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Object Record

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Object Name Wristwatch
Catalog Number 2006.11
Collection Watch
Other Name Pulsar
Date c. 1973
Description Brief description: Stainless steel oval case electronic digital men's wristwatch.
The four-digit light emitting diodes (LED) sit behind an oval red mineral glass window, displaying hours and minutes and seconds, marked PULSAR on the SS case
A button at 3 o'clock activates the display; minute and seconds are reset on back of case (requires setting magnet)

Producer name: Hamilton Watch Company / Time Computer, Inc.
Production date: Circa 1973
Made in: Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA
Dimensions: 34.4 X 7.75 millimeters (case)
Case (inside):

Curator's comments:
This Pulsar II, manufactured by Hamilton USA and Time Computers, was launched in 1972. Model 2900 (stainless steel case and back). See Roy Ehrhardt, Hamilton Wristwatch Price Guide, page 138.

Pulsar was named after the pulsating star. Developed in the early 1970s, it was the world's first all-electronic digital watch and the first to use a digital display.

The first pulsars originally sold for $2,100 ($11,900 in 2013 dollars)

Although the Pulsar PI gets credit for being the very first digital watch, it was a limited edition of about 450; the PII was the first digital watch to be produced in any significant number. The PII entered the market with a huge splash in 1973 during the opening scenes of Live and Let Die, the first James Bond movie starring Roger Moore.

The PII was a very simple digital watch by today's standards. With its single button, it only had the capability to show the time (hours, minutes, and seconds); no date, day of the week, stopwatch, alarm, or any other features were included. Still, the PII was a technological breakthrough and is today considered by horological historians as the first entirely successful digital watch in history.

The success of the PII was due to the first use of large-scale integrated (LSI) chip technology in a wristwatch. Hamilton showed its first LED watch prototype at a press conference in May 1970; it had 44 discrete chips-each very simple. Only three prototypes existed, and Hamilton struggled to keep at least one of them running for the duration of the one-hour press conference. When the Pulsar PI was introduced in mid-1972, the chip count was brought down to 25, but the module still had over 400 discrete connections. It proved again to be unreliable and was recalled within months. Although the Pulsar PI was a historical landmark, it was not a technical or financial success. When the Pulsar PII was introduced in 1973, its Pulsar 2900 module replaced the entire arrangement of chips and connections with a single integrated circuit chip. This finally gave the digital watch the solid-state reliability that designers had dreamed about and resulted in a design that was practical enough to build reasonably economically and reliable enough to wear. These factors are why the Pulsar PI is now considered to be the very first successful digital watch.

Trueb, Ramm, Wenzig, Electrifying the Wristwatch, pages 290 and 291

Maker Hamilton Watch Company / Time Computer, Inc.
Material stainless steel
Place of Origin Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA
Notes Donated by Leonard Traines
Serial Number(s) 36531