Pulsar P1 Limited Edition
The holy grail of digital watches!
Elvis's P1 inscribed "To Col From Elvis 1955-1980"
The Pulsar P1 was a milestone in the history of timekeeping and technology. It was the very first wristwatch with no moving parts, relying upon an electronic instead of a mechanical mechanism. It was also one of the first consumer electronic products that used microelectronics and the integrated circuit - known today as the "chip".
1972 Pulsar P1 advertisement in Abercrombie and Fitch
The Pulsar P1 was released to the public on April 4th, 1972 and sold for $2100 - quite a bit more than a car at the time. It was enclosed in a solid 18 karat gold case and had a time screen made from synthetic ruby. No expense was spared. Only 400 units were made. The P1 was worn by such notable figures as Elvis Presley and Yul Bryner. The P1 had no fancy bells and whistles by todays standards - just a single button which when pushed displayed the hours and minutes on the to 4 digit display and if held down for 1.25 seconds, began counting the seconds on the lower 2 digit display. There was no date, day of the week, stopwatch or other functionality. Still, it was a marvel of its time.
Pulsar P1 Owner's Manual
(Click to view)
The original P1s were fitted with a 25 chip module hand assembled in a joint venture between Hamilton and a small comany called Electro-Data. These modules eventually proved to be unreliable due to the many discrete components and more than 300 individual connections so they were recalled by the company and presumably destroyed. For this reason, the original module is exceedingly rare with only a handful of known examples in existence. One P1 and 25 chip module currently resides in the Smithsonian Institution.
This particular P1 is an early model known as a "salesman's" model. It's made of nickel-silver instead of gold and the time screen is made of
acrylic instead of ruby. This is the only example that I have been able to definitively verify the existence of.
It does not include the original box or setting magnet (and it's not certain that these were provided for the saleman's models), but it does have the original P1 owner's manual shown here.
Case: Very good.
The case and bracelet show signs of wear as the original owner claimed that it was worn and used. The case and bracelet have been refinished by Peter Wuischpard, the son of the legendary Pulsar cheif designer, Jean Wuischpard. The refinished case is in very good condition with a brushed top surface, perfectly smooth and scratch free sides. The case back had some condition issues but has been refinished back to almost mity perfection. Note that as a salesman's model, this watch never had a serial number engraved on the case back. It has not been refinished away - it never existed!
Face / Hands: Very good.
The original 25 chip Electro Data module is only partially working but all LED digits and segments appear complete. I was able to verify the operation of the top 4 digits but could not verify the operation of the bottom two digits normally used to display the seconds. The lower right segment on the third digit is a bit dimmer than the rest as can be seen in the photos above.
The crystal on this watch is made of acrylic instead of synthetic ruby and has been refinished to be smooth and scratch free.
Band / Bracelet: Very good.
The bracelet on this watch is almost complete and will fit a 7 3/4" wrist. It's a little tight on an 8" wrist so It's probably missing one link. The clasp is in good shape and shows the Hamilton logo rather than the Pulsar logo as in the production models. The clasp does not contain a "P" shaped setting magnet like the production models, although it's not known whether the salesman's models originally included these magnets or not.
Function / Accuracy: Some.
This example is not fully working although the module does light up and display digits as shown above, which is more than any of the other 5 known modules remaining in existence. It's possible that a quartz crystal replacement might get the module functioning again, although it's more likely that there is a fault somewhere among the 25 early integrated circuit chips. In any case, if the problem could be sorted out, then this would be the only working example of the very first digital watch in history, which would be quite something!