Did you know that Gianni Agnelli is attributed to have worn and lent to the popularity of a watch from 1972, that cost as much as a car at the time when it was launched? No, the watch we are making reference to this time round didn’t have an octagonal bezel and most definitely was not made in stainless steel. The subject matter of our discussion today is the Hamilton pulsar.
Hamilton Pulsar P1 in 18ct yellow gold from 1972
The watch was first announced in New York City, at a press conference in The Four Seasons restaurant on May 6, 1970. It was a cushion shaped piece on an integrated bracelet featuring a design language that screams 70s.
But the Pulsar’s claim to fame is that it was the first watch to feature a ‘solid state wrist computer’, developed by Hamilton in its hometown of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that showed the time by having its button pushed to make the time flash in red LED numerals on the dark screen. Holding the button for longer would then reveal the passing seconds. And lastly, the watch could be set using an interestingly implemented magnetic bar hidden in the bracelet.
The first generation of the Pulsar, the P1 was made available to buy in 1972 with its case and bracelet in 18k yellow gold. Its price was an audacious $2,100, which was pretty much the cost of a family car. Only 400 pieces of the P1 were released into market, with tastemakers the likes of Elvis Presley having bought one.
Hamilton Pulsar P2 in Stainless Steel from 1973
In the following year, Hamilton released the Pulsar’s Gen 2, the P2 in a slightly rounded off design evolution, which went on to grace the wrists of even more tastemakers. The ranks of which included Keith Richards, Joe Frazier, Elton John, U.S. President Gerald Ford and, last and most notably, Gianni Agnelli. At this point, the watch wasn’t simply an object of the future, but a symbol and stamp of cool.
Fueled by images of the Pulsar turning up on the wrists of who’s who in the world, in order to keep up with demand, Hamilton resorted to releasing several new LED Pulsar models throughout the mid-1970s, including the Calculator model and the P3 Date Command model with “lobster” bracelet, the Pulse/Time model capable of reading one’s heart rate, sports models, “flick of the wrist” activated models and ladies’ models.
Hamilton Pulsar 2020 in Stainless Steel
Nearly 50 years on today, Hamilton is announcing the return of the Pulsar in a modern day reincarnation with all of its 70s charm. The 2020 Pulsar will come in a stainless steel version and a second one in steel but coated with yellow gold PVD, which will be produced in a limited run of 1970 pieces.
According to Hamilton, the shape of the modern watch’s case is taken directly from the P2 and in the same dimensions of 40.8mm x 34.7mm. The similarities, however, stop here with the technologies inside having been given the thorough 21st century treatment. The new watch has been given a hybrid LCD/OLED, always-on display.
The LCD technology in the screen is what allows for the always-on function and, therein, is able to display the time constantly with very low energy consumption. The OLED portion of the screen lights up to provide better visibility, using ‘digit dot’ style numerals, when the button on the right of the case is pressed.
Hamilton Pulsar 2020 in Stainless Steel with Yellow Gold PVD Coating
Digital quartz; hour and minute
40.8×34.7mm stainless steel and stainless steel with yellow gold PVD coating; LCD & OLED hybrid display; water resistant to 100m
Matched bracelets: stainless steel bracelet or stainless steel bracelet with yellow gold PVD coating
Ref. H52414130 in stainless steel, priced at USD 745 (unlimited)
Ref. H52424130 in stainless steel with yellow gold PVD coating, priced at USD 995; limited to 1970 pieces