For some of you, and you know who you are, no matter how much excitement and froth Hamilton tries to generate about the release of the Hamilton PSR, the tribute to its first-ever electronic digital watch, you will still fail to be impressed because the watch is neither analog or mechanical.
Love it or hate it, this watch was a gamechanger in its day. Hamilton had already introduced the Ventura, the first electronic analog watch in 1957. But when the Hamilton Pulsar electronic digital watch was launched it seemed like something straight out of a science fiction movie. The wow factor was huge.
The watch had no moving parts, it didn’t tick, and yet it kept impeccable time by means of robust quartz accuracy of up to 60 seconds a year. The technology was mind-boggling for the time. The Hamilton Pulsar watch was fitted with a logic chip, later known as a microchip, viewable only under a microscope yet containing the processing power of 1,500 solid-state devices. This tiny computer divided the 32760 oscillations per second of the quartz crystal into hours, minutes and seconds.
It was May 6th, 1970 when the Hamilton Pulsar was first presented to an enthusiastic press at an upmarket Manhattan hotel restaurant. The previous year Seiko had stunned the world with the launch of the Seiko Astron, the world’s first quartz watch. Time did not stand still. Within two years of the Pulsar launch, Casio introduced the Casiotron, a watch which not only showed the hours, minutes, and seconds, but also had a clever function that could automatically determine the number of days in a month. Despite Hamilton’s impressive first, Japan, and especially Casio, quickly came to dominate the low-cost digital watch market globally.
Meanwhile, Johnny Carson demonstrated how the Hamilton Pulsar worked on his TV show. He pressed a button on the side of the watch which made the time flash in red LED numerals on the darkened screen. A longer press of the button revealed the passing seconds and the watch was set by means of a magnetic bar hidden in the bracelet. It was the stuff of magic.
The Hamilton Pulsar P1 first went on sale in 1972. The Pulsar was developed by Hamilton in partnership with Electro/Data, Inc. It was named after the pulsating neutron stars that emit beams of radiation at ultra-precise frequencies. It featured a futuristic cushion case and bracelet in 18-carat yellow gold. It was yours for a whopping price tag of $2,100. At the time you could buy a family car for that money, or 10 Rolex Submariners.
In 1973 Hamilton launched the rather more budget-friendly stainless-steel Pulsar P2 to huge success. It featured a more rounded case design and an improved chip module. Among those to fall for its futuristic looks and digital readout were the likes of Jack Nicholson, Joe Frazier, President Gerald Ford, Elton John, and Keith Richards. Roger Moore, aka James Bond, could be seen wearing it in the movie Live and Let Die. And long-time Hamilton fan Elvis Presley was also among the first to snap up one of the 400 units available.
And so, for 2020, Hamilton releases the new PSR. As with the 70’s original, there are two versions: one unlimited in stainless steel, and another in stainless steel coated with yellow gold PVD. No prizes for guessing the number of units available for this limited edition: 1,970. Unusually for a modern remake, the watches have the exact same proportions as the 70s original: 40.8mm x 34.7mm.
Water-resistant to 100 meters, and protected by scratchproof sapphire crystal rather than latter-day mineralite, the Hamilton PSR mixes reflective LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) and emissive OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) technologies. But the time-telling technique remains the same. Press the button once to bring up the light red OLED numerals in the retro 70s ‘digit dot’ style, while the LCD display ensures that time is always visible in daylight. Because there is no backlight, the display has low energy consumption. The screwed caseback is engraved with a Pulsar star, and the watch battery lasts for 5 years.
Scheduled to launch in May 2020, the Hamilton PSR will sell for US$745 for the stainless-steel version and US$995 for the limited gold PVD-coated edition.
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