The watch that made everything now
Time of our lives began on April 4, 1972. That was the day Hamilton released his first digital watch: the Pulsar Chronometer. Originally designed for a Stanley Kubrick movie, the prototype was displayed in 1970 on Tonight’s show with Johnny Carson, though the late-night presenter was unimpressed and mocked the expensive equipment. He couldn’t imagine how many times he was about to change.
This first digital watch might not seem impressive by current standards, but its features were novel when it came out. Its blank display shows the time by pressing the button, while another press provides seconds; its sensor is adjusted to light levels, a normal feature now, but noticeable then; the use of LED display was the turning point of innovation at the time; and quartz technology is being perfected, but this watch sold it. With each purchase of Pulsar, people get a new way of seeing and experiencing the world. It shows a space age future. It offers private, on-demand time. And in that moment, it all became now.
Pulsar emerges in the era of the space race and an imagined future that is sleek, sleek, smooth — frictionless. The moon landings, new home appliances that eliminate the stress of labor, faster transportation, the rapid development of science fiction with aliens and robots, all of it speaks of the urge to live an existence beyond the limits of our planet. Speed and space demand a frictionless design, and the Pulsar embodies that design aesthetic.
Even the name Pulsar is meant to evoke an ageless future. Hamilton’s design is an extension of the company’s digital and wristwatch prototypes for Kubrick’s. 2001: A Space Odyssey, although only the watch was included in the 1968 film. The fact that the device was designed for a movie about artificial intelligence and evolution contributed to the need to make time look different.
An advertisement for the watch from 1973 boasted that it could survive shocks of 2,500 times the force of gravity. Humans can’t stand anything past 90, but sometimes what’s on offer is completely irrelevant. New designs often offer superfluous options to make the user feel like their life demands the special conveniences of a superman. The term “early adopters” describes a defined population with the discovery and use of new technology designs even if the objects offer little more than an interface redesign.
In the second half of the 20th century, the notion that aesthetics functioned as “an engine for satisfying consumer needs” — attachment to design itself was a value, separate from any other. What new applications the underlying technology can provide — has been recognized in the design community. Pulsar’s lack of new functionality is inappropriate because the revolution it has made has happened through digital interfaces, allowing people to imagine themselves looking into the future.
The watch envisions a future for “everyone”, notably that it was originally designed and sold for men. Although James Bond’s watches will soon switch back to Rolex, famous British actor Roger Moore can be seen wearing the Pulsar in Live and let die (In 1973). Elvis Presley, Sammy Davis Jr., Yul Brynner, and political celebrities like the Shah of Iran all wore one during various photo opportunities. Whether their sporty Pulsar is an early example of product placement or simply a hobby, this watch has been seen on men as the epitome of achievement and Traditional masculine strength. In 1974, one Washington Post The photographer captured President Ford wearing one while testifying before Congress about Nixon’s pardon. Keith Richards and Jack Nicholson, both embodying a new type of machine, were also spotted wearing a slightly less expensive version. (Cureau).