUN WATCH Mark III

RIEHL TIME “SUNWATCH” Mark III (year of publication: 1977)

The "SUNWATCH Mark III" is the 3rd generation of the world's first solar wristwatch, the "Synchronar 2100". The Synchronar 2100 was still manufactured by Ragen Semiconductor, the Sunwatch was then produced by Riehl Time Corporation (RTC), a company founded by the inventor of this watch Roger W Riehl.

Special features of this watch are the design, the technically high degree of development and the robustness: Even the first model had a high shock resistance of 5,000G, a water resistance of up to 700 ft and wide temperature tolerances. These different technical features even improved with subsequent models. The various functions of the Synchronar/Sunwatch are controlled by two sliders on the top and not by conventional buttons. Last but not least, the watch also claimed an accuracy of one minute per year. The design with the rectangular case is somewhat reminiscent of the early seasons of Star Trek. The time and date are displayed on the side of the wearer, i.e. as with the "driver watches" specially designed later. The surface of the watch is dominated by the solar cell window to maximize light absorption.

The clock was a real phenomenon at the time, and prominent carriers included Paul McCartney and Egypt's President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak.

The watch shown here was reworked in 2020 by StrikesAndSpares as a carrying watch for daily use with a Drive SASM80F, new solar cell and Varta V80H batteries. It offers a time function (12h or 24h display), date function (MM:TT or TT:MM display), second function, weekday function and languages DE/FR/EN as well as leap year function and calendar week. A original drive is also present, but inoperable due to the 40+ year old batteries.

WINDERT "MICROLUX"

WINDERT "MICROLUX LED Computer Watch" with message-modul (year of publication: 1977)

At the end of the LED watch era, some manufacturers tried to keep the clientele with extended functions. The American manufacturer WINDERT therefore equipped its MICROLUX LED watch with a user-programmable module for displaying individual texts (5 words with up to 5 characters each). For this purpose, the watch is equipped with a special message module from Hughes Aircraft. The programmed message is displayed line by line at the push of a button.

BULOVA "COMPUTRON"

BULOVA “Computron LED” Modell 4 Caliber 2544.10 (year of publication: 1977)

Bulova was the best-known and most successful manufacturer of driver's watches in the 1970s. His models were so popular that a retro version of this watch has been produced since 2019. This is offered with a red or blue LED display. The term "Computron" is composed of Computer and Electronic. With its distinctive appearance, the Computron has become a legend among LED watches. It was offered in many design variants, most with gold-plated metal housings. There was also a chrome-plated model, which is unfortunately very rare (only about 1 percent of all watches sold).

The watch shown here with the module 254 comes from the 2nd generation (1977). Special features are the 1-button operation (auto-set function: the setting mode is activated by pressing it three times) and the 6-digit display with seconds. The 1st generation (1976) with module 229 had two buttons and a 4-digit display. Both versions have a screwed bottom with 2 battery compartments. The third and last generation (1977) with the module 255 is much smaller than the two predecessors and is also called the "one-battery hatch" version because it has only one battery compartment.

other electronic wristwatches:

BULOVA "ACCUTRON 214 Spaceview"

BULOVA "Accutron 214 Spaceview" tuning fork watch (year of publication: 1960)

The Bulova Accutron is the first electronic (transistorized) wristwatch in the world. It uses a tuning fork as as a impulse generator. The tuning fork was a precursor to the Quartzes, was used from 1960 and, in contrast to the balance wheel used up to now, which could only swing at 2.5 to 5 Hz, was able to swing at 360 Hz and thus significantly improve the speed accuracy of the watches. Because of the patent ban imposed by Bulova on the tuning fork, the other watch manufacturers were researching other possibilities and, thanks to advances in microelectronics, were able to use the Quartz as the optimal impulse generator, which later (1970) was used by all watch manufacturers, including Bulova (the Bulova "Accuquartz" models).

The term "Accutron" is composed of Accuracy and Electronic. The Spaceview in particular does not have a dial, so you can see the tuning fork and the green colored circuit boards of the movement. The dial markings are printed on the watch glass. The clocks, which were converted in this way and initially only a few hundred of which were initially available, were supposed to be used only as sales aids to present the revolutionary Accutron Tuning fork, but the customer demand was so great that this watch was then produced in series. The watch glasses were produced by Bulova until 1992, so that there are still many watches in very good condition for collectors. The watch shown here is from 1970.

Accutron movements were state-of-the-art in the 1960s and were used in 46 NASA space flights and the first Apollo moon landing. A seismic activity meter with An Accutron tuning fork timer was left on the moon.

BULOVA "ACCUTRON  II Alpha Spaceview"

BULOVA "Accutron II Alpha Spaceview" UHF-quartzwatch cal. BA101.10 (year of publication: 2014)

In homage to the Accutron Spaceview tuning fork clock from the 1960s, Bulova presented the "Accutron Alpha" collection at Baselworld in 2014, reviving a historic success story in a new guise. The Alpha uses an ultra-high frequency quartz with 262 kHz (Bulova Precisionist calibre) as the time base. This high-frequency quartz allows you to move the second hand just as elegantly (16 vibrations per second), just like a tuning fork clock or mechanical watch. In addition, the watch is more accurate than a conventional 32kHz Quartz watch at 10 seconds per year.

Like the original "Spaceview", the new alpha does not have a dial, so the movement can be seen in its entirety. The case is beautifully worked, a shield-shaped mixture of polished and brushed PVD gold-plated stainless steel. The radial brushing of the metal case is continued in the gold front plate, which is marked with the Bulova tuning fork emblem and the number of the movement BA101.10.

The Alpha was sold in 4 versions: with polished, yellow or rose gold steel case and a black model matched to a mesh-metal bracelet. The steel models are fitted with a black, white or brown leather strap.

all LED-watches (to see the model name place the mouse-pointer over the foto):

Longines GEMINI "DAY & NIGHT" Longines "ASYMMETRIC" Kaliber L 782.1 Longines POLARA IV SILVER AND GOLD
WIittnauer POLARA Mod G650 "DAY & NIGHT" WIittnauer POLARA Mod 125 WIittnauer POLARA Mod 125
Heuer CHRONOSPLIT LED/LCD  Mod 100.703 Jaeger-LeCoultre MASTER QUARTZ DIGITAL LED Longines POLARA III SILVER AND GOLD
Girard Perregaux "CASQUETTE" Mod. 9939 Girard Perregaux "CASQUETTE" Mod. 9934 Girard Perregaux "CASQUETTE" Mod. 9931
Time Computer PULSAR AUTO COMMAND EXECUTIVE Mod  5201-1 Time Computer PULSAR DATE/COMMAND Mod 3120 Time Computer PULSAR II Mod  2970
Riehl Time Corporation SUN WATCH Mark III Time Computer PULSAR FOR LADIES Mod 2406-2 Time Computer PULSAR FOR LADIES Mod 4406-2
National Semiconductor NOVUS11 National Semiconductor NOVUS National Semiconductor NOVUS 2
Buler BERTONE STRATOS Buler BERTONE STRATOS Yema FAIRCHILD LED
Sdelano ELEKTRONIKA 1 Sdelano ELEKTRONIKA 1 Nepro Mod 719 242
Nivada QUARTZONIC Corvus QUARTZ SOLID STATE Modul Cal. 2604 Bulova QUARTZ Mod N7
Bulova COMPUTRON N6 Bulova COMPUTRON N7 Windert MICROLUX LED
CompuChron LED Birks LED Microsonic LED
CompuChron POCKET WATCH
Sterling LED WATCH PEN Stainless Steel
Kent LED WATCH PEN Stainless Steel
Satolex CALCU-PEN LED calculator pen

SATOLEX “Calcu-Pen” LED (year of publication: 1975)

The Calcu-pen is a very unique calculator from the 1975 to 1977 time-frame, made out of metal and constructed very well. It is shaped much like a cigar tube, 6.3 inches long and about 0.6 inches in diameter. The five keys on the barrel are termed "Quadraplane" rocker switches. Each switch will rock in four directions, allowing four numbers or functions per key. The display is an eight-digit red LED. The on/off function is controlled by rotating the end cap of the pen.

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