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Seth Thomas Quartzmatic

One of the first modern wristwatches from one of the oldest watchmakers


This Seth Thomas Quartzmatic was one of the world's first wristwatches using a modern "field effect" liquid crystal display. The Quartzmatics use the same module as the world's first LCD watch, the Gruen Teletime. They came out in 1974, about a year or so after the Pulsar P1, which won the title of the world's first digital watch. I retrospect, the Quartzmatic was remarkably advanced for the time, which is evident from the fact that it looks almost ordinary and non-descript today.

The Quartzmatic featured the first modern liquid crystal display used in a wristwatch, which is almost identical to the displays commonly used today in wristwatches and most other forms of electronic gadgets. The module was made by American Micro-Devices, or AMI, which also made LCD modules for Gruen and Westclox.

The "field effect" LCD display applies a tiny current to a thin sheet of liquid crystal material, causing the liquid crystals to align, "polarizing" the light that passes through. When the light passes through another polarizer, the display turns dark where the liquid crystals are aligned and remains a lighter color where the liquid crystals are in their natural random orientation. These electronically controlled black on grey regions are arranged to form digits. A four digit time display like the one on the Teletime has three seven segement digits, one two segment digit and a colon, for a total of 24 independently controlled display regions. This technology has continued to be used almost unchanged from its original form 40 years ago and will probably continue for a very long time.

The Quartzmatic uses an interesting and uncommon crown and stem based mechanism for setting the time instead of buttons. To set the hours, pull the crown all the way out and turn 45 degrees clockwise. To set the minutes, push the crown in slightly and turn 45 degrees counterclockwise. Push the crown all the way in to exit time setting mode. A few early LCD watches from 1973 to 1974 used stem set mechanisms, which were discontinued and never used again, which is a shame since it's a classy and effective system.


This Gruen Teletime is in almost mint condition and includes its original box and user manual.

Case: Excellent.
The case and case back are almost perfect. The side of the case had a series of grooves which still retain their nice sharp edges as can be seen in the photos. The case sides retain their brushing and the case back is smooth without scratches.

Face / Hands: Excellent.
The face is almost perfect. No marks or signs of aging at all. It looks just like it came from a department store widow in 1974.

Crystal: Excellent.
No visible nicks, scratches, or marks.

Band / Bracelet: Excellent.
The original bracelet is excellent and complete. The bracelet comfortably fits an 8" wrist.

Function / Accuracy: Good.
This watch works ok but has a couple of issues that should be noted. First, the module isn't very accurate. It tends to run about 5 minutes fast per day, which makes it usable but you will probably need to set the time in the morning like a mechanical watch. Also, the LCD display can be senstive to heat. If it gets too warm, it starts to turn dark but will return to normal when you take the watch off or return it to cooler conditions. The watch sets perfectly using the unusual crown mechanism.