Is This the Original Smartwatch? Tiffany’s Pulsar Takes Us Back to the Future
Don't talk to me about your Casio Calculator watch being the original smart watch. When electronic watches were still in their infancy and portable screen technologies were nearly nonexistent, there was the Pulsar.
This vintage find is a Pulsar model P2, also called the Astronaut. Pulsar made a lot of these so-called "computer watches" in the early '70s, with the P2 arriving in 1972. By tapping the button on the side of the case (where a crown would normally be), the wearer could light up the red LED diodes to display the time. Roger Moore notably sports a P2 at the beginning of the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, forgoing the Rolex Submariner worn by Sean Connery. Today the watch looks a little kitschy, but in the early 1970s it must have looked as if it had arrived from the space age.
Without a crown, you're probably wondering how to set the Pulsar P2. This is where things get really weird.
The back of the watch has two little, carved-out sections marked "Min." and "Hr."—you know, for minutes and hours—but the case is entirely sealed for waterproofing purposes. Under these indentations are little magnetic switches for adjusting the time, and a magnet is concealed in the bracelet's clasp for activating them. You slide the horseshoe-shaped magnet out of the clasp and then tap the indentations until the watch is showing the time you want. (Making the future was hard back then.)
What really makes this Pulsar special, though, is where it was sold. This wasn't something an Isaac Asimov fan bought in a hobby shop. It was purchased through a jeweler who carried it alongside other products from Tiffany & Co. You can see the signature clearly on the lower left portion of the plexiglass, in white. While Tiffany-dial watches always raise suspicion, this watch comes with the original paperwork (marked "Tiffany & Co." under "Brand") and the original watch box, so you don't have to worry.
The early 1970s were a difficult time for the watch industry. Many people thought mechanical watchmaking was dead with the invention of mass-produced quartz watches; a lot of watch brands went out of business, and other had to make massive changes to survive. Even Patek Philippe invested in making high-end versions of quartz watches, with the Beta 21. Watches such as this are little time capsules that hearken back to that era, when the balancing act of tradition and progress wasn't yet sorted out. With all the talk of smartwatches today, a watch like this seems more relevant than ever.
This Tiffany & Co. Pulsar is available from Caso Watches and is priced at 2,000 Euro (approximately $2,220).
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