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Digital Watches Revolutionize Timekeeping

Dec 4, 2007
Much to the consternation of traditionalists in the watch making world, the introduction of digital watches has literally changed the face of timekeeping. From the very beginning of mechanical timepiece design, clock and watch faces have featured analog movements with two hands, one showing the hour the other showing the minutes. Eventually a sweep hand was added to denote the seconds passing by.

This configuration remained as the standard for hundreds of years and is still the dominate feature of watches today. The electronics revolution the swept through the consumer products market in the nineteen sixties and nineteen seventies was not lost on how watches and other timepieces were designed. There were two innovations in particular that helped propel a new look and function into the watch market.

Having a lasting impact on watch design the first design innovation was the introduction of the electric watch powered by a battery. The principle advantage to the addition of a battery was eliminating the need to mechanically wind the mainspring of the watch.

One perceived disadvantage was that the watch was not made anymore accurate and whether the addition of a battery would have a positive impact on reliability was still somewhat an unknown. The battery as a power source paved the way for another important design innovation.

The second and probably most important design innovation was rooted in the growing use of light emitting diodes or LEDs which were originally developed for use in space craft. Power consumption and conservation are critical factors in the design of manned spacecraft and unmanned satellites and light emitting diodes brought a sea change in space exploration. LEDs are a solid state device that was a complete departure from the age old technology of the incandescent light bulb. By design, LEDs consumed only a fraction of the power needed by incandescent or fluorescent lights.

It is thought by many that a Russian, Oleg Vladimirovich created the first light emitting diode in nineteen twenty six and that his early research was never taken seriously. The mid nineteen fifties and nineteen sixties saw a flurry of additional research on the phenomenon of electroluminescence found that the chemical reaction of charged gallium arsenide produced a bright, visible light. The reaction that took place was nearly identical to that which takes places in transistors.

So by the early nineteen seventies LEDs were being incorporated into a number of consumer products and it was not long before the humble wrist watch was changed forever. The first watch model to take advantage of the emerging LED technology was the Pulsar that was introduced in nineteen seventy two by the Hamilton Watch Company. The first Pulsar was expensive but that fact alone did stop its successful market launch and the watch became popular with those buyers who were interested in sporting the latest technology. The unique nature of the Pulsar and its success drove efforts by competitors to reduce the price of this new look in order to increase demand among consumers.

It was not long before another emerging technology came along that improved on the original concept of a watch with a digital readout. Liquid crystal display technology appeared right the heels of the LED watch and the face of timekeeping was changed yet again. Requiring far less power than the LED, the liquid crystal display resulted in longer life for watch batteries and the technology is still a dominate force in all manner of high tech products.

LCD technology can be seen everywhere today, often in modern computer monitors, wide screen televisions and other electronic devices such as cell phones and MP3 players and automobile dashboard displays.
About the Author
Mitch Endick is a short article writer for the popular watch and jewelry site: http://www.watchbuyershandbook.com. He provides informative advice on buying watches, watch making and other timepieces.
www.watchbuyershandbook.com
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