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Horology, part 5 - The History of Digital Watches

Updated: Jun 16

Hamilton had proven to be an innovative company when they released the Ventura in 1957, the first battery powered wristwatch. They firmly embraced this reputation with the launch of the Hamilton Pulsar P1, in April 1972.

The watch had seven ceramic circuit boards and 3,474 transistors. A technological marvel for the period. It was also the first digital watch, with a LED display behind a synthetic ruby crystal, encased in 18-karat gold.

Hamilton Pulsar
Hamilton Pulsar

Thousands of miles away, Seiko was working on their revolution. After releasing the first Quartz watch in 1969, the Astron, they did not want to be left behind by the Americans. After a lot of R&D, Seiko released the Quartz LC VFA 06LC in 1973 - the first six-digit LCD watch.

Seiko Quartz LC VFA 06LC
Seiko Quartz LC VFA 06LC

Two years later, the next important chapter in the history of digital watches came from a company that many of you probably never heard of: Texas Instruments. They went to market with a LED watch on a plastic case for only $20.

This price drop turned the digital watch almost into a commodity, pushing the industry to add new features that could make their products stand out. This is why in the 80's we saw the release of models that offered TV, video games, cameras, and even computer connections.

And then, in 2015, the Apple Watch came along. A small and vivid OLED screen that connects to an iPhone and offers more than we could possibly need. Is this the final frontier of digital? Hard to believe, surely innovations will come along, adding new features that we can't currently imagine.

Apple Watch
The Apple Watch

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