Since the launch of the smartphone, we knew that one day we would end up with “smart-watches”. Not that we were all nostalgics of Michael Knight and his Knight industries 2000 wrist-watch but because it would be the natural evolution of things. Despite the fact that iWatches are a hot trend right now, their concept is not new.
The Electronic watch, a concept older than 50 years
Everybody is talking about the Apple iWatch (even if nobody knows exactly when this will be launched) and the Samsung Galaxy Gear (already launched). But did you know that the idea of a watch capable of doing certain electronic functionalities and powered with a battery is pretty much old?
The pioneer was not a Japanese company. It was Hamilton that in 1957 launched the Hamilton Electric watch 500. The uniqueness of this wrist-watch was that a small electric battery replaced the mainspring. The advertising, as you can see below, shows the watch and the size of the miniaturized battery. It was as small as a shirt button.
This was the first step. It was the first watch that never required winding. And this was a technical revolution. The idea of this watch came in 1946, several scientific work around electricity and power battery miniaturization was taking place, so Hamilton definitely took advantage of that to inspire the creation of a revolutionary watch. 11 years later and several trials, the company successfully presented a true elegant watch with an electric heart.
In parallel, the first quartz clock was built in 1927 by Warren Marrison and J.W. Horton at Bell Telephone Laboratories. Of course it did not have the size of a wrist-watch, but the understanding of Quartz crystal and its capability of frequency accuracy opened a new door for measuring time.
1967 is a very important year. In Switzerland, there is a presentation of the first analog Quartz wrist-watch by the Centre Electronique Horloger (CEH) in Neuchâtel. It is called the Beta 1. At the same time Seiko Japan reveals its first Quartz wrist-watch called Astron.
Seiko has been working on the Astron project since 1957 and in 1969 they launched the very first commercial Quartz wrist-watch.
After this epic episode, we would need to wait more than 10 years until electronic components could be industrially miniaturized and give more possibilities to the electronic watch business. Of course it was only the beginning but a very important one. Without electric source or energy, how could we power a digital screen today right?
And LED screens came to radically change the face of watches
One of the big changes with the arrival of digital in watch-making was the LED display. A 7 line liquid crystal display that would replace the current dial of a watch. This opened the possibilities. Certain current complications would not be a problem any more.
Hamilton, a true visionary
In 1970, the first ever digital watch with a LED screen was commercially produced. Once again Hamilton Watch company got the lead by launching a watch called Pulsar. And this was a real blast in the quiet watch-making industry. Here are some Press articles about it.
And suddenly came Asia and they were here to stay!
Nothing could predict that in 1946 when Kashio Keisanki founded Kashio Seisakujo that this company would become the biggest electronic business from 1970 to 1990. And if you did not notice yet, we are here talking about Casio Computer and Electronics.
The 60’s and the 70’s were true challenges for Casio. Despite the intense internationalization of the company, economic crisis was hard as well as competition. So to get the company out of that, Casio top management decided to use their know-how in pocket computers and calculators into watch-making. That’s why in 1974, Casio presented the very first digital watch called the Casiotron.
The specificity of this watch, despite the hours, minutes, seconds display was the presence of an electronic perpetual calendar. The watch would display the day, month and year as well as he bissextile years.
Since this launch, Casio multiplied the versions and variants. Each watch had more or less functions, all for a very affordable price. Probably the most popular one was the watch-calculator.
The Smart-watch finally arrived
End of the 90’s IBM and Citizen, joined forces and launched the first watch with what we could consider a mobile OS. In deed, this watch held a linux system although screen possibilities were limited.
2012 was the launch of several Fitness watches like the Nike watch. Measuring the body metrics became something that made sense for several digital watch constructors.
It was also the launch of the Peeble watch. Smart-watches become fashionable and clever.
Nevertheless the small amount of sales shows that the audience for such products is still small. In 2013, Samsung launched the Galaxy Gear watch. You can receive calls, check your emails and everything can be manageable via a watch app.
Now we are waiting for Apple to launch its iWatch. Rumors say that is going to be launched by the end of this year but nothing was promised yet. The Smart-watches became part of people’s life already and probably the best is still to come.
Info sourced at wikipedia, Samsumg, Hamilton, Seiko and Nike websites. All content is copyrighted with no reproduction rights available.