As mentioned in my previous post “Buddha to Babylon: The Mathematical Mysteries behind the Cosmic Calendar” I have the immense privilege to be one of the panelists for the next meeting held by Horological Society of New York (HSNY) on Monday, October 24.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to post any blogs Monday or Tuesday, but during this time I will be posting updates on the WatchNews Twitter feed and Noel Poirier, director of the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, PA, will be updating the NAWCC’s Facebook feed as well.
I don’t want to leave you hanging for the next few days, so here are some things to check out on the web while I’m away.
Hodinkee.com is a great website to explore to satisfy nearly all of your wristwatch needs. Chock full of editorials, reviews, and videos, this website is a wonderful resource to stay current on not only wristwatches but horology in general. One of my current favorites on the site is The Road Through Britain video series where various watch and clockmakers in England are interviewed.
For those of you who love podcasts “The Grey NATO” is another good resource to learn about watches and the lifestyle that surrounds it. Described as a podcast which “discusses watches, adventure, travel, diving, cars and gear. Hosts Jason Heaton and James Stacey break down their love for adventure, their addiction to watches, and the many forms both can take,” the Grey NATO is a fun and educational listen.
That should keep you busy for the next few days. If you found these sites interesting please contact me at email@example.com and let me what you liked. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
From the Collection:
Hughes Aircraft Co. 1970s LED Timeulator Calculator Watch
by Keith Lehman 10/20/16
Timeulator wristwatch with missing CompuChron stamp of face of watch. KEITH LEHMAN.
A few weeks ago I posted a blog titled “The Future Doesn’t Look Bright for Wristwatches.” In that post I pointed out how Hollywood largely ignores the wristwatches in science fiction movies and series. One major exception to this argument is the 1978 original series Battlestar Galactica. Not only did the characters in this distant galaxy wear wristwatches, they wore a brand of watch created here on Earth from the late 1970s!
Back of Timeulator wristwatch. Yes, this watch requires 4 batteries to operate! KEITH LEHMAN.
It’s rumored that the futuristic-look of the Timeulator or CompuChron watch was the reason it was worn by the humans in the series and I can agree that there is definitely something “space age” about its appearance. The watch was made in 1976 by Hughes Co. to compete with Hamilton’s Pulsar watch. Howard Hughes, owner of the company, was a famous inventor, businessman, filmmaker, and aviation pioneer.
Generously loaned to me by the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, PA, the watch has a dial without a logo. This means the watch was sold directly from Hughes Aircraft Co. to its employees, whereas a retail version of this watch would have the watch name “CompuChron” stamped on it.
Naturally, the CompuChrons in Battlestar Galactica did much more than tell time and compute simple arithmetic. On Earth the watch has a devoted fan base and is certainly an interesting piece for a vintage collection.
Actor Terry Carter (left) as Colonel Tigh wearing a Timeulator CompuChron in the original Battlestar Galactica TV series. KEITH LEHMAN.
Original print 1977 ad for the Timeulator.
Photo of Timex Data Link smartwatch at the National Watch & Clock Museum. KEITH LEHMAN.
Since the first Apple Watch was announced in 2014, the term “smartwatch” has become a part of our collective conscience. Of course, the Apple Watch has its competitors like the Pebble and arguably the Fitbit. However, for the time being, Apple clearly dominates the smartwatch market. Few of us though know about the origins of the smartwatch and its slow but steady progression to the current fever pitch.
The wristwatch gallery at the National Watch & Clock Museum explores the historical progression of the smartwatch starting with a Timex DataLink and ending with an Apple Watch. The display describes a smartwatch as “a wearable computing device that closely resembles a wristwatch or other [sic] time-keeping device.” There are, of course, watches in between including pieces released in 2004 by Fossil and Microsoft, which used RF signals to update their software. The title of the first smartwatch goes to the Swatch Paparazzi released in 2004. Categorized as a SPOT or Smart Personal Object Technology device, it was the first watch to actually connect to the Internet.
There is a lot of buzz on the Internet concerning smartwatches and nearly all major tech and wristwatch websites cover them. In his editorial “One Year In: Why A Die-Hard Mechanical Watch Lover Can't Get The Apple Watch Off His Wrist [And Why That Matters]” Jack Forester takes a detailed view into the Apple Watch and its impact on the wristwatch market.
One of the more candid discussions I’ve heard about smartwatches is a podcast titled What is a smartwatch? Here's everything you need to know. Reporters Chris Plane and Dan Seifert take a look at early smartwatch technology, its social implications, and the inflation and tempering of our expectations of today’s pieces.
Although the exact impact of smartwatches on the wristwatch market isn’t completely clear, experts believe these newcomers are here to stay and will continue to challenge our definition of what exactly a wristwatch is nowadays.
A Vortic "Lancaster" watch in case with certificate. KEITH LEHMAN.
Some things are just too good to let go. Certainly, this is the case for the American pocket watch industry that thrived during the late 1800s to the middle 1900s. Millions of Americans were trained in the fine art of watchmaking and created pieces that delighted, astounded, and changed the world. Those days are long gone, but there are still some of us who find inspiration and repurpose in those days gone by. Tyler Wolfe and R. T. Custer, two Penn State engineering grads and the founders of Vortic Watch Co., are two such individuals.
Vortic Watch Co. celebrates the great American Watch manufacturers, including Waltham, Illinois, Elgin, and Hamilton, by taking existing American pocket watch movements and fitting them into 3-D printed stainless steel cases specifically designed for each movement. Noel Poirier, director of the National Watch & Clock Museum, who first welcomed R. T. Custer to the museum in June 2016, states what he likes most about Vortic’s mission, “Our work here at the Museum reflects what Vortic is doing with theirs, which is embodying the historic with the modern.”
A Vortic "Lancaster" watch next to a vintage Hamilton wristwatch. KEITH LEHMAN.
Noel Poirier, director of the National Watch & Clock Museum with R.T. Custer in the Museum's collections area. KEITH LEHMAN.
R.T. Custer, Noel Poirier and NAWCC Executive Director Steve Humphrey looking over original Hamilton watch ledgers. KEITH LEHMAN.
As a designer I’m not only impressed with the watches Vortic provides but its branding as well. The company’s stylish website, strong visuals, and memorable copywriting show that its horological mission and vision to reach the world are closely aligned.
In July as part of their launch tour across the United States both R. T. and Tyler set up at the National Watch & Clock Museum to represent their product and to donate one of their watches from their American Artisan Series. Named the Lancaster, the caliber 910 Hamilton pocket watch movement is fitted into a 3-D printed stainless steel case and is worn as a wristwatch. This type of watch was typically worn by officers, aviators, and soldiers.
Since its launch in 2013, the Colorado-based company has generated a lot of buzz, getting attention from big name media outlets, such as NPR, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times. On another bit of exciting news, WatchNews is proud to announce Vortic Watch Co. is an official sponsor of the site. Look forward to more articles, inside info, and updates about this exciting new company and its journey into the world of horology.
Instructor Adam Harris holding a Hamilton chronometer which will be one of the pieces covered in the course. KEITH LEHMAN.
Adam Harris reinvents himself in his latest course Time is Money as not only a specialist in identifying counterfeit wristwatches but also in identifying and valuing wrist and pocket watches. The following describes the course found on the National Watch & Clock Collector’s website:
This course gives an overview of the evolution of watch types and appropriate terminology and criteria for making value judgments based on comparative analysis. Participants will learn the correct methods to identify watch types, key components, and characteristics and to evaluate authenticity, originality, condition, quality, and desirability. Participants will learn proper examination techniques, what to photograph, and research tools and methods as well as how to apply critical appraisal skills, such as qualitative ranking, classification, rarity determination, and how to write accurate descriptions.
WatchNews had the opportunity to ask him a few questions about this exciting course.
WN: Why is this course important?
AH: All courses are important, to teach and help others, and "by teaching others, we teach ourselves." The course is a fully updated Appraisal and Valuation Course that NAWCC successfully ran a few years back. One of the "missions" of the National Watch and Clock Museum is education, and I enjoy being part of that.
WN: Who should take this course?
AH: Certainly anyone who is currently appraising timepieces in jewelry stores, pawnshops, auction houses, or in their own appraisal business. It will be very useful to anyone who is buying or selling vintage and modern timepieces.
Two of the big differences between this course and Luxury or Lie is that this course covers wristwatches and pocket watches and also covers vintage pieces, as far back as the beginning of mechanical timepieces.
Various pocket watch cases, wristwatches and a chronometer. All items to be valued in the course. KEITH LEHMAN.
WN: What sort of pieces will students be examining in the class?
AH: During the first two days students will handle a number of pieces, mainly to demonstrate complications, such as "rattrapante," "repeater," and chronographs. They will also see and inspect fake pocket watch pieces from the likes of Breguet!
They will also be handling all types of watchcases to learn how to open them correctly. On the last day students will be given a "special" piece to certify and write a correct appraisal form. Those pieces will include pocket watch repeater, a rare pocket alarm watch, and a marine chronometer.
WN: We’ve learned from your course that there are a lot of fake wristwatches. Does the same go for pocket watches?
AH: Absolutely! We can easily see fakes from Breguet's day and slightly more modern fakes of American pocket watches from the latter nineteenth century to the twentieth century.
WN: What are some of the main qualities that make a valuable timepiece?
AH: A number of factors prevail. Of course, quality probably takes first position, but we have complexity and rarity. There are many basic watches that become valuable because of either rarity or complication.
There is one other factor that can have far-reaching results on value and that is provenance: who wore or owned it and/or who made it. A watch made by Breguet has very high provenance value; if it was made for Maria Antoinette, its value is unreachable.
Instructor Adam Harris presenting a pocket watch slide from his course. KEITH LEHMAN.
WN: What is a common mistake people make when valuing a timepiece?
AH: Overenthusiasm: we all want our pieces to be valuable, and we all want to sell at the maximum price.
Of course, appraisers do not want to upset clients by telling them that an important heirloom, for example, is worth less in dollar value than they had already expected.
Evaluating and appraising are not exact sciences, so much research and understanding of the different influences that can affect valuations are very important. Our course teaches this in great detail.
WN: By the end of the course what will your students be able to do?
AH: They will know how to correctly handle and open a timepiece, date a piece, confirm its originality, check its functions, photograph it in any condition, evaluate it, and correctly appraise its value.
They will have the skill and confidence to write a proper appraisal form that will hold scrutiny by any insurance company.
Time is Money takes place October 22-24. It’s not too late to sign up. Click here for details and registration.