Hamilton: 50 years of electronic clocks. For half a century, digital clock made a brilliant career with a sensational takeoff

electronic clocks


For half a century, digital clock made a brilliant career with a sensational takeoff and landing under the influence of a sobering market and political realities. On the market today quartz movements, often simple, are for the most part, little to do with the art of engineering 50s.

Mechanical chronometers infinitely many decades owned the world until the mid-50s of the last century does not appear the next contender for world domination: the electronic wristwatch.

March 3, 1952 was a sensational event: the two companies, the French Societe des Montres in Paris and the U.S. Elgin National Watch Company in Chicago, at the same time presented differently arranged prototype electronic watches – the results of long-term development.

On the question of the press, whether the market is ready for this innovation, both answered evasively, must pass at least a couple of years. The question of prices also remained open.

The next five years were heated debates and arguments about the electronic clock. As long watchmakers faced little electronic mechanisms, many people have seen the future of news doubtful. Some thought that the digital clock will never be able to compete with the mechanical balance of price and quality. Others expressed a more optimistic view, saying that progress is not in place and the future will show how the concept will prevail. But since no manufacturer could offer a decent competitive product, all discussions will soon disappeared.

electronic clocks
477 years

Almost five years later, on January 3, 1957, Hamilton watch company at a press conference in New York presented the «Watch of the future» – the world’s first wristwatch with an electric drive. This event highlighted more than 500 U.S. newspapers have written that «Hamilton has created the world’s first watch with an electric drive – the first major invention in the field of portable timekeeping 477 years.” Had in mind was born in 1480, Peter Henlyayn, known as the creator of the “Nuremberg Egg” – the first portable clock.

The main feature of Hamilton watches was a small battery; almost a year provides a mechanism of energy. In addition to convenience, permanent drive, as expected, was to ensure high precision. At that time, as in the classical balance of a mechanical watch powered by a clockwork spring through the transfer wheel, the electronic system “springs – wheels” was replaced by a battery. She made the balance sway and move the gear second, minute and hour hands.

The number of oscillations in this case amounted to about 18,000 vibrations per hour (2,5 Hz), as well as a mechanical clock that time.

The first model for sale called Ventura and Van Horn, while Ventura is probably the most famous electronic wristwatch, embodied an eccentric inimitable style of the time. Was a revolutionary and an electronic mechanism (Calibre 500), and asymmetrical body as a shield. The design of hours worked by Richard Arbib, who also designed the futuristic body for the American automobile industry.

Another model-Van Horn – was intended for more conservative buyers.

electronic clocks
She was named in honor of former Director of Research and Development Hamilton Dr. John Van Horn. Both models are in 14-karat gold case were presented Jan. 3, 1957, and at the time, cost a fortune: 200 USD – Ventura and 175 USD – Van Horn. For comparison: according to statistics from federal agencies in 1957, serving in Germany, for example, received an average of 295 DM per month, while the dollar was 1 to 4!

Step by step

After this momentous event began the rapid development of electronic watches. In 1958 two more brands, Epperlein (Calibre 100) and Lip (Caliber R 27), put up for sale on the watch battery. A little later, October 10, 1960, the company Bulova introduced another novelty improved: Accutron (Calibre 214) – the first electronic watch, in which instead of the traditional balance as a source of vibration used a small transistor driven fork-fork. Thus, the frequency increased to 360 cycles per second, and this, in turn, improved the precision. Accutron went on sale in October 1960.

In the following decade the rapidly developing digital watch with a balance sheet driven. Own calibers, different designed, produced Bifora, Citizen, Ebauches SA, Elgin, Junghans, Laco-Timex, Landeron, Porta-PUW, Seiko, and UMF-Ruhla. After a rather awkward and bulky male models began to appear gradually sleek little ladies watch with small machines. The assumption that the electronic wristwatch displace the mechanical was not confirmed. Even in 1970, when many of the brands offered is quite complete, thoughtful design, their share in the common market was only about 1%! But at this time opened a new chapter in the history of time: in the late 1969 Seiko produces a series of first quartz watch (caliber 3500), limited edition 100 copies (for a price of about 1250 USD). And in Switzerland, SAINT, Center for Electronic Local Industries, founded in 1962 to develop electronic watch technology, the first industrially manufactured quartz movement (Calibre Beta 21).

Presented at the exhibition in Basel, April 10, 1970, quartz watch with this mechanism were made in small editions by many manufactories in Switzerland (in total were released a few hundred copies). The final stage of the evolution of electronic timekeeping was a little later. May 6, 1970 at a press conference Hamilton introduced a fully electronic clock with digital display, no mechanically movable parts (with reflective diodes). Limited edition of 18-karat gold case came shortly before Christmas 1972. Price of one copy was 1500 USD; entered into sale new in August 1972. In the same year appeared fully electronic wristwatch with LCD display, time to be read at the touch of a button, and they are relatively quickly supplanted all his predecessors. Of course, the development of the electronic clock was going constantly, and after 1972, but it consisted mainly of technical improvements, rather than new inventions.

At this time the quartz movements of individual manufacturers is still very much different from each other, but this difference was quickly erased by technological progress, and quartz clocks has reached its final perfection, taking a modern look. And yet, in terms of collectors, the period between 1957 and 1972 remains the most interesting and rich. Indeed, in a short time there was a shift from mechanical watches to the clock with an electronic actuator, electronic drive with balance, and then to the first quartz clock.

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