Hamilton is bringing back the original digital watch with the PSR, a 50th anniversary tribute to the company’s legendary Pulsar Time Computer — the first commercially sold digital watch, which was released to massive hype in 1972. (The watch was first announced in 1970, hence the anniversary release this year.)
Displaying the time not through a mechanical mechanism but rather an LED display that lit up when a button on the side was pressed, the original Pulsar (and it’s space-age, stainless steel design) was once viewed as the future of the world of technology. James Bond (as played by Roger Moore) even famously wore one in Live and Let Die.
As Hodinkee’s in-depth history of the rise and fall of digital LED watches explains, however, the boom for Pulsar’s watches (and the inevitable copycats) was relatively short-lived. Cheaper, less power-hungry LCD watches would soon follow, with the added advantage of being able to display the time all the time, instead of just when a button was pressed.
In fact, the reason the new watch is being sold under the Hamilton brand, instead of the original Pulsar one, is that the company no longer has the rights — it sold the name off in 1977 (rival watchmaker Seiko now owns the branding).
The new PSR looks to improve on the original Pulsar is a few ways. In an effort to help make the watch a little more useful, the display is now a hybrid LCD and OLED panel that shows the time constantly using the dimmer LCD portion and only lights up the brighter OLED component when the button is pushed. There’s also an antireflective-coated sapphire crystal and a 100-meter water-resistance rating that were both absent on the original model.
The Hamilton PSR isn’t cheap, though, especially compared to a standard digital watch — it’ll run for $750 for a stainless steel model or $995 for limited-edition 1970 pieces in PVD gold. Comparatively, the original Pulsar was sold for $2,100 in a solid gold case, making the $750 price tag a (relative) bargain. Although, you’d have to take into account that Pulsar also sold cheaper $275 steel-case models later on that make the price here feel a little hefty.
All in all, the Hamilton PSR is a neat tribute to an iconic wristwatch and a great example of how far display technology has come in such a short time. It’ll be available later in May.