Vintage Pulsar Led Watches
Vintage Pulsar LED Watches are models produced by the American company Time Computer, from April 1972, to July of 1977.
History and background.
Hamilton produced their first digital electronic watch – an LED prototype, in 1970. The watch was conceived and created in a joint project between Hamilton Watch Company and Electro-Data of Garland, Texas. The watch was inspired by a digital timepiece also created by Hamilton which featured in the 1968 blockbuster film 2001: A Space Odyssey. In late 1971, a subsidiary company, Time Computer, was established to produce and market the new digital timepieces…the Pulsar.
The first production Pulsar, the P1 Limited Edition, was released on April 4, 1972 and manufactured in 18-carat gold. It sold for $2,100. The high retail price meant that Pulsar watches were initially only available to wealthier buyers. The mass-produced P2 and P3 models put the new technology within the price range of the general public, and it was a spectacular success. To the end, they maintained a reputation for service and quality that was never surpassed by any other LED watchmaker. But, overwhelming competition from cheaper brands (Texas Instruments introduced a plastic-cased LED watch in 1976 for $15), shrank the high-end LED watch market to near-zero, and Time Computer closed it's door forever in late 1977. The company assets were sold to Rhapsody, Inc., a large U.S. jewellery manufacturer, who, in turn, sold the Pulsar name to Seiko in 1979 (current Seiko Pulsars have NO connection to the original Time Computer watches).
Guide for Collectors;
The original Pulsar LED, the Pulsar P1 Limited Edition, is considered the most desirable and valuable of the LED watches, as it had a limited run of only 400 or so pieces, and were, also, the first watches of their kind, giving them a special historical significance. Until recently, the P1 was known only in 18K solid gold (about 50 total, worldwide), then, in 2011, a 14K gold specimen surfaced on eBay. As of July, 2014, it remains a unique example. The Pulsar P2s were produced in far greater numbers (some 80-90 thousand). A stainless Pulsar P2 was the only Pulsar model to ever make an appearance in a James Bond film (Live and Let Die, 1973); it remains one of the most popular Pulsar models, along with the P3 Date/Command, and P4 Executive.
With Pulsar watches it is important for the collector to realise that the numbers on the case are serial numbers and not model numbers. Model numbers were never printed on the watch; there are several excellent websites with model guides.
Collectors who purchase vintage Pulsar watches and intend to use them should also be aware that the batteries originally used (#355) are no longer produced. Modern 357 cells with spacers work well for the P1, P2, and P3 models. All later models use cells that are still made and easily available. Precautions to avoid subjecting the electronics to static charges should always be taken when changing batteries.
The most expensive of the Pulsar LED watches is the Pulsar P1, which originally sold for $2,100 in 1972. Examples with boxes and original papers have sold for as much as $17,500. Depending on cosmetic and working condition, the watch alone may command $6000-10000. Other rare models, such as the 14K gold Pulse-Time, or 18K gold Executive, may sell for $4000-8000. Most stainless steel and goldfilled men's models are in the $400-800 range, assuming working condition. Original boxes and/or papers may significantly improve on those numbers; modules that have been repaired or replaced with modern electronics usually result in significantly diminished collector value.