As I mentioned in the “My Grail Watch” series on a BlogtoWatch.com back in 2016, I purchased a Pulsar P4 LED watch back around 1976. After the post, I located one on eBay (as I mentioned in the comments section of the post) and I assumed I would be as happy with a Pulsar P4 now as I was 40 years ago.
But it was not to be. Unlike most quartz watches today that run for anywhere from 1 to 5 years on a single battery – or indefinitely with a solar-powered watch, I was reminded that the reason my original Pulsar was eventually tossed out - the need for a fresh battery (back in the days before I did battery changes myself).
For sure battery life was an overall issue for the old Pulsar but not a daily irritant. But if you told me back then that 40 years later smartwatches would require daily charging, I would have shaken my head and asked what kind of progress is that?
Since the battery on a Pulsar P4 lasts far longer than a day, so I can live with that. But having a power-hungry LED display, the watch did not have an always-on display – is this starting to sound like today’s smartwatches? So, you could press a button or flick your wrist which, via a mercury switch, would momentarily turn the LED display on. Well, the time of day. Not the date - that always required your other hand for a button press. Information acquisition requiring effort (physical or mental) is frictional and always less desirable.
And while the wrist flick for time of day was cool tech for a 70s wristwatch, it was still a bit hit or miss and often required a couple of flicks. Plus, you had to promptly look at the watch when you flicked it was the display only light up for a couple of seconds. Not a big deal you say – but compared to a watch with analog hands (which are “always on”) it always required a bit more effort and thought just to get the time of day. To say nothing of the date – something most of my modern watches have as an “always on” feature via a date display.
So, in the end, I’m glad I regained a nostalgic piece of my youth with the Pulsar. But I’ve found I just don’t wear it very much as I appreciate ease of use from a watch. Job one: tell the time. And make that as effortless as possible.