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Vintage Pulsar Watches

Published: October 15, 2021
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The Pulsar P1 was the world's first electronic digital watch. Late in 1972, HMW, (previously Hamilton Watch Company) of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, began to sell the first all-electronic wristwatch. The most striking feature was its time display. Gone were the traditional hands and dial: it indicated the time of day in flashing red digits at the push of a button. Advertised as a "Time Computer" and initially sold in fine jewelry stores for a staggering $2100 (almost $14,000 in today's money), the Pulsar was one of the earliest consumer products of the microelectronics revolution. Pulsar is currently a division of Seiko Watch Corporation of America (SCA).

The first Pulsars were marketed to men as examples of space-age technology (there wasn't a lady's Pulsar until 1974). The very name was borrowed from astronomy. Pulsars--stars that emit radiowaves at precisely spaced intervals--had just recently been discovered. The LED display was initially quite popular. Consumers soon found that having to push a button to read the time was cumbersome, and by 1977 the LCD display had overtaken the market. Watches with the Pulsar name continue to be made, but they are no longer made by Hamilton. Popular Pulsar models were the P1, P2, P3, P4 Executive, and the Pulsar Calculator Watch

pulsar led watch

P1

Although John Bergey and his team originally planned to develop an analog-dial quartz watch, they soon decided to collaborate with George Thiess and Willy Crabtree at Electro-Data, Inc., of Garland, Texas. Thiess and Crabtree had been working to develop a digital quartz watch with a light-emitting diode display. The Hamilton/Electro-Data joint enterprise had their first prototypes in 1970 and the world's first electronic digital watch, that would eventually become the Pulsar P1, was introduced on the market in 1972.
pulsar p1 prototype

Today, original P1s are exceptionally rare, with only a handful known still to be in existence. General damage and loss, as well as melting down the gold for scrap in the 1980s and 1990s, claimed many P1s

P2

The Pulsar P2 reached the market in 1973 and, unlike the P1, was reliable and produced in relatively large numbers. It was a technically advanced watch at the time, even though it didn't have many features. It only had the capability to show the time (hours, minutes, and seconds) - but no date, stopwatch, alarm, or other functions were included. It was the world's first successful, mass-produced digital watch. Priced at the time at a more reasonable $275 (there were more expensive models as well), the P2 continued to use LEDs.

James Bond

In the movie Live and Let Die (1973), James Bond (played by Roger Moore) wears a futuristic wristwatch, a Hamilton Pulsar P2 LED watch. The Pulsar can be seen on Bond's wrist in the first scene after the opening credits of the film, when M comes knocking at Bond's door and James checks his watch to see what time it is. The viewers can see how the watch works: to see the time, Bond pushes the button on the side of the watch, so that the LED time lights up.

P3 Date Command

The "P3" is the first LED watch with date launched in the 3rd quarter of 1973 and was probably the longest produced model from Pulsar still available in late 1975. It is the  most sexy of Pulsars in terms of futuristic design. The P3 (3013) module is the same as the late P2 generation (2900) but has been upgraded with a date logic and extra reed-switch on the left. Due to this similarity it is not uncommon to find P3 modules in P2 watches showing time only. All parts can be transplanted between both modules with the display and transistors being the most helpful.

P4 Executive

The Executive is a smaller version of the earlier P3 Date Command. The bracelet has the same adjustment links as others models with the same bracelet. The Executive was offered in many different models and was the first of the AC models released. First models, introduced in the Fall of 1975, came with the 401 Magnet-Set module. In early 1976, the 406 (24 hr) modules were introduced for this model only.

Vintage Pulsar Watches value and price guide

What's your Vintage Pulsar watches worth in 2021? Here are some recently sold items with prices.

Item Title Date Price
Hamilton 1975 Pulsar Greenie Collector 1975 Pulsar Greenie Collector S Dream 09/2021 $ 8 502.00
Hamilton RARE PULSAR P3 DIGITAL LED RARE PULSAR P3 DIGITAL LED QUARTZ 14KT 08/2021 $ 5 668.00
Hamilton RARE PULSAR P3 DIGITAL LED RARE PULSAR P3 DIGITAL LED QUARTZ 14KT 09/2021 $ 5 668.00
Hamilton Hamilton QED Pulsar LED Watch Hamilton QED Pulsar LED Watch Clock 1974 09/2021 $ 1 852.44
Hamilton Pulsar Time Computer Pulsar Time Computer Calculator LED 09/2021 $ 1 473.67
no pictureSee all sold items on eBay for more prices12/2021-.--

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