I came across this classic while doing some shopping on eBay the other day. After 18 bids, it ended up going for $1,125 — not bad for a 27-year-old timepiece. Although the watch is nearly as old as I am, I was actually able to dig up some pretty interesting facts on this relic from an age of much stronger arms.
1977 Pulsar Calculator
- This watch originally sold for $395 ($495 for the 14 kt gold version). According to two different inflation calculators, that’s over $1,200 in today’s money which means it has depreciated only slightly over the last 27 years. An older solid gold model sold for $3,950 (or at least that’s what Pulsar was asking — don’t know how many were actually sold) which is well over $13,000 today. Brochures for these watches can easily go for over $80.
- For your $1,200 (adjusted for inflation), you got this massive stainless steel electronic brick, an upscale case, and a stylus for pushing those tiny buttons. (I wonder if modern day styli can trace their roots back to Pulsar calculator watches.) One end of the stylus had a ballpoint pen built in, and both ends actually retracted.
- This beast required four batteries to operate. Even with four batteries, the LED screen would only display the time (hour and minutes only — no seconds) for just a few seconds in response to pressing the “Pulsar” button in order to preserve battery life. Even with this power-saving feature, the batteries would still only last a few weeks. I discovered that this model may have also displayed the time in response to flicking the wrist — pretty fancy for its day.
- The LED on the display of the 1977 Pulsar Calculator was long enough for six digits, so one could calculate fortunes well into the hundreds of thousands. Apparently, the watch was actually able to calculate numbers up to 12 digits, but could not display them.
- The time on this watch was accurate to within 60 seconds a year — good even by today’s standards. Unfortunately, you had to reset it every few weeks after changing the batteries.
- The Pulsar’s calendar automatically adjusted for months of different lengths, however it did not take leap years into consideration.
- Apparently you can still buy these and similar watches brand new because they were being manufactured so quickly back then that supply outpaced demand. What an amazing collector’s item a brand new Pulsar Calculator watch would be!
Now let’s compare the Pulsar to a standard, modern day, $50 Casio calculator watch (EDB610D-8C Data Bank):
- 8 digit calculator.
- Auto calendar (pre-programmed until the year 2039).
- e-Data Memory which allows you to store 50 “pages” of password protected data (63 characters per page).
- Telememo Memory which allows you to store 300 names and phone numbers (8 characters for the name, 12 digits for the number).
- 2-color display (blue and black).
- World time (26 time zones in 100 cities).
- Automatic daylight savings adjustment.
- Electro-luminescent backlight.
- 1/100 second stopwatch.
- Auto-repeating countdown timer.
- 4 “multi-function alarms” which means each alarm can have a different date associated with it in addition to just a time, and 1 snooze alarm which repeats every five minutes until disabled. You can associate an 8 character note with each alarm, as well, to remind you why it’s going off.
- Dual-layer LCD for multi-mode display.
- Accuracy of +/- 15 seconds per month. (The Pulsar actually has the Casio beat on this one!)
- 2 year battery life.
If the original engineers of the Pulsar Calculator watch are reading this article, please don’t think that I am in any way criticizing your work. The Pulsar Calculator Watch was, and still is, an amazing piece of technology, and frankly, I’d love to own one myself. I just like comparing yesterday’s timepieces with today’s to keep me excited about what I’ll be playing with tomorrow.