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Watchismo Times

THE WATCHISMO TIMES WATCH BLOG A reliquary of obscure timepieces from bygone eras as well as the cutting-edge watch designs of today.

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Vintage Solar Powered Watches - A Partly Cloudy History

Evolution of the Sundial


1. Synchronar - Conceived in the early sixties and first produced in 1968, the first Solar watch ever was invented by the reclusive inventor Roger Riehl. Solar panels on the top with a sideview LED display. Heavily debated within a microcosm of vintage watch collectors as the first digital watch ever. That distinction is commonly given to the 1970's Pulsar LED. 

2. Nepro - 1975 LED with raised display and backside solar panels.


3. Uranus - "This is one of the earliest LED watches in existence. It is one of the very earliest "wearable" wristwatches made by Uranus (approx. 1971) and one of only a few made (hugely expensive to build). It actually predates the Pulsar and launched Uranus into a patent fight with Hamilton (Uranus lost). The thing that makes this watch unique is that it does not use an LSI (large scale integrated chip) but instead is made up of discrete logic and driver chips using hundreds of wire bonds to connect them up. It is truly a packaging marvel. The display is only hours and minutes. The face is divided in half horizontally with the LED in the upper half, the lower half being composed of solar cells in a fan pattern to supplement the battery, all in a gold filled case." by Guy Ball


4. Sicura LCD - 1976 LCD with innovative solution of putting solar panels on the side of the watch.

Sicura Ad


5. Sicura Analog - 1978 Analog version of the same watch.



6. Junghans 'Mega Solar' - 1990's radio-controlled, PVD-coated wristwatch with solar cell, date and integrated radio receiver from one of the most accurate clocks in the world - the Caesium Time Base at Germany’s National Institute of Natural Engineering and Sciences.


7. Citizen Crystron - 1976 "This was the first solar-powered analog wristwatch. It conformed to the conventional design of most analog watches except for the four square gray panels that take up most of the face. This watch began Citizen’s long-term commitment to solar powered watches, which has culminated in the very successful Eco-Drive line of watches." by Soluhr


8. Calcron & Louis Erard Calculator Watches - Mid to late seventies solar calculator watches with side panels. The non-solar Calcron is believed to be the first ever wrist-calculator watch made as originally featured here-->Link


9. Cristalonic 'Solar Quartz' by GmbH - 1980's LCD with an asymmetric black plastic case.

Cristalonic Advertisements


10. Lorus - 1980's solar LCD. A division of Seiko.

Sadly, development of the modern light-powered watch, like the Citizen Eco-Drive, eliminated the need for innovative visual configurations as solar panels now absorb light through traditional watch dials. It was fun while it lasted...

Blockwork Clockworks

Two modern LED block clocks. The Jonas Damon independent cube LED alarm clock. You can stack, align, or zig-zag them however you want.

The Kouji Iwasaki designed wood block clock. The LED digits shine through a thin veneer of wood bright enough to be seen. 


And if those aren't big enough for you, or you're legally blind, check out the 12 foot long self-setting GPS LED wall clock built by Spark Fun Electronics

Nixie Tube Clock by Klok Modern

Vintage Nixie Tubes from the USSR are reclaimed after 30-60 years in Russian warehouses by Industrial Designer, Mike Mayberry and his company, Klok Modern. Exquisitely displayed in his custom fabricated, limited edition, aircraft aluminum housing and sold as a kit for home assembly. The beauty of the ten layered electrodes glowing orange with overlapping dimension can only be appreciated when it's right in front of you.

Klok K7 Model


1950's Nixie Advertisement

Calculating the History of LED Calculator Watches

1975 Calcron Calculator Watch

Playboy magazine, June 1975...A gift-giving advertisement with ideas for dads & grads included this guy hidden in the back. The Calcron LED Wrist Calculator. Likely the first public offering of it's kind.

Pulsar Calculator Watch
Once thought to be the first calculator watch, the Hamilton Pulsar Company introduced their own version in late 1975.



1976 Uranus Calculator Watch

Obscure company Uranus creates a very unusual calculator watch with revolutionary "touch-friendly" buttons. (Most up to this point required a stylus pen for calculations) Sadly, very few exist today and even less in working condition. Both rarity and eccentricity make this the most valuable calculator watch to collect.

1977 Hewlett Packard HP-01 (prototype shown)

Hewlett Packard's appropriate contribution to the appendage calculation device. Article mentions "about 50,000 HP-01s had been made, of which about a half had been purchased by a Saudi prince. Half the rest were sold through shops, then the remainder was sold to HP employees at a clearance price." 

1977 Sinclair Kit LED Calculator Watch


Sinclair's "home assembled" offering (without time function) and ultimate failure due to ill-fitting parts. Article mentions "more than 10,000 Wrist Calculators were sold to masochistic hobbyists from all parts of the world." 


1976-78 Hughes Aircraft Calculator Watch


Hughes Aircraft Company (as in Howard Hughes) created this super-block calculator watch between 1976 and 78. One of the most outlandish due to it's massive metal casing. Worn by Lorne Greene and other cast mates on the 70's show Battlestar Gallactica.


Assorted 1980's LCD Calculator Watches - Link to NerdWatchMuseum

And along come the 80's...LCD technology is in full swing and every imaginable company produces LCD calculator watches as sampled above.
Vintage Solar Powered Watches - A Partly Cloudy HistoryBlockwork ClockworksHomemade Pong Watch

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