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If you were a kid in the 1980s, there’s a good chance you owned a Casio Databank — or at least wanted one. And while Casio may have popularized the calculator watch, thanks in no small part to Marty McFly sporting a CA53W Twincept Databank in Back to the Future, Casio certainly wasn’t the first to put a calculator on the wrist. That honor belongs to Hamilton Pulsar Time Computer Calculator (though some also credit the Calcron LED Wrist Calculator), which was revealed to the world in 1975. The inaugural launch included only 100 pieces, all of which were crafted in solid gold with a not-insubstantial price tag of $3,950 USD (roughly $22,000 USD today). The next year, Hamilton Pulsar would release stainless steel versions that were slightly less ostentatious, but just as bulky, unwieldy, impractical, but undeniably awesome. If you’re after a piece of retro-futuristic horological history, the Hamilton Pulsar Time Computer Calculator is hard to beat — and the place to find a minty example has to be eBay.
Calculator watches are staples of pop culture nostalgia; what else could possibly be on the wrist of Mike Wheeler (and later Eleven) in the worldwide 80s throwback phenomenon Stranger Things? Of course, it was a calculator watch. And while any number of accountants, mathematicians, and other number jockeys were quick to snap up calculator watches, they likely had the greatest appeal with younger audiences. Luckily, prices on quartz and digital display watches had come down so much that by the 80s, it wasn’t hard for kids to save some cash from after-school jobs and pick one up. A decade earlier, that certainly wasn’t the case.
When Hamilton Pulsar introduced the first Time Computer with its glowing red LED display on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1970, the host famously quipped, “The watch will tell you the exact moment you went bankrupt!” Given the $1,500 price tag on the prototype (roughly $11,750 today), that reaction was understandable. When the Time Computer was finally released to the public in 1972, the price had gone up to $2,100 and was well above the cost of a high-end Rolex. And that was just for the time-only display. If the Time Computer wasn’t in demand in 1972, it certainly was a year later when one adorned the wrist of James Bond (Roger Moore) in Live and Let Die. Clearly, the time was ripe to see just what this new LED technology could do. It was time to add a calculator to the mix.
The Hamilton Pulsar Time Computer Calculator was the height of impracticality. If the solid gold case, exorbitant price tag, and two-week (maybe) battery life weren’t enough, the calculator buttons themselves were so tiny the watch came with a stylus, which, not surprisingly, was lost almost immediately. Plus, they were big, heavy, and utterly ostentatious. Of course, they sold like hotcakes.
When Hamilton Pulsar released the everyman’s version of the Time Computer Calculator 901 (and later 902) in stainless steel, the brand had made a few modifications, including a function that allowed you to simply flick your wrist to turn on the display. Plus, the price was a much more palatable $50 (roughly $280 today). The steel Time Computer Calculators still required four batteries and the buttons were still so small you needed a stylus, but you had a calculator on the wrist!
Sadly, the reign of the Time Computer was short-lived. The prices of LEDs dropped dramatically towards the end of the 1970s and myriad brands began clamoring for market share, including Japanese behemoths Seiko and Casio. Soon, Japanese imports were dominating the market, relegating the Pulsar Time Computer to the dustbin of history. Mostly, anyhow. Hamilton recently released the American Classic PSR Digital Quartz as a tribute to the Time Computer. Maybe someday we’ll see a calculator version, but until then, your best bet is to head over to eBay and track down a true classic. Don’t forget, if you’re buying with eBay, any purchase over $2,000 automatically receives independent third-party authenticity verification eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee.
The Hamilton Pulsar Time Computer Calculator featured here is as good as it gets, with the original box and papers, and even the original stylus. Wear is minimal, especially for a watch that’s survived nearly half a century. These are true pieces of both computing and horological history; indeed, a Time Computer Calculator 901 in similar condition is even housed in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History. To find your own Hamilton Pulsar Time Computer Calculator, head on over to eBay to begin your search.Sponsored Posts are a form of advertising that allows sponsors to share useful news, messages, and offers to aBlogtoWatch readers in a way traditional display advertising is often not best suited to. All Sponsored Posts are subject to editorial guidelines with the intent that they offer readers useful news, promotions, or stories. The viewpoints and opinions expressed in Sponsored Posts are those of the advertiser and not necessarily those of aBlogtoWatch or its writers.