The First Ever Digital Watch is Reborn as the Hamilton PSR

Hamilton’s Pulsar Time Computer watch was the first digital timepiece ever produced. Fifty years after its debut, the historical watch gets a modern makeover.

Space exploration was one of the biggest focal points of the transitional period between the ’60s to the ’70s—and it also became a theme that inspired the birth of the Hamilton Pulsar Time Computer. It was in May of 1970 when Hamilton president Richard J. Blakinger revealed to the world the first watch that didn’t feature the traditional hands or even a dial. Instead of the traditional silhouette of a watch, this new timepiece resembled a tiny spaceship and projected digital numerals on a tinted red screen. Two models were introduced: one in a steel case, the other in solid gold—the latter being one of the most expensive watches at the time.

As the very first digital watch, the Pulsar Time Computer became global horology phenomenon and was an instant hit with celebrities like Elvis, Keith Richards, Jack Nicholson and Elton John who all wore the timepiece. It even appeared on James Bond’s wrist in 1973’s “Live and Let Die”.

In terms of historical impact, this debut did more than simply pave the way for digital watches. Unlike the Seiko Astron which was the first mass-produced quartz watch, the Hamilton Pulsar became the  first quartz to embrace its digital nature. It also highlighted the cost-efficiency, accuracy and ease-of-production that were the main advantages of quartz watches over traditionally-made mechanical timepieces.

The lifespan of this iconic bright red time-telling machine was rather brief, however, and production stopped in 1977 as it lost out to newer models using the less power hungry LCD displays. Fast forward 50 years, and the Swiss-based company gave the Hamilton Pulsar a second chance at life as the Hamilton “PSR.”

The reincarnation of the Hamilton Pulsar is available in steel (which is a non-limited edition) and yellow-gold PVD (limited to just 1,970 pieces). The key difference from the original model is the display. Rather than using the original Pulsar’s LED-only display which left the dial completely dark unless the button is pushed, the PSR features a hybrid display featuring Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) technology.

The OLED display can be activated with the push of a button and will provide the same level of illumination as its predecessor, but in a more energy-efficient way. Backed with a reflective LCD, it will ensure the dial remains readable during daylight hours even under heavy glare.

Another notable difference is that an inscription that says “Hamilton” now appears underneath the digital display instead of “Pulsar,” since Seiko has trademarked the name back in 1979. Last but not least, it offers modern enhancements which includes a very thick, antireflective-coated sapphire crystal and a 100 meter water-resistance rating.

The Hamilton PSR stainless steel non-limited edition regular production model is priced at USD745, while the limited to 1,970 pieces PVD gold model is priced at USD995; both available at Hamilton online.