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In 1970, the American company HAMILTON 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 8 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.

A very good variant, which combines the beauty of the bright red LED display with the required practicality of a wristwatch, was the so-called "Day & Night" watches, which contain both an LC display, which can constantly display the time, as well as an LED display, which displays the time at the touch of a button.

On this page I would like to introduce the LED watches of my collection.

HEUER CHRONOSPLIT LED/LCD  Model 100.703

HEUER Chronosplit II LCD/LED Model 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.

LONGINES GEMINI Cal. 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.

LONGINES "ASYMMETRIC" Cal. 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.

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 9931 Stainless steel (edition 4,000 pieces)
Model 9934 18k gold-plated (edition 2,200 pieces)
Model 9939 Makrolon (edition 2,000 pieces).
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).

RIEHL TIME SUN WATCH Mark III

RIEHL TIME “SUN WATCH” 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.

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 is from the 2nd and thus the last generation (1977). Special features are the 1-button operation (auto-set function: the setting mode is activated by pressing three times) as well as the 6-digit display with seconds. The 1st generation (1976) with module 229 had two buttons and a 4-digit display. The bottom of the Computron is screwed, the batteries can be changed via 2 rotary caps at the bottom without having to open the watch.

other electric wristwatches:

BULOVA "ACCUTRON 214 Spacemaster"

BULOVA "Accutron 214 Spaceview" Model N0 tuning fork watch (year of publication: 1970)

The Accutron 214 Spaceview is a watch with a tuning fork 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 and 5 Hz, was able to swing at 360 Hz and thus significantly improve the speed accuracy of the watch. Because of the patent ban imposed by Bulova on the tuning fork, the other watch manufacturers searched for other possibilities and found the Quartz as the optimal clock, 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.

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.

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 Riehl Time Corporation SUN WATCH Mark III
WIittnauer POLARA Mod 125 WIittnauer POLARA Mod 125 with rare DOW display Heuer CHRONOSPLIT LED/LCD  Mod 100.703
Girard Perregaux "CASQUETTE" Mod. 9939 Girard Perregaux "CASQUETTE" Mod. 9934
Time Computer PULSAR DATE/COMMAND Mod 3120 4kt Gold-Filled Time Computer PULSAR FOR LADIES Mod 2406-2  Stainless Steel
National Semiconductor NOVUS11 Nepro Mod 719 242 Yema FAIRCHILD LED
Buler BERTONE STRATOS Buler BERTONE STRATOS Bulova COMPUTRON
Sdelano ELEKTRONIKA 1 CompuChron LED CompuChron LED
Birks LED Corvus QUARTZ SOLID STATE Modul Cal. 2604 Bulova QUARTZ Mod N7
Microsonic LED CompuChron POCKET WATCH Stainless Steel
Sterling LED WATCH PEN Stainless Steel
Kent LED WATCH PEN Stainless Steel
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