Pulsar P2 (Gold-Filled)
The world's first mass produced digital watch!
Roger Moore as James Bond
with his 1973 Pulsar P2
Although the Pulsar P1 gets credit for being the very first digital watch, it was a limited edition (of only 400) and the P2 was the first to digital watch to be produced in any significant number. The P2 entered the market with a huge splash in 1973 during the opening scenes of "Live and Let Die", the first James Bond movie starring Roger Moore.
The P2 was a very simple digital watch by today's standards. With its single button, it only had the capability to show the time (hours, minutes, and seconds) - no date, day of the week, stopwatch, alarm, or any other features were included. Still, the P2 was a technological breakthrough and is today considered by horological historians as the first entirely successful digital watch in history.
Bond decides he's spent enough time with Miss Caruso in the opening scene from
'Live and Let Die'
What made the P2 a success was the first use of large scale integrated (LSI) chip technology in a wristwatch. The first LED watch prototype that was shown by Hamilton at a press conference in May of 1970 had 44 discrete chips, each very simple. Only three prototypes existed and Hamilton struggled to keep at least one of them running for the duration of the one hour press conference. When the Pulsar P1 was introduced in mid 1972, the chip count was brought down to 25 but the module still had over 400 discrete connections. It proved again to be unreliable and was recalled within months. Although the Pulsar P1 was a historical landmark, it was not a technical or financial success. When the Pulsar P2 was introduced in 1973, it's Pulsar 2900 module replaced the entire arrangement of chips and connections with a single integrated circuit chip. This finally gave the digital watch the solid state reliability that designers had dreamed about and resulted in a design that was practical enough to build reasonably economically and reliable enough to wear. These factors are why the Pulsar P2 is now considered to be the very first successful digital watch.
Bill Bixby with the lovely (and tragic) Brenda Benet on one arm and Pulsar P2 on the other
Jack Nicholson and his leather banded Pulsar P2
Despite its limited capability, the stainless steel Pulsar P2 sold for $395 in 1973 - more than a Rolex Submariner which cost only $385 at the time. Despite the hefty price, the P2 became a highly coveted icon of the modern age. The elegant lines crafted by Hamilton's master watch case designer Jean Wuispchard made the P2 an instant classic. The Pulsar P2 found its way onto the wrists of a number of celebrities including Bill Bixby who wore his P2 on and off-screen, Peter Sellers, Jack Nicholson, and John Entwistle from The Who.
The P2 was available in two models, a stainless steel model called the "Astronaut" and a 14 KT gold filled "VIP" model. Solid gold models in 14KT and 18KT were also produced as a special order item.
Almost 40 years since its introduction, the P2 is still a very stylish and comfortable watch to wear. The segmented bracelet (21 links) is extremely comfortable and the watch is lighter than it looks. In addition, the dot style LED display manufactured by Litronix has large, bright digits and is very readable and attractive.
Peter Sellers with his Pulsar P2
This is a very early Pulsar P2, which is evident by the following observations:
- the Hamilton mark on the case back
- the low serial number (serial numbers started at 10,000)
- the date on the clasp (10/72), and
- the little finger tab on the magnet holder in the clasp.
Only the very earliest P2s had the Hamilton mark on the case back. The Hamilton Watch company had just formed the Pulsar / Time Computer in mid 1971 and when Star Watch Company made the first run of Pulsar P2 cases in late 1972, they didn't get the memo about the name change. From a handful of Hamilton marked P2s that have shown up, it appears that the Hamilton mark was used in a few hundred watches from serial numbers somewhere in the high 11,000s up to somewhere in the mid 12,000s. Since Hamilton produced no gold filled case backs for their QED line of watches, this can only be a case back from a very early Pulsar P2. This minor mistake is evidence of how quickly things were moving in the digital world in the early 1970s.
Case: Very good.
The case is in very good condition with only small marks visible. On the lower right side fo the bezel, around the logo, there are a number of very small nicks. There are also a few very small marks on the lower edge of the bezel. Howeve, these are really only visible when looking very close or under magnification.
Face / Hands: Excellent.
All LED digits and segments are complete and very bright.
Crystal: Very good.
The red mineral glass crystal has some small scratches, but no major nicks or deep scratches. The edges are mostly clean, aside from a very small nick on the bottom edge.
Band / Bracelet: Excellent.
The bracelet is in excellent condition with all 22 of its original links. The clasp is in excllent condition with no scratches and includes its original magnet holder and original U shaped P2 magnet. The magnet holder with the little finger tab is an older style used only in early P2 models. Note that the date stamp on the clasp reads "10/72", which makes this a very early Pulsar model. This bracelet will accomodat a large 8" wrist.
Function / Accuracy: Excellent.
All functions work perfectly. This module is a little tricky to set and sometimes requires the use of a stronger magnet than the standard setting magnet in the clasp. Inside of the watch, lies a Pulsar 3013 module with the date reed switch missing. The original models that shipped with very early P2s were 2900 series modules with the light sensors underneath the display. I'm wondering if there were reliability issues with the very early modules and if this one was perhaps retrofitted with a modified P3 series module at the factory.